Let me preface this review by stating that I might be one of the few people in the world that actually really liked the Original ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra’ film back in 2009. I loved the toys, I loved the cartoons, and dammit if wasn’t going to enjoy the movie too. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were excellent, Christopher Eccleston put on an overacting masterclass as Destro, and Channing Tatum actually wasn’t all that bad as Duke (as much as it pains me to admit it).
So heading into the long-delayed sequel, my expectations were pretty high. More Snake Eyes, more Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander in all his finery, the Rock as Roadblock? Hell, what’s not to like? And after catching the film this past Wednesday, I‘ve come to one simple, undeniable conclusion. This isn’t a good film. But it is a fun film.
The plot is absurd, the action scenes are ridiculously over the top, and the dialogue is around the same level as the stuff I used when I was eleven and playing with the figures on my bedroom floor. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t find a way to work. This is a popcorn movie in every sense of the word; a quick fix of sugary goodness with almost no real substance to it, but still a very, very enjoyable experience.
You want ninjas? We’ve got more ninjas than you can shake a nunchuk at. And while the sub-plot featuring Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Jinx is fairly generic (to say the least), it does offer some of the film’s most impressive action sequences. And while I struggled to overcome my innate hatred of RZA and his wooden-as-a-bo-staff voiceovers, these scenes were salvaged by virtue of some great moments, including the ‘gun versus shuriken’ battle and the trailer-hogging ‘ninjas on wires’ fight scene on the side of the mountain.
The main plot is fairly serviceable as well, with Jonathan Pryce giving a tremendously tongue-in-cheek performance as ‘President Zartan’. Ray Stevenson is watchable enough as Firefly, and there’s no denying how incredibly cool Cobra Commander looks in his full costume. It’s only a pity Eccleston wasn’t back on board as Destro, although to be fair, some of the villains were struggling for screen time as it was, so cutting down on the ‘name’ villains may actually have been a good decision.
Sadly though, despite the back and forth banter early on between Roadblock and Duke being one of the undeniable highlights of the movie (with Channing and Dwayne both clearly having a blast), things definitely trail off in the second part of the movie where Flint and Lady Jaye are moved into the spotlight. Despite a weak stab at a backstory, Jaye’s character is clearly only there for eye candy, and to be honest, the Flint character is so completely underwritten and ultimately pointless, it’s difficult to see how the movie would have been impacted in any significant way if his part had been played by an upturned broom with a bucket for a head. Still, Bruce Willis continues his long-established trend of playing Bruce Willis, and just about manages to earn his paycheque by squeezing out a few humorous moments along the way.
Overall though, this is a movie you’d be best to try not to think too much about while you’re watching it. As I mentioned, the plot is borderline ridiculous, and makes very little sense if you actually take a moment to examine it. But for some wise-cracking, ninja-swinging, gun-shooting, bicep-flexing blockbuster nonsense, you could definitely do a heckuva lot worse.
So now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
(Sorry, couldn’t help myself)