Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

OK, summer's nearly over. Can we get back to some serious pictures again?

The latest action franchise seemingly designed to further spread the incidence of ADD among youth the world over, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra plays like a sequel to a film that was never made. Opening without being screened in advance for the press—probably a wise move because most film critics have a mental age of over 10—the film should achieve its main goal of provoking sales of the venerable Hasbro toys upon which it's based.

Channing Tatum, who proves here that he's a lot less appealing when not playing a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and Marlon Wayans play Duke and Ripcord, two young soldiers recruited by the international G.I. Joe military force to help save the world. Their nemesis is the evil organization Cobra (presumably an offshoot of SPECTRE), and a sinister Scottish arms dealer (Christopher Eccleston, letting his thick brogue do the work for him) who has created a deadly weapon that has the ability to disintegrate everything it touches.

Led by a John Wayne-channeling Dennis Quaid as the suitably macho-named Gen. Hawk, the G.I. Joes include a representative cross-sample of wisecracking heroic types, including weapons specialist Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, far less intimidating here than in "Oz"); the sexy Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), who disdains emotion but doesn't mind displaying plenty of cleavage; the requisite ninja warrior, Snake Eyes (Ray Park); and technology expert Breaker (Said Taghmaoui).

On the villainous side are Duke's former flame, Ana (Sienna Miller), whose move to the dark side is signified by the dying of her formerly golden blonde tresses to black, and her brother, Rex (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, sacrificing years of hard-won indie credibility with a single paycheck), whose similar waywardness is conveyed by his disfigured face and raspy voice.

Not that the characters matter, because the screenwriters and director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) are determined to mainly deliver one high-octane, heavily CGI-laden action set-piece after another, to ultimately deadening effect. The best of these is a breathlessly staged sequence in which Duke and Ripcord, wearing special suits that enable them to move at fast motion, attempt without much success to prevent most of the city of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, from being destroyed. "The French are pretty upset," a White House aide then informs the president (Jonathan Pryce) in an example of the screenplay's laughable dialogue.

Sommers has employed The Mummy's villain, Arnold Vosloo, to play a similarly menacing if less memorable character here and also has recruited Brendan Fraser for a less-than-stirring cameo appearance.

After nearly two hours of nonstop mayhem, the film ends on a surprisingly muted note, though pains have been taken to make sure that the hoped-for sequel has been carefully set up.