As an action movie, as opposed to a special effects flick, Rise of Cobra is more balanced and better-edited than either of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. No, there's nothing so life-changing as seeing the CG Transformers, but it's no cheapo affair either. The "accelerator" suits from the trailer may not be "G.I. Joe," but they would make a cool addition to almost any superhero movie. There are also some neat James Bond-esque submarine vehicles that are essentially underwater airplanes.
Is it the live-action G.I. Joe movie that I've always wanted? Not really. (Not that I ever really wanted a live-action G.I. Joe movie in the first place.) I've already seen about ten different incarnations of the Joe characters, but these are something else altogether. This is another case where I must ask why, if they were going to largely discard the designs, personalities, and backstories, they even bothered to use the names of beloved characters. The only fans for whom those names will mean anything are the ones who will be disappointed at how unfaithful these interpretations are. Rise of Cobra Duke is not Duke. He's not even "Ultimate" Duke. He's a completely different, completely unrelated character. That's true of everyone, except for Snake Eyes, who looks, sounds (harhar), and moves just as everybody's favorite ninja ought to. The casting is also questionable all across the board, so there's no need to single anyone out in particular.
That said, the characters didn't affect my experience as much as I would have thought. I mean, I don't think I liked the movie's take on Cobra Commander, but it didn't dwell on my mind. This was a movie driven by some exciting action delivered at a brisk pace. That the actors were fairly likable was merely a bonus.
A minor controversy revolved around Roger Ebert's review of the movie, wherein he summarized Marlon Wayans's contribution thus:
But because us fans liked the two jive-talkin' robots in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "G. I. Joe" gives us Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), who is comic relief, says black stuff, and can't control his high-tech armored suit, so he runs into things.You can probably guess what some people took issue with. I'm not here to assess Ebert's choice of words, but, after having gone and read the whole thing for myself, it's clear from the outset that his mocking review was never meant to be taken in earnest, because he did not have the patience to write a serious review about a movie he could not take seriously. He gets story details wrong, but early on admits that he probably did get them wrong, "because that's more fun that [sic] getting it right." For what it's worth, from my perspective, Marlon Wayans as Ripcord is just Marlon Wayans doing a rather subdued version of his usual self. He's nowhere near as obnoxious as any of the human characters in Transformers. And for a comic relief role, Wayans gets probably the most heroic moments in the movie.
I'm not saying it was a great film. My fanboy complaints aside, there's also plenty of "dumb action movie" script silliness. I came away pleased largely because I entered with lowered expectations. I think it's also important to admit that I personally would not have even considered going to the theater if this movie had not had the G.I. Joe license attached. As hard a sell as it was for me, as a fan wary of having my childhood trampled upon, I think it would have been a much harder sell had I cared nothing for G.I. Joe. In that case, I might have viewed it as just another gaudy carnival show, a la The Mummy or Van Helsing. Since it turned out to be a fun enough ride that appealed to the kid in me, I'm inclined to give it even an extra star on my internal scale just because it's G.I. Joe (even if it really isn't).
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Not really pertinent to a discussion of the movie, it's time now to focus on the always pressing matter of Scarlett's romantic relationships.
Over the many lives she's lived, the redhead has split them about evenly at the sides of two different men. In Larry Hama's Marvel comic, she was paired with Snake Eyes, probably because Snake Eyes was Hama's obvious favorite, while Scarlett was the most prominent female and consequently the love interest by default. For the same reason, in the Sunbow cartoon, where Duke was the leading male, Scarlett was romantically involved with him instead.
I grew up watching the cartoon first, but I came to prefer the more serious, more fleshed-out characters of the comics. I was always particularly intrigued by the Scarlett-Snake Eyes relationship, and I wondered why, when she could have had any guy she wanted, she would have picked the mute loner. Perhaps it didn't make the most sense, but, hell, Snake Eyes is my favorite too, so I've always preferred that pairing, and I do come away a little disappointed each time Scarlett ends up with Duke instead.
Back on the topic of Rise of Cobra, the movie wisely chooses to downplay the romantic angles, but her leanings seem to point elsewhere altogether. Of course, like I said, two of the characters in that meta "love triangle" are completely unlike previous incarnations anyway, so this settles nothing.