Detailed review of the Rise of COBRA novelization! Spoilers Ahoy!

Friend of GeneralsJoes “DJ in RI” made quite a find when he stumbled upon the movie novelization at his local Target Department Store a few days ago.  He very kindly offered to give me his take on the story and the way events unfold in the film.  This is not a script review from a script over a year old!  This is a review of the film novelization, so as you can imagine, it is spoiler-rich with some details about the movie.  However, DJ was also careful not to reveal everything.  Gotta leave some surprises out there.  ;)

Judging by the review, it sounds like a lot of the events of the final film are similar to what we saw with the early script drafts…but I think some things have definitely changed.  In fact, I know they have just based on the various trailers and tv spots.

But regardless of my thoughts…the full review is after the jump, the parts with spoilers are clearly marked.  A big thanks to DJ for taking some time to do this!

REVIEW

I just read the novelized version of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, by Max Allan Collins, and…it’s not too shabby. I was lucky enough to find the paperback at a Massachusetts Target this past Tuesday (my guess is by mistake) and I had to pick it up. There are script reviews out there, rumors and other various bits and pieces, but this is the real deal.

I am going to make this prediction now, G.I. Joe might not make more money than Transformers, but it will get better reviews (which may not be too hard). Is it Vietnam-era G.I. Joe? No.  Is it Cold War-era G.I. Joe?  No. It’s a high-tech, international G.I. Joe force that was created for the 21st century. We are all going to have to live with this new reality. Scarlett is Canadian, Breaker is Moroccan, Heavy Duty is British, Cover Girl is Czech, Duke, Ripcord and Hawk are American, and the Pit is in Egypt (at least for this movie). Who cares? The setup for the team is what you would expect if it were created in today’s geo-political environment. The novel has a very Mission Impossible (they even say it in the book) or James Bond kind of feel, but it also has a very G.I. Joe feel. The heroes are heroic, the villains are villainous (and quite brutal), and the action is non-stop. I am sure the four action pieces in the movie will not disappoint (the convoy attack to start the movie, the attack on the Pit, the Paris chase, and the final battle at the underwater MARS facility). It has a bunch of sci-fi gadgets in it like holograms, accelerator suits, jetpacks, invisibility suits, pulse rifles, nano-mites, brain downloading, robotic “spy fish”, mind control, and lasers. Hey, what’s not to love. Cool vehicles…check. Ninjas fighting…check. World-shaking evil machinations…check. The President of the United States…check. Wise-cracking from the best of the best while saving the world…check. This is not a comprehensive review of the novel, it was done by someone recovering from minor head surgery and on Vicodin, so please take that into account.

SPOILERS AHOY!

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THE GOOD:

  • McCullen getting revenge on France for what they did to his relative, yikes, it plays out a little differently than what we see in the trailers.
  • Zartan! If he comes across as I picture him, this is one serious mercenary. He plays a pretty major role, evolves from a mimic to a shapechanger during the course of the film, and will play an even bigger role in the next movie as he replaces someone quite important at the end.
  • Breaker and Heavy Duty come across as good supporting cast.
  • The Doctor/Commander is pretty villainous, and he really sticks it to McCullen at the end of the book, basically creating “Destro”. Take that Doctor Who! They acknowledge that G.I. Joe is an American term.
  • General Hawk is pretty awesome, I think Quaid will knock it out of the park.
  • They make fun of the accelerator suits, saying that they look like hi-tech football pads or Japanese robots.
  • The team dynamics come across pretty well, a lot of joking around, but in a good way.

Cheezy, but not Cheese Whiz. McCullen and MARS are the bad guys for most of the film, COBRA only shows up at the end, but this approach makes COBRA much more threatening. Basically, going from “Wow, McCullen is an evil jerk businessman out for revenge” to something much more sinister and a little more crazy. Oh, watch for when the MARS logo changes to the COBRA logo on the sub at the end of the book/film, should be neat.

THE BAD:

  • Some bad humor by Ripcord commenting on Heavy Duty’s “peach-fuzz” hair and “kung-fu” grip (may get laughs in the theaters).
  • Disappointed that the Neo-Vipers are basically mind-controlled drones, but, hey, it serves the purpose of the story.

Not much else is glaringly bad. The plot is simple, the characterization is pretty light, a lot of soap opera relationships (Scarlett views Snake Eyes as a “brother”). I didn’t like the fact that the nano-mites were used for everything (mind control, eating metal, shapchanging, Destro’s mask, super soldiers, you name it…they can do it!). A couple of other details that rubbed me the wrong way, but nothing major (e.g., CNN, MSNBC and FOX News will show the world what I have done…umm, a lot of the world doesn’t get those channels, at least throw in the BBC, please).

THE SHOCKING:

  • A code-named Joe is killed during the Pit attack in a pretty brutal way (a lot of Joes are killed in the Pit attack). Not saying who, but only one action figure will be made of him/her.

THE UGLY:

  • Two words. Dissolving Neo-Viper.

THE CONTROVERSIAL:

  • Rex is the Doctor who becomes the Commander. Described in the book as “Lord Byron as mad scientist”. Basically, Cobra Commander + Dr. Mindbender. Different character than what we are used to all together (but not a bad thing). Rex is a military doctor and the brother of Ana (the Baroness), and friend to Duke prior to an accident on a military mission that sets things in motion. Duke led that mission and was also to be engaged to Ana. All very true. This is a little too tight of a triad for my liking, but some things are revealed that make the situation make more sense, and makes the Commander a more diabolical villain. The author at least mentions in the book that the Doctor “was gesturing to the snake like a used car salesman indicating a nice, low mileage model”. Nice acknowledgment.

“Yo Joe!” is used throughout the book and where you’d expect it to be used. There is a “Go JOE”, but it is used in a different context.

Ripcord, or Rip, is the comic-relief, but not in a stupid, slapstick way, more like in a buddy-movie way. He is supposed to be the everyman, our window into the team. There is a lot of banter back and forth between Rip and everyone else on the team. Does he have the “hots” for Scarlett? Yes. Does he talk about it a lot? Yes. Does anything happen between them in this movie? Not really. Does it ruin the book? Not at all.

That’s about all I can remember at the moment. I can’t wait to see some of this on the big screen (especially the underwater battle in the arctic!). I think it will be a lot of fun and not embarrassing to Joe fans at all. It will be a pretty darn good action movie with a nice Joe feel to it. There is a lot they can do with this, now it has been set up. It begs for a sequel, and hopefully will get one. I will be more than happy to answer any questions in the talkbacks. Call me “DJ in RI”. Thanks!

  • Mark

    I’m reading the book right now. I love it!

  • DistantFred

    I appreciate the explanation as to the team members nationalities; maybe people will stop calling Breaker an Arab now.
    Neat that Scarlett’s a Canuck.

    The Doctormander working in the book sounds encouraging.

    The Neo-Viper dissolving sounds… like something that just happened in the comics by IDW.

  • Mark

    The IDW dissolving trooper was explained in issue #6 of the GI Joe series.

  • Van

    Hm…

    # Zartan! If he comes across as I picture him, this is one serious mercenary. He plays a pretty major role, evolves from a mimic to a shapechanger during the course of the film, and will play an even bigger role in the next movie as he replaces someone quite important at the end.
    -AND-

    # The Doctor/Commander is pretty villainous, and he really sticks it to McCullen at the end of the book, basically creating “Destro”.

    Methinks Zartan is the new Destro…

  • Van

    Either that or he becomes a Joe…lol

  • DJ in RI

    Nice try Van but, sorry, you are cold. McCullen doesn’t become who we know as Destro until the end of the book/movie, and it ain’t a pretty scene (though awesome the way they do it). Zartan becomes someone else all together…

  • Soundwave

    I’m worried about Cobra Commander the most from this film…….

    Is the Doctor the Commander this whole time (ala Palpatine really being Darth Sidious in the Star Wars prequels)? Or is there NO Commander until the Doctor BECOMES the Commander at the end?

    Is the Commander a wussy? And does he have some great lines?

    Thanks for your review! I gotta pick this one up now!

  • DistantFred

    Van- Really? Because from the context I was totally thinking “President Zartan”.

  • DJ in RI

    About the Commander. I would say he is the Commander the entire time, but only reveals himself at the end, (he only dons the his new mask in the last 5 pages). He is more mad scientist than military commander, but he does want to control the world. His motivations for world domination aren’t all that evident in the book (unless I missed them). I think it is going to depend how he’s played (same goes with the lines). Definitely not a wussy, but not a physical fighter. Rex was a military medical doctor and a genius. It will be great to watch!

  • Spook

    Does he have the “hots” for Scarlett? Yes. Does he talk about it a lot? Yes. Does anything happen between them in this movie? Not really.

    Define “not really”.

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  • http://www.johio.com Rock

    This all sounds exactly like the script from Stuart Beattie that was written back in 07. The ending with Zartan, the Destro nano-mite mask as Rex becomes “Commander”, and the constant diarrhea of the mouth by Marlon Wayans over Scarlett. I am starting to think that the revisions made are only ever so minor as far as the main plot goes.