Ten Things that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Did Right a list by Monte

The reaction to Monte’s last list, a rundown of overrated and underrated action figures from the modern era, garnered such a great reaction, that I immediately pestered him for more.  Lucky for me, he had something pretty much done already, and was only too eager to pass it along.

As the Joe fandom is already in a frenzy over G.I. Joe: Retaliation, many fans and many online pundits are quick to point out the glaring flaws from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  I think most folks out there would acquiesce that there were some serious flaws, and Monte certainly does not disagree.

But rather than dwell on the faults we all know well, he elects to dive deeper and find ten things that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did right.  And he nails it.

Click the Read the Rest of this Entry link below for the full article!

Ten Things G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Did Right


Here’s the list!











…just kidding.

Now that the G.I. Joe Retaliation trailer has conquered the internet, everyone seems eager to take its predecessor out behind the barn and put a bullet in its head—though to be fair, most Joe fans wanted to do so well before the debut of the Retaliation trailer.

But I don’t think that’s (quite) fair. While I will never defend G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra as a film, I think it did more to try to please aging Joe fans than it gets credit for.

Here are some examples:

01. The Prologue

What a beginning! The scene briefly detailing the origin of Clan McCullen and the Destro mask is so shockingly Joe nerd-friendly that even Retaliation isn’t likely to top it. Just imagine if this scene had been the trailer; fans would have gone in expecting the Citizen Kane of movies based on children’s toys.

It’s also a shockingly, disturbingly violent scene. More on violence in a moment.

02. Ambush!

This scene accomplishes two important things.

First, when Baroness and the Neo Vipers launch an attack to steal back the M.A.R.S. nanomites, Cobra is immediately established as a serious threat—even if the organization isn’t officially known as Cobra yet. Regardless of your opinion on the look of the Neo Vipers, you’ve got to concede that they are more menacing and formidable than any Viper from any Joe media that preceded The Rise of Cobra.

Second, the Joes rush in for the rescue, and immediately they seem mysterious and badass.

There are shortcomings to the scene, however. I don’t like that Duke and Ripcord are already “Duke” and “Ripcord” before joining the Joe team, and watching the film for the first time, a red light goes off in one’s mind—and with good cause, alas—when Baroness and Duke recognize one another and address one another by name. Also, much of the battle is typical of modern action cinema, in that it’s over the top and not merely unconvincing at times, but distracting; Snake Eyes’s diving entrance calls to mind the gravity-means-nothing! scene wherein the title characters surf back to Gotham City from space in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin.

03. M.A.R.S.

While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that M.A.R.S. is an obscure part of Joe lore, I would not have expected the arms manufacturer to even be namedropped in a dumbed-down, mainstream G.I. Joe film, let alone featured as a key component of the script.

04. Storm Shadow

While the flashbacks that half-assedly map out his back story are not satisfying (I assume the original plan was to continue the Snake Eyes-versus-Storm Shadow origin in further flashbacks in the sequel in order to add some much-needed ambiguity about Storm Shadow’s villainy, but maybe I’m giving the writers too much credit), Storm Shadow as portrayed by Byung Hun-Lee is cooler than both his Resolute and Renegades counterparts.

I love when he unceremoniously takes out those security guards with his shuriken, and he even manages to look awesome while running down the street with a nanomite cannon.

I am thrilled Byung Hun-Lee is returning for the sequel.

05. The Joes Get Kicked Out of France

Really, it shouldn’t be too difficult for a Cobra-dominated White House to manipulate everyone into viewing the Joes as terrorists, considering they were arrested—twice, in Ripcord’s case!—and even deported from France for life in Rise of Cobra. This was a surprising bit of realism in an aggressively anti-realism film; when’s the last time you saw a hero pay the price, even fleetingly, for property damage and wanton recklessness?

Also, one can’t help but think that there’s some sort of subtle, misguided political commentary at play here; after all the ham-fisted “Freedom Fries” political discourse in the media during the early years of the Bush presidency, and after the fan outcry that G.I. Joe is now a multinational team rather than a strictly American team, can it really be a coincidence that G.I. Joe is kicked out of France in Rise of Cobra? Seems like someone was having a bit of fun with the script, although once again I may be giving the Rise of Cobra writers some undue credit.

06. Scarlett

Rachel Nichols looks the part, and she portrays the character as tough, determined and capable, with just enough vulnerability to make things intriguing. Having said that, I must point out that it’s trite and predictable that the only two females on the Joe team are “vulnerable” and immediately killed, respectively. (I’m not counting the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Jinx-or-whoever).

07. Arnold Vosloo’s Performance

I nearly listed this entry as simple “Zartan”, but while I don’t require a fawningly loyal reproduction of the classic Zartan design, the Rise of Cobra Zartan aesthetic was simply too bland. There was nothing eccentric, memorable or even distinct about Vosloo’s appearance in Rise of Cobra—fortunately, his performance was great.

08. The Doctor

Rex was a grating character and the Commander only boasted ten seconds of screen time, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as the Doctor struck a precarious balance between creepy and hammy. He was simply fun to watch in a way too few characters were in Rise of Cobra.

09. Violence

I’m torn about this aspect of the film, to be honest. As an (ostensibly) adult fan of G.I. Joe, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vipers getting knifed in the eye and Joes getting gutted and whatnot. Having seen any number of implausible parachute escapes from ‘sploding Rattlers in the Sunbow cartoon in the ‘80s, it was gratifying to see a mainstream G.I. Joe tale wherein violence had ramifications and not everyone was guaranteed a safe escape.

However, as a father who loves to force-feed his daughter silly children’s properties from the 1980s, I find the violence in Rise of Cobra unfortunate, because I desperately want to share Rise of Cobra with my daughter, but she is seven-and-a-half years old, and I don’t know that she is ready to watch James McCullen IX have a molten metal mask attached to his face.

I guess I am including this item on the list because the violence in Rise of Cobra strikes me as something that the more traditional fans should have appreciated more than they did, just as Transformers fans should have appreciated the astoundingly unlikely casting of Peter Cullen in the (admittedly lackluster) live-action Transformers films.

Hasbro and Paramount could have abandoned everything we know about G.I. Joe and scripted a scene wherein a kid breaks into Cobra headquarters to save the day or something, but instead they gave us a disarmingly violent movie that, for all its regrettable choices—the relationship between Rex and Baroness and Duke being the most egregious—managed to include M.A.R.S. Industries, some wicked battles between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, Zartan taking over as President of the United States—without which you wouldn’t have that awesome moment in the Retaliation trailer during which the Cobra banners unfurl across the White House, incidentally—and an attack on the Pit! (Did you really even expect to see the Pit in a live-action G.I. Joe movie? ‘Cause I sure didn’t.)

But most ‘80s Joe loyalists never bothered to notice any of these efforts. Presumably they couldn’t see past Snake Eyes’s lips.

The horror!!!

10. Um…

Alright, seriously, I can’t come up with ten things Rise of Cobra did right.

Look, the G.I. Joe: Retaliation Trailer! (ed.)

36 thoughts on “Ten Things that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Did Right a list by Monte

  1. Had “Rise of Cobra” simply been “Adventures of the Super Fast Future Soldiers” I think it would have been a fine piece of action fluff, not unlike the deranged classic “Mega Force.” But they called it GI Joe, and that means there are expectations in character. I don’t mind reboots. I loved “Reloaded,” “Renegades,” and “Resolute” as updates and different takes on the Joe mythos, but all shared an absolute respect for the characters “Rise of Cobra” didn’t have. I hope we see that in “Retaliation.” (Sidenote: what’s with all the ‘R’ words?)

    That being said, Scarlett and Storm Shadow were dead on, and I was actually pretty fond of Eccleston at Destro until they fused him with a real metal head. So very much else wrong with that film though… Captain Duke? Really? F$^% that!

  2. 10. The ladies! Baroness and Scarlett. They at least LOOKED the part, even if they didn’t act like their characters, they looked great doing it!

  3. 10). It made creepy fanboys cry, kvetch and generally overreact. Which is fun in and of itself, but in so doing, it also created a clear dividing line between fans who are full-on, out-of-touch geeks (“Comic Book Guys”), and those who are just merely “fans” of a kid’s toy. It made a few of us realize that there are certain things/attitudes/people we really don’t want to be associated with. For that, I am grateful.

  4. I think the first list captured the essence of the good things about the film more comprehensively.

    Seriously, as just an action movie, it’s not that bad, but as a Joe movie there really isn’t anything right about it.

    Vosloo was great, but that wasn’t really the Zartan I’m looking for. That was basically the same character he played in Hard Target (which was awesome, but again, not really Zartan)

    Rachel Nicols may look the part, but her blank expressions and 9-year old dialogue (but she’s supposed to be smart!) just ruined it. Note to writers: Don’t try writing someone super intelligent if you yourselves are morons, it just shows how little you actually know. So many Hollywood movies suffer from pseudo-science dialogue that makes absolutely no sense if you actually know just a wee little amount about real science.

    Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes while played decently were ruined by the assinine back story that would of been filler material for any movie, but compared to the actual GIJoe established back story was a hundred times worse.

    Cobra Commander was just crap from start to finish. Hated the look, his story and the weak, whiny actor.

    Same for Destro. He had no presence in the film. I always saw Destro as the one Cobra who really has it together and in the film he was just a mess. (though still way better than the ultimate loser he is in IDW)

    Then there is Duke, Ripcord and the gang. Sigh.

    About the only truely redeeming thing in the film was the Baroness, who was spot on, but still suffered from a retarded storyline and back story.

    The new film looks so much better, and strangely enough even though the RoC lovers keep blasting real Joe fans about them only wanting a movie based exactly on the old cartoons/comic, most Joe fans are loving what they are seeing with the Retalliation trailer, even though it looks NOTHING like original GIJoe. Go figure. Maybe most people just wanted to see a GOOD film after all.

  5. I liked Eccleston as Destro, too, actually. Perhaps I should have made space for him on the list.

    That said, I hated the scene wherein he gets the metal head, though perhaps not for the same reason you did. What I hate about it is that he says, “Finally, I earn my place in the McCullen line” or something like that, implying he’s excited to so overtly symbolize the duplicity of his heritage… and then the very next thing he says is “What have you done to me?!?”

    It’s always been a startling clash of tones for me.

  6. I definitely agree about that opening scene with Destro. Even though it didn’t perfectly sync with Hama’s origin of him, it was a close variation on it. Though I had misgivings about the movie, when I saw that opening sequence, I starting thinking it was going to be good. The problem was that later, when the current Destro shows up, he’s just a boring character who seems to be easily manipulated by Baroness and Cobra Commander. Plus, while the actor has been good in other things, in the movie he doesn’t have the powerful presence that Destro should have.

    But I disagree about Scarlett. She did look the part, she kicked ass, and I had no issues with the actress, but they tell us she’s some super genius, but is also naive and she even says something about disliking emotions or something to Ripcord. None of that really sounds like any characterization of Scarlett from the past. In both comic and cartoon, she was essentially one of the leaders of the team. I can live with her not being paired with Duke or Snake-Eyes, but the character was just off. Though putting her together with Snake-Eyes would have humanized the faceless character a little, instead of giving us their vague, friendly relationship.

  7. There are definitely those types of people in all fandom. But while I admittedly have what may be an unhealthy obsession with the subject :), the movie didn’t work for me. And I didn’t need it to be a word for word adaptation of the comic book or even the cartoon. And I just found it to be a missed opportunity, and a movie with a lot of potential. I wouldn’t really have cared how faithful it was as long as I thought it was a good movie.

    But, I’ve said a lot of this already, so let me really put it as succinctly as possible. I thought the movie was just plain dumb.

  8. As for the Joes getting tossed out of France, and blamed for what they did there… I see your point that past stories may have just allowed for the Joes to do whatever they want wherever, but it just brings up the problem with that whole sequence. The Joes are just bumbling around like reckless amateurs, with two new people not used to using those super suits stumbling around and destroying things.

  9. They did look the part, and I found the Baroness to maybe be the most fun part of the whole movie. But then, they waste all the good will her character generated by having it turn out that she’s not really bad, after all. She was just being brainwashed. Ugh.

  10. Aside from Ripcord falling out of the van, I don’t know that I’d call them “bumbling”. I mean, missiles are being fired at them; there are limits to the extent to which one can be graceful under such circumstances. The suit does accelerate the body’s natural assets, sure, but I don’t think the creators of the suit envisioned such a frantic, fraught-with-hazards scene when they designed it.

    And the bit where Ripcord crashes into the bus or train or whatever it was and Duke leaps over it was one of the few legitimately funny bits of business in the film, I thought.

  11. In retrospect, I’d suggest that the Scarlett’s character’s chief failing was that she simply comes across as somewhat half-formed.

  12. Nice list, though I respectfully disagree with it.

    I really thought Scarlett, like most the rest of the cast, was seriously lacking in any character or personality. Actress seemed to fit the part, but the character just wasn’t there at all.

    I also think there was an overemphasis on MARs and Destro, which came at the cost of Cobra being less relevant to the film. I really think that even if MARs is a less mainstream Joe element, forcing that into the movie didn’t mean getting it right.

    Personally the only thing I thought they got right was Marlon Wayans as Ripcord. I felt his acting and character really fit with GI Joe, especially in the way he was a lot less serious than everyone else. The characters were too serious and boring in the movie.

  13. I respectfully agree with your respectful disagreements.

    I liked Destro and M.A.R.S., and I don’t mind that they were the focal point or that Cobra did not rise until the end (I have many problems with how we got there, but that’s not the point), but I agree with you about Wayans. Sometimes when I watch the movie I see him as something of a grating weak link, but usually I think he’s more natural and fun that most of the other characters and actors.

    It might help that I never had any attachment to the original Ripcord.

    I didn’t single him out on the list because people hate him so much that I feared the list would come across as trying too hard to be provocative if I sang Wayans’s praises.

  14. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Snake Eyes. Aside from his “lips”, I thought SE was well cast and well respresented, just like SS. Sure, they jerked around the Hama back-story a bit, but I can never argue with Ray Park’s casting, or the cool efficiency in which SE operated. Possibly the most “Joe’ of the Joes in that film.

    Great list, though, and good on the shout out to “Mega force’ that one of the commentors sited. I loved that movie, and if they’d called this movie “Mega Force 2”, it would have fit like a glove. There’s even a “Duke” in the original Mega Force!

    “Hiya Duke! Oh, I just wanted to say good-bye and remind you that the good guys always win, even in the eighties!” – Ace Hunter

  15. Oh, it certainly wasn’t a great movie, but it was fun. I enjoyed it for a buck from Redbox, but I wasn’t about to pay theatre rates, and I certainly feel no compunction to own it.

    What I’m taking about is the fact that it brought out the absolute whiny worst in a lot of folks. The self-absorption, narrow-mindedness and all-around lack of perspective made it embarrassing to enjoy the same hobby as them. Call me elitist, but I don’t cotton to such behavior/people in any area of my life. It was a realization of just how emotionally stunted the fanbase, in general, is. There was a lot of anger…too much, in fact, to come exclusively from such an innocuous thing as a movie. And, let’s face it, that anger was present long before the movie was even released; some wrote it off before the trailer, even. Another annoying thing was the assertion by many that they could do a better job. I’ve tried reading some of the fanfic out there, these folks have no room to level the words “generic”, “hackneyed” or “sucks” at anyone else’s work.

    Personally, I think the new movie’s trailer comes across as a fan effort, so maybe it’ll be exactly what the fanbase is looking for. Most important of all, however, let’s all hope the kiddies find it compelling enough to not only want to see it, but to buy the toys as well.

  16. Great list! I thought that the Neo-Vipers looked very imposing in the movie. Good, solid costume.

  17. Personally I thought the whole Rex, Duke, Baroness relationship was daft and probably leftover from whatever the script was before it was G.I. Joe.

    that was my main beef, but that comes from Hollywood. When they don’t understand a property (like the majority of Transformers just being there for a one liner and some action), this is what you get.

    Other than that, the film was enjoyable and rather silly. Plus the Cobra Gambit was very clever, President Zartan. Retaliation looks to be from people who have a better understanding and love of the property. Yet still on the lighter side of entertainment.

  18. True. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up mostly with the comics, I never did like the cartoons much as a kid. Seemed so unrealistic compared to Robotech.

    By the way, in my time crunch this morning to write a response before work I totally forgot to say thanks for the interesting read. Doesn’t matter whether I agree, still love reading things like this and seeing other peoples points of view.

  19. I think a lot of the people who truely hate Rise of Cobra and even talk about it ruining GIJoe feel that way mainly because there never was a “real” GIJoe movie first. This was the first one and they changed everything. It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

    I still maintain though that had they actually had a killer story and great characterization that the hatred would of been much more subdued.

    On the other hand, I will insist till the day I die that a movie based on the first 50 issues of the Marvel run of GIJoe would be freakin EPIC! There is so much heart in the characterization and back stories, and so much tragic circumstance that made everyone the way they are it would work so well as a film.

    I’ve actually only started despising Rise of Cobra in recent months. I know after watching it in theaters I mentioned to Justin that I was severely disapointed but still had fun. Watching it on TV here and there over the last six months has reduced me to flinching everytime it comes one. It’s just a film I see as an easy target for Mystery Science Theater treatment a few more years down the line. So much of it was sooooooo over the top and ludicrous.

  20. The best thing about ROC? THE TOYS. The fact that beyond the 25th anniversary, the life of the toyline was extended.

    Sure, there were a few duds, but on the whole, most of them were good, and some of them were downright excellent.

    And the fact that they, and the movie, came out in 2009 is a big plus. Can you imagine if a Joe movie came out earlier or in the 90’s – with over-muscular sculpting and neon-glow paint apps? With ROC, the sculpts were good and the colors, thank God, were muted.

    Looking forward to what the Retaliation line has in store.:)

  21. The movie has good and bad points. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were great, even if the editting of the fights was a bit too fast. Some parts were completely off, like the accelerator suits. I was hoping for a lot more, but wasn’t surprised with what we got, because of the writers’ strike that prevented any rewrites.
    What is unfortunate about the Rise of Cobra movie is that for all the people who are not interested in the comics, who will watch the movie without any prior knowledge of the brand, they will see G.I.Joe as a trite, shallow, unintentional comedy farce. I’ve been banging on for years about how great G.I.Joe is to my mates, and it’s a hard sell in England, and all my friends tell me that G.I.Joe is a massive pile of crap. I would have liked a movie that inspired a new audience to seek out more information on G.I.Joe, not to lambast it over the weak script and poor characterization.

    But I say point 10 is the great score! Alan Silvestri! Awesome sauce!

  22. “However, as a father … but she is seven-and-a-half years old, and I don’t know that she is ready to watch James McCullen IX have a molten metal mask attached to his face.”

    Good concerns, I have the same.

  23. Honestly, I watched the movie and had a good time. I know lots of folks had opinions on what was wrong or right in terms of G.I. Joe, but I’ve never bothered to look at the movie that way. G.I. Joe – to me – was a set of VERY versitle toys that I used for just about everything. My whole Joe universe was pretty sparse back in the day, and mostly limited to my friend playing Joe and me playing Cobra (war ensued). I only started rebuilding the universe when I started collecting them again in JvC. So, needless to say again, I watched this movie as an action movie and not some vessel for my childhood hopes and dreams.

    ‘Course that isn’t a response to this list; ’cause it sounds like Monte has a similar view. This list, to me, is sort of what the movie did right AS A MOVIE, and less as a G.I. Joe movie. I’m sure – to many fans – that this movie was just a terrible G.I. Joe movie. Personally, I think the only part that was bad for G.I. Joe was the use of the Baroness as an actual good person that’s been brainwashed. It pretty much ruined her use anytime afterward if they’re sticking to this continuity.

    Beyond that, though: I agree with just about everything here! These were all parts I loved. The opening was cool, M.A.R.S. was awesome and hilarious (hilarious because of the scene where they show off the nanites and everyone was like “Oh yeah, great idea! Nothing could possibly go wrong with these!”), and Storm Shadow and The Doctor were my TOP favorite parts; especially The Doctor. He had an awesome voice and his mannerisms were fantastic. I’m gona miss him. I would have liked to see what sort of Commander he played.

    Only thing I didn’t like as much was Scarlett’s little crying fit about not being the best, and DUKE. The crying thing felt forced and sudden, and Duke was just…ugh. Wooden and boring. Felt like the actor didn’t really want to be doing it. ‘Course I think part of it was just his acting; I remember seeing commercials for The Eagle and seeing similar acting when he was yelling ‘n such. Doesn’t seem like he can make it believeable. One way or another, I won’t miss his boring portrayal.

  24. “Oh yeah, great idea! Nothing could possibly go wrong with these!”

    Screw the toy reviews, dude, I want you reviewing movies!

  25. Yeah I think I was the only guy in the theater CRACKING UP at that scene. Maybe it’s just the cynic in me. I mean, you bring these things to a meeting of big important folks and they’re like “Awesome! Nanites! They eat everything – but it’s cool ’cause there’s a kill switch! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.” Thing is, most people would cite that as a reason why they didn’t like the movie; but obviously it’s one of the many reasons why I DID. I love camp! It makes me smile. This movie was all action cheese and camp, and I don’t see why people wouldn’t have a good time. I mean, that’s what G.I. JOE IS.

  26. Back to the Future… So very, very, awesome!

    One of my favourites of his, but Predator is the by far my favourite!

  27. Okay, I haven’t had the proper time to respond to this one yet… but I feel the need to. As one of The Rise of Cobra’s most staunch defenders in the months leading up to release, I feel it’s my duty.

    I do feel compelled to defend myself by saying all I ever asked if for folks to give it a chance before slamming it. Educated harassment is acceptable. All that being said, while I did enjoy the film in the theater, I agree with much of what Monte has said in isolating its faults. It certainly was far from perfect.

    I love what Monte has stated above for what was done “right”. The point about violence certainly piques my interest. I can’t help but notice how many people love G.I. Joe: Resolute, and by and large the reason for that love comes down to “people actually died”. Yes, they did. But they sure as hell did in Rise of Cobra, too…in fact the deaths were often more aggressive in the film than in the animated feature. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of viciousness in Rise of Cobra, and that is certainly a point in its favor, at least concerning us “elder fans”.

    I also loved The Doctor, and actually liked his transition to Cobra Commander, even though the whole Commander backstory was horrid. Vosloo and Storm Shadow were also awesome, and my fingers are crossed for a Vosloo cameo appearance somewhere within Retaliation.

    All in all, another great list, Monte. Thanks again!

  28. Thank YOU, sir. And don’t go gettin’ too impressed by the attention these lists supposedly draw; half the comments are mine!

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