Running Time: 117 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Format: Standard 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: 1
MSRP: $34.98

Own It!
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra -Two Disc Edition (2009)

Just to be clear: this is a movie based on a syndicated cartoon based on a line of toys, with additional character materials taken from a comic book series based on the cartoon. Who was expecting Saving Private Ryan or The Winds of War out of this? Okay, you can leave – the door is over there. The rest of you - pass the popcorn.

In case you didn’t watch afternoon TV in the 80s: GI Joe is the codename for an international peacekeeping force "comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs." And by "peacekeeping" we mean "taking high-tech weaponry and kicking the ever-loving bejeezus out of bad guys."

The bad guys in this case are an equally high-tech-wielding bunch with a secret underwater base hidden beneath the polar ice cap. The Macguffin everyone wants is a classic piece of Bad Idea Technology: warheads containing "nanomites", microscopic robots that eat metal and make more nanomites in an endless, destructive cycle, until they're deactivated by a specifically coded killswitch. True to the subtitle, this movie tells the story of the genesis of the TV and comics series' terrorist group COBRA.

I will admit, I was never a fan of either series. Villains in kid's action series in the 80s tended to be screeching, ineffectual ninnies, and this anti-halo effect carried over to the comics (though I'm told I might have liked Larry Hama's comic version better). That doesn't matter too much, as we're here to talk about the movie, and as we all know, things are different as viewed through Hollywood's lens.

Despite my animosity toward the earlier series, I find my self quite enjoying Rise of Cobra. I recognize enough the characters to know that director Stephen Sommers did his homework; the characters themselves may be various flavors of cliche (hell-lo, based on toys and cartoons?) but are likeable (and in bad guy's cases, thoroughly hissable). In fact, I will go so far as to say that as PG-13 action movies go, GI Joe is damn near perfection. There are character moments that last just long enough, and then stuff starts blowing up again. 

Much of what we see is improbable as hell, even given the not-too-distant-future setting, but who cares? Unlike certain movies (no names will be mentioned, but they begin with a T and end in -ransformers), I can tell exactly what is happening during the big action scenes, and if you don't think this is something worth commenting on, you haven't seen enough movies that begin with a T and end in -ransformers.

Also: I do recall thinking the villainous Baroness in the original series was particularly hot (yep, babes in eyeglasses always do it for me), and this movie lets us off the hook for liking her. And I find it totally sad that an amazing sequence featuring soldiers in powered armor did not occur in a movie titled Starship Troopers.

Probably 85-90% of this movie is computer-generated (Yes, I'm bitter that someone else has already coined the phrase "CGI Joe"). The Paramount disc is breathtakingly clean and sharp - a little too sharp, in the case of a few of the effects - and the Dolby Surround does its work well. Menus are simple and get you into your content with admirable efficiency, with video clips that steer clear of Spoiler Territory.

Disc One starts with non-anamorphic theatrical trailers for The Last Airbender, and the video releases of Transformers: Rise of the Fallen and the 2009 Star Trek. Additional (non-anamorphic) trailers can be accessed for Monster vs Aliens, the Warren Ellis-scripted animation G.I Joe: Resolute via the menu.

The Audio Commentary track features director Sommers and Producer/editor Bob Ducsay. Sommers does marvelous commentary tracks, and is especially good at revealing some of the odd politics in making a movie that is under constant scrutiny by a movie studio, a toy company, and that multi-headed monster called the Internet, without ever becoming mean.

Disc Two has two featurettes: the half-hour The Big Bang Theory: The Making of GI Joe, and the twenty minute Next-Gen Action: The Amazing Visual FX and Design of G.I. Joe. The former has a lot of peel-the-onion dissection of the many effects shots, and the latter goes into far more detail about them. These likely would have fit on a single disc if not for the Digital Copy, which takes up the rest of the second disc.

Dr. Freex, 11/9/2009