G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra Review

Less than 10 minutes into G.I. Joe, something has exploded. Prior to this, no characterization has taken place, no one has been identified, and there is no base for the action.

The action sequence is completely un-involving because there is no point in caring for these characters. If the purpose of the sequence is to involve an audience thirsty for guns and fire filled booms, fine.

However, G.I. Joe doesn’t even want to build its base even after some mystery woman has stolen a new weapon that eats metal from the military. It just wants to blow things up. At the very least, it’s good at that.

It probably takes around 20 minutes for G.I. Joe to slow down and for the music to stop. It is unintentionally funny that a basic conversation needs a piece of Alan Silvestri’s score behind it, none of which includes the original theme song.

What little character development there is still doesn’t clarify critical plot points. Silent ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park) is introduced as a small child, stealing food from an old Chinese kung-fu master. His son assaults Snake Eyes in an impressive display from the young actors, but what Snake Eyes is actually doing in the middle of this martial arts camp not part of his home country and without parents is anyone’s guess.

Besides, the movie needs to find time for a grating, extended, and tiresome chase through Paris so the evolving evil organization Cobra can take out the Eiffel Tower in a display of their power. That’s way more important.

The lack of characterization causes confusion during the finale, one in which three separate plot points are converging. The random selection of G.I. Joes are in the water, air, and inside a military base. Identifying any of them aside from the core is impossible. Missiles are launched, ships are blowing up, the underwater base is flooding and exploding, and somehow the editor managed to make sense of all of this. Kudos to those poor people.

G.I. Joe doesn’t even care to follow its own rules, that of the metal eating “nanomites” obviously falling to Washington during the last moments of the finale. According to the movie’s own rules, they should be munching on the White House. But hey, who has time to explain that stuff when things explode, right?

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

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G.I. Joe is a surprisingly dark movie, and this transfer seems to exaggerate the issue. Contrast has been spiked to include crushing blacks that blend characters with backgrounds, and it has nothing to do with the camouflage suit. Shadow delineation can be incredibly poor, which is a shame.

That is the only real problem with this AVC encode aside from some minimal aliasing, particularly a bother on Snake Eye’s visor. Detail is outstanding, loading the frame with texture and sharpness. Hair is wonderfully defined, and facial detail is phenomenal. Flesh tones are accurate, and colors wonderfully pop off the screen.

Film grain is handled flawlessly, with no noticeable compression errors resulting from it. Long shots of cities and forests are stunning in how well they are maintained.

Video ★★★★☆ 

A DTS-HD mix may seem disappointing at first, failing to capture the same crushing, room shattering bass of recent summer releases such as the Transformers sequel. Explosions are, in comparison, slightly flat. However, it is important to note they are never overpowering, and seem to fit into the mix naturally.

This is not movie trying to increase its already bloated video/audio experience by falsely rocking subwoofers. Yes, Transformers sounded remarkable with its giant robots crashing through objects, but G.I. Joe’s subtlety succeeds on a different level.

Away from the LFE, Joe is a flawless audio presentation. It has been ages since a disc has so remarkably handled falling debris. The opening assault features a helicopter exploding and falling towards the camera. Pieces of the destroyed chopper hit each channel naturally as they fall, creating immediate immersion into the film’s action.

The same goes for the demo worthy Paris chase, especially at the end inside the glass building. Fragments drop around the viewer with stunning accuracy, on top of the gunfire and explosions. Joe also delivers a fine level of ambiance, with hangar bays loaded with activity, including tools clanging and sparks flying. Likewise, as vehicles take to the air (or under the water), directionality is simply awesome as they fly over the viewer.

Audio ★★★★★ 

A decent commentary from director Stephen Sommers and producer Bob Ducsay marks the sole extra in the bonus features on disc one. The digital copy disc contains the rest, including a making of titled Big Bang Theory that runs for about a half hour, and is a step above the usual promotional fluff. Next-Gen Action is a look at the special effects, which delivers the expected material about CGI.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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