‘G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra’ or — Paris Nous Appartient… For Kids?!

“Is that a Jacques Rivette reference in ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra?!” I thought to myself last night watching Stephen Sommers’ brain-melting train wreck.

No. Absolutely not. Yes, there’s a shot of Cobra’s Baroness walking across the Parisian rooftops that’s remarkably similar to the famous one of Gianni Esposito in Rivette’s debut film (‘Paris Nous Appartient’ — 1961) to the point that I’m tempted to label it a ‘homage’ but any attempts to draw parallels between Stephen Sommer’s Hasbro funded monstrosity and Rivette’s piece of nouvelle vague paranoia would be the act of a god-damn fucking idiot.

Yet before we look at any potential parallels, what’s ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra’ (2009) actually about? That’s a tricky question because, much like Rivette’s film, it’s an almost indecipherable labyrinthine mess implying that dark, shadowy forces control the world although in ‘G.I. Joe’s case it involves weaponised nano-technology as opposed to putting on a production of ‘Pericles’. Yet the themes are, at heart, exactly the same.

Much like Rivette’s competing theater groups ‘G.I. Joe’ has two competing organisations — the good team of G.I. Joes consisting of members with names such as Ripcord, Duke, Heavy Duty and Snake Eyes who go up against the evil Cobra outfit, a group bent on world domination and spreading fear led by Cobra Commander aka The Doctor and consisting of members with names such as Destro, Storm Shadow, Zartan and Dr Mindbender.

I won’t go into any further detail regarding ‘G.I. Joe’s plot because it’s so insanely convoluted it’s legitimately avant-garde but, essentially, it involves the Joes trying to stop the Cobras from ruling the world, possibly to destroy it (again, essentially the same as Rivette’s theme of impending nuclear annihilation) but its kinda hard to figure that out because of all the attendant impenetrability. It’s the sort of film a hyperactive kid jacked-up on sweets or Roland Barthes would have trouble following it’s so simultaneously infantile and incomprehensible.

Yet, and I KNEW this was coming, I actually ended up quite enjoying ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra’. Is it a good film? No! It’s awful and borderline unwatchable but, much like ‘Gods of Egypt’ (2016), it’s such a spectacular wreck it’s oddly captivating and there’s something about watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Christopher Eccleston and Jonathan Pryce “acting” in this movie that it feels like they’re actively attempting to destroy, not the world, but their own careers. What were they thinking? It’s insane.

Although that’s nothing compared to the visual insanity at work here. Stephen Sommers is a director who loves to pelt the viewer with CGI effects, much like a monkey throwing his own shit at people visiting the zoo. The thing is though Sommers is actually pretty good at it; it might stink but at least his aim is good. There’s a lot of effects work here with almost every shot containing some form of it going on, often both artificial and practical. This is “best” illustrated by the chase through the streets of “Paris” which is not too bad considering how ludicrous it is and Sommers, for all his faults, knows how to keep this sort of nonsense going (I personally think his ‘Van Helsing’ is a little bit more fun than its reputation) and, most importantly, unlike someone like Michael Bay he never lets the tone of his films become repellent, leering or truly obnoxious. Sommers makes films for ten year olds so there’s silliness here in abundance but not much sense of an unpleasant swagger. This counts for a lot because at least the film is wanting you to have fun WITH it and not in spite of it. If I was a kid I’d be a big fan of this movie.

Both ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra’ and Rivette’s work end on an unsettling note of ambiguity with global ramifications (which was a bloody shock to me, I can tell you!) and the unnerving sensation that good might not have won out after all.

So I wouldn’t go so far as to call ‘G.I. Joe’ a remake or reboot of Rivette’s work but there’s a few parallels if you look hard enough. Like SO hard it’s stupid.

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.