G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: BC-CD=C+
Budget: $175 million
Box Office: $342 million (150 U.S., 151 Intl., 41 DVD)

Written by: Stuart Beattie (Autstralia, 30 Days of Night, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, and Collateral), David Elliot (Catacombs, Four Brothers), Paul Lovett (Four Brothers), Michael Gordon (300), and Stephen Sommers (All 6 Scorpion King and Mumy movies, and Van Helsing).
Directed by: Stephen Sommers (3 of the 6 Mummy movies, and Van Helsing)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dennis Quaid.

An ancient arms dealing family is involved in a plot to steal the “nanomite” weaponry they have manufactured for NATO. In the process, a secret super-team of high-tech military heroes comes out to do battle against the equally secret super-team of villains led by the arms dealer himself.

Entertainment Value: B
If you want a nice tight plot for a big-budget action movie, shop elsewhere. But if you want an intensely modern excuse to relive the campy cartoons you loved as a teenager, well, “Yoooo, Joe!” The acting is basically weak and campy, and it’s really quite silly to even discuss the plot or it’s subplots (such as they are). But the effects and the action are over-the-top fantastic, which is really all you need to know since knowing is half the battle.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B, Violence D+, Language C
No substance use at all. Sex is some kissing, a few implied romantic comments, and the busty women in tight outfits one would expect from a good cartoon adaptation. Language was the surprise here, being not that heavy, but including several S-words that just didn’t need to be in there. Violence, as you would expect, is the main concern, and they opted for the more gruesome end of what they needed to show here. A couple of people suffer Raiders of the Lost Ark style demises and there are lots of killings, including blood and some beheadings. The sad part is this movie could easily have been made PG after the style of the original cartoon, and it would have been find for even younger kids. As it is, I’d say PG-13 is probably right. It’s not nearly as bad as Transformers in content, just for comparisons.

Significant Content: C
Science is powerful, but maybe we shouldn’t trust it completely or rely on what it values unquestioningly. Arms manufacturers can’t be trusted. The military is full of good people. Loyalty is important, betrayal is really bad. And true love is powerful enough to overcome technology.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
It’s what you’re expecting, and what you’re not expecting is art and thinking. If you want to have some fun, you could try to identify the absurdities in the movie, such as only the women not wearing facemasks (and letting their hair flow around during combat), who would have built these massive and secret military bases, why would McCullen have needed to NATO’s money for research if he had enough money to fund COBRA and it’s secret underwater base?

Discussion Questions:
~Do you think kids cartoons from the past should be remade into big-budget PG-13 action films today? Have you ever gone back to watch something you loved in the past? What was your reaction?
~In what ways would you say the nanomites are a good metaphor for sin? When thinking of how they influenced Ana’s behaviors, did they create her bitterness at Duke or just enhance it as a way to totally take her over?
~Do you believe that romantic love (like that between Ana and Duke) can conquer everything?
~In what ways did The Doctor make science and knowledge his idol? How did serving and pursuing them lead him to do evil? Do you see this being an issue in our society?
~In what ways did Storm Shadow make martial arts skill and parental approval his idol? How did he let his failure to get his father’s approval warp him? How important is parental approval to you? What is the Christian perspective on and solution for this problem of disapproving parents?
~Comparing this movie with Transformers, do you think there’s a significant difference in impact when people see machines get killed/destroyed rather than human beings?
Overall Grade: C+
My biggest disappointment with this movie was that at the end of the credits, they failed to give me a public service announcement with the actors in the style of the old cartoon. Yes, Quaid gives lipservice to some of the old liners, but they really could have done more with that. Still, $175 million buys some sweet effects. Just don’t let the young kids watch this.

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