It's taken more than a decade to finally get it into theaters, but when Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra debuts Friday (midnight showings Thursday in several theaters including Green Hills), fans who've seen any of the previous incarnations on television or straight-to-DVD movies may be a bit surprised.
For instance, main star Channing Tatum, whose face has graced the cover of everything from GQ and People lately, publicly acknowledged he took the role only because the scope and direction were changed from a war film to an elaborate fantasy in the same vein as Transformers or Iron Man.
This opening edition in what's certain to become a franchise deal introduces both the origin of the villainous Cobra organization and the birth and evolution of the secret commando team whose code name is G.I. Joe. But where the previous versions have mainly focused on the combat/military angle, there will be as much focus here on personalities and motivations driving both good and bad characters.
Tatum and Marlon Wayans — Duke and Ripcord, respectively — are among the pivotal figures on the heroic side. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sienna Miller have the high profile roles of Cobra Commander and The Baroness. Dennis Quaid, Brendan Fraser (a Sommers staple from their collaborations on The Mummy films) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are others slated to get plenty of on-air time in this tale.
The story is designed to pull in younger audiences who never saw any of the The G.I. Joe chronicles from the '80s or '90s. The storyline takes place 10 years in the future, and the film won't just jump right into action and assume everyone knows who and why. Instead it will zip back and forth to Paris, Australia, Washington D.C. and other locales while unveiling a narrative that's equal parts espionage and military intrigue, personal quest and rivalry, even some hints of romance and conflict. Lots of attention has also been paid to ensuring accuracy and detail in terms of bringing the former animated series types to the big screen.
As is always the case, the product hype machine has also been in overdrive. Both Kid Rock's "American Bad Ass" and Hollywood Undead's "Undead" singles have been used as background music for trailers, and the soundtrack CD was released Aug.4. A G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra video game is coming shortly, and Hasbro has reactivated the action figure line that was once among its most popular sellers. The Complete G.I. Joe boxed set DVD will be released later this year, but the first part of the original late '80s series is already available.
Sommers has shown a flair for making clever, light-hearted action films (the best Mummy flicks), and if he blends in some smart comedy with the array of fights and explosions, G.I. Joe has a good shot at being an aesthetic as well as commercial hit.
But there's little doubt it will do well the first weekend, aided by last week's successful appearance at Comic-Con. Plus there's almost nothing else in the blockbuster vein opposing it this weekend, something that probably ensures G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ascension to the top of the box office.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stuart Beattie
Starring: Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols, Ray Dark, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Said Taghmaoui, Karolina Kurkova, Brendan Fraser, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller, Lee Byung-hun
Time: 133 minutes