By Roger Moore
Summer blockbuster season officially ends with the arrival of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” another brainless popcorn picture built on an awful ’80s TV cartoon.
It’s a Bush-era movie built on a Reagan-era cartoon — all exotic hardware and can-do commandos, endless violence with barely a drop of blood — the illusion of “surgical” warfare reduced to a video game.
It’s dumb. It’s digital. It’s derivative. This “Joe,” scripted at a toy-selling TV-cartoon level, is a non-stop shoot-’em-up edited to induce seizures. And if George Lucas doesn’t sue over the blatant “Star Wars” rip-off finale, he’s missing easy money.
Stone-faced dancer-boxer-tough-guy Channing Tatum stars as Duke, a soldier who loses a set of valuable missile warheads. An elite team headed by Gen. Hawk (Dennis Quaid) saves the nanomite (metal-eating micro-robots) bombs, and Duke and his pal Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are impressed.
“When all else fails, we don’t,” Gen. Hawk growls.
This team, with its super-secret base beneath the Egyptian desert, its super-secret jets, super- secret subs and super-secret “acceleration suits” borrowed from “Iron Man,” faces off against an evil Scottish arms supplier (Christopher Eccleston), the latest in a long line of “sell to both sides” villains, according to a prologue.
But the G.I. Joes — Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Breaker (Said Taghamaoui) and the silent ninja Snakeyes (Ray Park in a rubber suit) — may lose their race to save Paris and any other city with metal infrastructure. The arms dealer has the white-suited ninja Storm Shadow (Byung Hun-Lee) slicing up everybody in sight. And in her skin-tight jumpsuit and stiletto heels, head henchwoman Ana (Sienna Miller) is taking no prisoners.
For all this Stephen “The Mummy” Sommers movie’s infantile obsession with gadgets, here’s something he gets right: Miller is a minx of a villain. All her time in the tabloids has given her a sexy, angry, bad-girl edge.
The rest? Action beats we’ve seen in a hundred other movies, from James Bond to “The Matrix,” and those movies set “in a galaxy far, far away.”
It’s no dumber or emptier than “Transformers,” but “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” can’t help but make one cringe when the bad guy says, as bad guys in bad scripts always say, “This has only just begun.”