Arms dealer James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) runs a weapons manufacturing company that has developed 'nanomite' warheads. These are missiles loaded with microscopic computerised bugs that are capable of destroying everything in their path. NATO has purchased four of McCullen's warheads. Led by Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), a squad of American soldiers must transport the warheads to a secure location. While on route, Duke's convoy is attacked by a force of super soldiers led by Duke's ex-fianc? Ana/Baroness (Sienna Miller). All but Duke and Ripcord are killed. A second mysterious force of super soldiers (GI Joes) arrives on the scene and saves the day by rescuing the warheads. Refusing to give up the warheads, Duke and Ripcord accompany the GI Joes back to their base in the middle of the Egyptian desert. Here both Duke and Ripcord are inducted into the GI Joe force.
We learn that the man behind the nanotechnology is a disfigured masked criminal known as 'The Doctor' (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Two more of the movie's villains also appear - Mr Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and the Ninja-style Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee).
Just as Duke and Ripcord pass their GI Joe induction, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Mr Zartan and a small force of super soldiers attack the base. They steal back the four warheads and escape. From now on, the GI Joe Force is on a mission to stop the destruction of the world.
Revenge; weapons of mass destruction
GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra contains stylised action violence (some of which is brutal), destruction, death and mayhem from start to finish. Thousands of people are killed and injured during the movie. The violence is sometimes graphic (for example, heads exploding), but it is depicted only briefly. Sometimes, it is almost cartoon-like. The depiction of blood and gore is not very realistic and is kept to a minimum. For example:
- We see a bound man taken into a medieval torture chamber in about 1641. We also see glimpses of prisoners in stocks and peering out of cells. The man is tied standing to a wooded board and a red hot iron mask is fitted over his face. He screams in agony. We hear the sound of flesh sizzling and see the man's agonised eyes through the burning mask.
- While an army convoy is transporting missiles, a force of super soldiers attacks them. During the attack, soldiers fire all kinds of weapons including machine guns and missile launchers. Explosions send bodies through the air. Soldiers punch, kick and stab each other in the face and body. A laser-like crossbow bolt is shot into a man's face, and the man's head explodes. Super soldiers receive wounds that should be fatal, but they get up from the ground as if uninjured. Several helicopters are shot out of the air. They explode in flames and fall to the ground with no chance of anyone surviving.
- During a fight, a man impales a woman on a sword, with the bloody sword sticking out of the front of her chest. He also slashes several men across the chest. An explosion engulfs a man, and we see him with his face on fire as he staggers around. A forklift truck impales a man on its prongs as it rams him against a wall. A grenade stuffed into the collar of a man's protective suit explodes, blowing his head off. We see a quick glimpse of the head separating, but no blood and gore. A man falls on an electrical cable and is electrocuted, his body twitching and smouldering.
- Two women fight, with each woman punching and kicking the other's face and body. One tries to strangle the other by wrapping a chain around her neck. We later see one of the women with bloody cuts covering her face and badly bruised neck. She breaks down and cries. A man lies on the ground with a knife embedded in his chest.
- In a flashback, two young boys (12 years old) fight using stylised martial arts. Both boys punch each other on the face and body many times. One hits the other across the face with an iron frying pan. The second boy then attacks the first with a meat cleaver. One boy forces the other to walk across a burning stove top. One slams the other's head against a wooden bench top, and one head-butts the other in the face. In several other scenes, we see the same two boys fighting each other using martial arts weapons including numchucks, staffs and swords. In a later scene, we see the boys' kung fu master lying dead on the ground with a sword sticking out of his back. One of the boys (a young Storm Shadow) runs away.
- While attacking a science laboratory, Storm Shadow uses ninja-style throwing stars to kill five men. He strikes one man in the eye. We see the man's head thrown back, and we hear a crunch.
- Baroness fires her gun in a crowded building, telling the people to get out then shooting randomly. Windows explode, showering glass in all directions and throwing people through the air. Storm Shadow shoots an innocent man in cold blood to make people do what he wants. After getting what he wants, Storm Shadow stabs Baroness's husband in the back with a knife.
- In a final battle between Storm Shadow and a GI Joe soldier, the two men slash at each other with samurai swords. By the end of the fight, Storm Shadow has gaping bloody cuts over his chest and arms. The fight ends when the soldier stabs Storm Shadow through his chest, sending him falling off a building.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie includes some scenes that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight. For example:
- A robotic arm with four large hypodermic needles approaches a man strapped to an operating table. The needles puncture the man's face. He screams, and his face contorts and transforms into that of an older man. There are similar images in several scenes.
- The Doctor has a terribly disfigured face partially hidden behind a scary mask that distorts his voice and breathing. Towards the end of the movie, The Doctor removes his mask to reveal a face and head horribly disfigured by burns.
- The Doctor, who is Baroness' brother, sneaks into her bedroom while she is sleeping. He plunges a large hypodermic needle into the side of her neck and injects her with nanomites. When asked about the morality of infecting his own sister with nanomites, The Doctor replies, 'Science requires sacrifices'.
- A GI Joe tries to get a dead man's memories by plunging two long knife-like probes into the sides of the man's head. We hear the sound of bone crunching.
- We see a large cobra snake in a glass cage. A man puts his arm inside the cage. The snake attacks and bites the man on the arm (we see two bloody puncture wounds). The man pulls his arm out and collapses. We see an image of microscopic nanomites in the man's blood stream rejecting the poison and clear fluid coming out of the puncture wounds.
- We see images of a burning man and another man with his face on fire both still walking around.
- Towards the end of the movie, McCullen is set on fire. We see his badly burned and horribly disfigured head and face.
- We see a dead man dissolve into a puddle of gooey mess after nanomites inside the man's body are activated.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by many of the scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
This movie includes some sexual references. For example:
- Storm Shadow tells Baroness that he was ordered to kill her husband if he touched her. Baroness says that her husband always performs better at work after touching her.
- McCullen lovingly touches the face of a holographic projection of Baroness. She says that if she was there, she might let McCullen touch her. Then she reminds McCullen that she is married.
- McCullen kisses Baroness on the lips and then asks Duke if it bothers him.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie includes some use of substances. For example, a man receives a pain-killing injection. He says the drug is 'primo stuff'.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie includes some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Women wear tight revealing clothing and low-cut tops that expose their cleavage.
- A man and woman kiss on the lips at several different times.
This movie is made to market GI Joe toys, comics and merchandise. These are likely to appeal to children.
This movie includes some infrequent low-level coarse language and put-downs.
Ideas to discuss with your children
GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra is an action adventure film. It aims to entertain an adolescent male audience and fans of the GI Joe cartoon and comic book series. It relies on intense nonstop action, stunts and visual effects rather than story line or character development.
The main message from this movie is that fighting the evils of the world requires a global response.
The movie presents several values that you could reinforce with your children. These include courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance. The movie could also give you the chance to talk about some real-life issues with your children. For example:
- Should all technology be developed in the name of science and progress, no matter how dangerous it is?
- What are the ideas behind terrorism and how does it affect its victims?