G.I. Joe, a highlight reel

Playing more like a highlight reel from an established franchise than a movie intended to launch it, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra interrupts its barrage of CGI action for only the barest minimum of anything resembling character development. Still, young auds switched on to precisely this sort of entertainment should turn this futuristic, military-themed pic into a significant worldwide hit and help toy company Hasbro - also suppliers of raw materials for the Transformers films- to its second merchandizing bonanza of the summer. Paramount's unwillingness to screen for critics, however, suggests something less than confidence in its big-budget investment.

Launched in 1964 as a series of plastic military figures and reworked in comic and cartoon form any number of times since, the G.I. Joe team underwent its most significant transformation in 1983, when its ranks of U.S. personnel expanded to include elite soldiers from around the globe. The screenplay by Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett sticks to that path, with Uncle Sam's representatives at the forefront of a multicultural crew on what is always referred to as an international mission.

In the not-too-distant future, regular Army buddies Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are transporting a deadly weapon, capable of eating buildings and even whole cities, that's been manufactured by Scottish arms magnate McCullen (Christopher Eccleston). Intending to steal his own device and hold the world to ransom, McCullen, a member of the evil organization Cobra, dispatches private army superfighters Storm Shadow (South Korean superstar Byung-hun Lee), a ninja dressed in natty white threads, and the Baroness (Sienna Miller), Duke's ex-g.f., who favors slinky leather jumpsuits.

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