Two soldiers are ordered to transport a new kind of warhead which has been created by James McCullen, an arms manufacturer who runs the company ‘MARS’. After they are attacked by thieves but rescued by an elite military organisation called ‘G.I. Joe’, they are recruited and begin their training in order to help stop the destruction of some of the most populated cities in the world.

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra (2009) – Director: Stephen Sommers

Is GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 118 mins

Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston

Genre: Action, Comic Book, Martial Arts


Stephen Sommers directs the first G.I. Joe film after directing some of the most popular adventure movies of recent years, including ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Mummy Returns’ and ‘Van Helsing’. Expectations were therefore high, especially after the success of Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ (which we review here), which was also based on a toy and TV series from the 1980’s. What was delivered was a little disappointing and more of a trashy action flick than the fun but well made films that audiences were previously accustomed to.

Although it’s disappointing, it’s not a bad film and there’s no denying that ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra’ is good fun. The most interesting part of the movie is arguably the rivalry between the good and silent ‘Snake Eyes’ (who wears all black) played by English actor, Ray Park, and the evil ‘Storm Shadow’ (who wears all white), played by the excellent Korean actor Byung-hun Lee (in his Hollywood debut). The history between hero ‘Duke’ and the once-good-but-now-bad Ana, is somewhat clichéd and rather bland but thankfully doesn’t take over the plot. Marlon Wayans brings some welcome comedy in the form of ‘Ripcord’, Duke’s loyal sidekick and the rest of the cast provide fun and likeable support throughout.


There are several scenes that are potentially not appropriate in this film and which parents may wish to be aware of before allowing their children to watch it. The opening scene is set in 1641 France, James McCullen has been captured for selling arms to the French and their enemies and is waiting to find out his fate. Rather than being executed, his captors decide to make an example out of him. They take an iron mask out of a fire (which will tightly cover the whole of the front and back of his head). It is now red-hot and is placed over McCullen’s head. The camera is shot directly behind the mask and as it moves closer and closer to him, he is shown to get increasingly scared. As the mask is put on him, he screams in pain. This part is not actually gory, however it is made abundantly clear what is happening and the fear and pain which McCullen experiences is very real. This could be quite distressing for young children who can understand what is happening on-screen and as it is the first scene, there has been no build up for children to get accustomed to any violence of this sort.

During the action scenes, there are also several shots of people getting stabbed in the face (particularly in the eyes). While there is no blood and gore, these moments are graphic and the camera never cuts away. During one particularly sustained attack against the good characters, a woman is stabbed through the back (the blade is seen coming through her stomach). Also, one of the bad characters has a grenade put in his helmet and there is a very brief shot of his head coming off although this is not in any way gory. Another bad character is stabbed in the stomach by one of the forks of a Fork Lift Truck; this is shown from behind a post and is not gory although the character does yell out in pain. While there are plenty of other moments which show people being killed, we feel that these are the most extreme examples and therefore, if a child is ok with them, they should be fine to watch the rest. One character is also badly burned and while the extent of his burns are hidden for a while, they are then shown to cover the majority of his face in several long shots.

Several characters are subjected to painful injections which go into the head. There are differing reasons for these injections; for example some are to make super soldiers which switches off their ‘self-preservation’. The dialogue explains that ‘once they stopped screaming’ and the serum has taken effect, they feel no pain, fear, regrets or morals. Another reason for the injections is to change the way a character looks. One character willingly undergoes this procedure but he is soon screaming in pain and the camera stays on his face for several seconds while it warps and bulges in a grotesque manner. Later, the good characters stab two probes into the head of a dead body in order to see his last moments. Due to him having the serum in his body, the flesh on his head starts to melt when they do this. The camera lingers as the face gradually melts away until there is nothing left. This is a very sustained and graphic shot and is likely to be frightening for young children.

There are a few sexual references in the movie. The character of Ana always wears a very tightly fitted black costume which shows some cleavage. She is married to a Baron who has no idea of who she really is. She kisses him and after he leaves, Storm Shadow approaches her and explains that he has orders to kill the Baron if he touches her. She goes on to tell him with blatant innuendo that his work at the lab goes ‘better after (we) have touched’. Also, in a brief shot, she is seen in bed wearing a tight t-shirt and underwear. Scarlett, as the only female ‘Joe’, is the object of Ripcord’s affection. While he is not disrespectful towards her, there is a scene where she is running on a treadmill in a short cropped top. Ripcord watches her and talks to Duke, making his attraction to her very clear.



The contrast of a movie based on a children’s toy which has been rated a ‘12’ certificate may raise the question of ‘is ‘G.I. Joe’ appropriate for kids?’ While the majority of the movie follows that of an ordinary family action film, the few graphic moments (such as the dissolving head shots) would make us advise caution that this movie may not be appropriate to children aged under 9-10, depending on their sensibilities towards violence. For children aged between 10 and 12 we would advise an adult to be present on the first viewing to provide reassurance if it is necessary and also to ensure that they are happy with the content of the film.

  • Violence:  4/5 (while most of the violence consists of generic, non gory action sequences, there are a few graphic moments which are likely to be disturbing for young children)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (one minor character is shown to be killed in an explosion and another, who sent him into the building, feels responsible and has to deal with this guilt)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (the villains are ruthless and will kill anyone who gets in their way)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5       
  • Bad Language: 4/5 (mild to moderate cursing and blasphemy throughout)
  • Dialogue: 2/5  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of teamwork, doing what is right, losing loved ones, good triumphing over evil.

Words by Laura Record

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