One of the few characters in the G.I. Joe lore who stands out the most is the main villain of the franchise, Cobra Commander. And of course, the other few are Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. With the upcoming G.I. Joe origins Snake Eyes movie coming out soon, I seriously wonder if doing the origin story route is better for these G.I. Joe movies. Let’s be real, the Rise of Cobra was pretty lackluster. Personally, I didn’t hate it and it was actually kind of enjoyable, but seriously, why did the filmmakers blend in so much science fiction? Those enhanced metal suits Duke and Ripcord wore just didn’t fit with the classic style of the Joes. And I do think the sequel, Retaliation, was an improvement, but it was only slightly more enjoyable. The reception and box office was lackluster, so naturally, a reboot was the right move.
Speaking of the Rise of Cobra, let’s take a painful minute and remember how they poorly handled Cobra Commander. I mean, seriously, what was with that terrible costume? And why such an overly cartoony voice? When it comes to voicing Cobra Commander, you can’t top Chris Latta. Okay, except for maybe Charlie Adler. Listen to him voice Cobra Commander and then listen to his voice work behind Starscream. It’s pretty much identical.
And you know what? I would bet some dough that many movie fans probably forgot that Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Cobra Commander in the Rise of Cobra. I’m pretty sure even Joseph Gordon-Levitt would like to forget that he was in that movie. In fact, he was hardly seen in the movie, because actual Joseph Gordon-Levitt was only visible in flashbacks. When he was that Doctor Mindbender look-alike, he was loaded with prosthetic make-up and a mask that covered the lower half of his face. And in the final fifteen minutes of the film, he put on that mask, which didn’t even remotely resemble any mask Cobra Commander ever wore. Oh boy, I can see why the big G.I. Joe fans were steamed.
I think we should be kind of grateful that Retaliation fixed him. And needless to say, he was one of the highlights of that movie. He actually wore his iconic helmet and it gave him a modified voice that made him sound intimidating. But where it really did him justice was how it showed his brilliant tactical mind and cunning ability to stay several steps ahead of his enemies. That’s what makes him a dangerous enemy and a great villain, aside from how cool he looks.
Since the G.I. Joe movies are doing the origins story route, I believe Cobra Commander should get his. If Snake Eyes can get one, then so should the archenemy of the Joes. Snake Eyes is the coolest member of the G.I. Joe squad and Cobra Commander (tied with Storm Shadow) is the coolest member of Cobra Command. When I think about Cobra Commander having his own origins story movie, I picture it as a rise-to-power type of movie. That would be breaking some rules of the G.I. Joe lore, considering the villain has a very mysterious past. Then again, so does Snake Eyes, a character who doesn’t even talk, and now he’s getting his own origins story movie where we get to see him before he went all mute ninja.
Let’s go back to the Rise of Cobra for a brief minute. One of the things that rubbed fans the wrong way was the fact that Cobra Commander had a clear backstory. Maybe it wasn’t the fact that he was given a clear backstory, but more so on the fact that his backstory was lame. Before he became the leader of Cobra Command, he was a common soldier named Rex Lewis (actual Joseph Gordon-Levitt). In a rather underwhelming plot twist, he was thought to have been killed by an explosion and became the disfigured mad scientist who showed little skills in military tactics. Oh, and he was also the brother of Baroness, who he brainwashed into becoming his lieutenant.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Cobra Commander wore that lame mask because the filmmakers didn’t want the iconic hood from the comics. According to them, it was too reminiscent of the hoods that the Ku Klux Klan members wear. I kind of get it, but in my opinion, that hood really makes the character stand out as a villain. It makes him look cool and we can at least see his eyes, unlike the helmet. Seeing his eyes allows us to see some emotions from the character and given his nature, we can always see the evil in his eyes alone. Needless to say, the hood would’ve been better off for Rise of Cobra, but that’s a mistake that can be corrected in a solo movie.
The character of Cobra Commander has often been portrayed as a ruthless dictator who pursues global domination by any means. Sounds like a cliche villain, but he suffers from no delusions that he’s fighting for some twisted noble cause. He knows that he wants total control over the world’s governments and will kill anyone to achieve that. He’s the kind of villain who demands complete obedience from his minions and he knows how to sway people to his side. This is all the character traits of a truly psychopathic villain, but I always wondered what could’ve happened to make this character become what he is?
His backstory was never fully explored or confirmed, but various writers have put their own spin on his origins. The man behind the Cobra Commander mask has never had a confirmed identity, but writers have described his past in several ways. Some versions (and G.I. Joe profiles) have described him as a former small business owner, a simple family man, and even a direct connection to Snake Eyes. This is all interesting stuff that can possibly be worked into an origins movie. What drove the man who became Cobra Commander to madness and a desire for world domination? Only an origins movie can play with that and I’d like to see it.