G.I.JOE: RETALIATION Review

Back in 2009 I was somewhat excited to see what the studios had decided to do with the G.I. Joe brand as they'd just come off a lackluster sequel to the film that proved making toys into movies could be successful. I am of course referring to Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen which was a masterpiece in my eyes compared to what G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra turned out to be. In my original review for the first G.I. Joe film I stated that, "As the subtitle may lead you to believe, this film is the set-up to be a franchise, one that I hope doesn't exactly happen, unless they completely start over." Well, after being delayed almost a year for what was said to 3D post conversion, which they did do, but also seems to be code for: Channing Tatum blew up last year so lets take some time and add in a few more Tatum scenes! If you are a Tatum fan and you are seeing this film simply to see him on the big screen, don't show up late; that's all I'm saying. On the other hand if they were going to continue this franchise they did at least go the route I hoped they might. With no mention of General Hawk or Ripcord the sequel seems to be able to continue the story of the first with Tatum's Duke leading a new team of Joe's (that still makes me laugh) and expertly wiping the slate clean so as to introduce us to a few new characters and get the ball rolling in a whole new light so as this might actually turn into a profitable series of films the producers can keep on pumping out. The fact of the matter though is that despite G.I. Joe: Retaliation being a better movie than its predecessor (it would have been hard not to be) it is still fairly cheesy and goofy and something only tween age boys will likely have a lot of fun with. If you are a day over thirteen though you will likely see through the goofiness of it all, but still try to enjoy the fun it only periodically provides.

Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki)
in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Going into the film I could hardly remember what happened in the first one to be honest. I'd only seen it the one time in theaters when it was first released and cared so little for it that I never re-visited it despite knowing this one was coming up. Truly, I was hoping to give the film a fresh eye and with the fun yet inconsequential opening sequence I thought they might be onto something good here. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is Roadblock and second in command to Tatum's Duke with a team that also includes Flint (or the guy that is intended to look like Tatum, D.J. Cotrona) and the eye candy with an attitude Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). After their own government turns on them and intends to wipe them out it is up to these three to get back into the country and figure out why the President has seemingly gone mad. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world there are dealings going on between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) that we are never really made to understand, but assume Snake Eyes is to recruit Storm Shadow's cousin Jinx (Elodie Yung) from the training temple or whatever you might call it run by a Blind Master (RZA) that apparently has a significant place in the history between those three. How this all figures into the main plot of the story has something to do with releasing the Cobra Commander and Destro who have been imprisoned while Zartan impersonates the President as he has a diabolical plan to take over the world. All of this sound a little ridiculous with the names making it even moreso? That's what I couldn't help but think as the film went on and gave into one too many complicated plot points that make it more convoluted than necessary. Still, it is able to build towards a rather tense conclusion that makes for a satisfactory if not forgettable film.

The main issue I have with the film is not that the content is cheesy, but instead that the makers of the film are unable to convey it in a way or more specifically in a tone that either recognizes what kind of film this is or try a little harder to make the audience buy into the credibility of it all. I know that thought probably sounds completely ridiculous as any movie with someone named Storm Shadow or RZA playing a blind kung fu master in it probably isn't the most serious or credible material, but then again you'd likely think that about a film with Thor in it as well, and they were able to make it work just fine. Instead, what new director Jon Chu (Step Up 2, Step Up 3D) has done after taking over for Stephen Sommers is lower the obviousness of CGI and make the landscapes and fight scenes a little more gritty than as slickly made over as they were in the streets of Paris in the last one. Chu shows off his visual style best when presented with a monumental task such as staging a fight on the side of a mountain. You've seen bits of it if you've seen any trailers for the film, but coming in right at about the middle of the brisk hour and fifty minute running time this sequence is both the best part of the film and the closest to what kind of film I imagine a G.I. Joe movie should be. Compared to this sequence the rest of the fight scenes in the film feel somewhat bland and don't build as well but instead are rushed and messily edited with a lot of quick cuts and angry or hurt face shots. The other end of that argument though is that at least they keep those kinds of scenes coming. G.I. Joe: Retaliation hardly stops to take a breathe at any point and when it does it is only to let loose some kind of ridiculous dialogue such as, "They're a riot with a zip code." The politics of the plot are so mundane and the fight scenes so repetitive the audience feels worn out after the first hour, which is why it's a good thing the film has such a likable leading man with infusions of Bruce Willis to boot.

Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) lead an army.
I never thought of The Rock as much of an actor, but since he has decided to let go of trying to be something he's not and moved on from relying on kiddie films to bring in the box office.When he came back to the action genre with Faster after following up a self-referential spot in The Other Guys and followed it up by joining the Fast Five ensemble as well hopping on the Journey to the Center of the Earth franchise and now this one it was clear the man had a plan for world domination. He was is the underrated Snitch last month that showed he had some range in a restricted, more dramatic role and will be in Michael Bay's black comedy Pain & Gain next month before following it up in May with the sixth Fast & Furious film. Despite the fact this film will probably be the worst of the four he'll appear in over four months he still has enough charisma to allow the audience a good time watching him kick ass and defend the great U.S. of A. His supporting cast could have used a little work though. While the writers try to give Adrianne Palicki a backstory and a purpose she is literally used as eye candy in every other scene so that Roadblock may infiltrate whatever he needs to infiltrate. As for Flint (Cotrona) he is given absolutely nothing to do but look around and look good. He was likely brought on for his looks, but we never find out if he can actually act due to the fact I can't remember a single thing the guy did in this movie except for that vague hint at a characteristic early on where they possibly considered making him the rebellious type. Ray Park displays fine fighting skills as he returns to the role of Snake Eyes, but you can't judge him on anything else while both hun Lee and Yung are barely given any lines but are instead inserted into the script when convenient for the fight to call for swords. Good thing Bruce Willis shows up for a handful of scenes here to take some of the weight off Mr. Johnson though I wish they would have saved his cameo appearance as a great surprise instead of spoiling it in the trailers. That alone would have made me enjoy the movie much more, but I can't say I was really disappointed by it as I can hardly remember much of it a day later.