G.I. Joe Retaliation is finally here. After a several month delay to convert the film to 3D, G.I. Joe fans (and those who like to watch things blow up) are finally able to see this thing. If you’re a G.I. Joe fan then no doubt you have or will see it. If you’re on the fence or not a huge G.I. Joe fan, hopefully I can help you out.
Let me first state the obvious that the previous G.I. Joe movie, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra was mediocre at best. It managed to fuck up a lot of things and still make enough money to make a sequel. With Retaliation, director Jon Chu attempts to go back and fix what didn’t work and amplify what did. Channing Tatum, who was the lead as Duke in Rise of Cobra is now overshadowed by Roadblock, aka the Rock. Not saying why though. Spoiler free! Oh I can say that Marlon Wayans is nowhere near this film, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Haven’t seen Rise of Cobra? No problem. You really can go in blind if you haven’t seen the first flick. The only thing that is relevant is that there’s a team of super soldiers called G.I. Joe and at the end of Rise of Cobra someone began impersonating the President of the United States (Zartan). They do a pretty decent job of giving you some important information right up at the top.
The G.I. Joe team starts off strong with some missions doing stuff and then blammo, they get sucker punched by Cobra leaving only a small team active to put their G.I. Joe boot treads up Cobra’s ass.
Since the Joe team is scaled back and don’t have the support of any government (not saying why here!), Retaliation reminded me of a Mission Impossible type movie, but with ninjas and more cheese. That’s okay though, because it works. With MI, and for that matter James Bond films, I’m kind of along for the ride. The reasons for what the heroes need to do must make enough logical sense to pull me to the next action scene. Retaliation does this well enough without feeling too forced. To contrast, I saw the trailer for Fast and the Furious 6 and they take a C-130 jet down with some cars attached to it with ropes. And then a car bursts out of the crashing plane and drives away. I feel like the logic leaps for the action at least aren’t as over the top.
The action scenes are intense and satisfying, though they are dragged down a bit at times by suffering from the close up, shaky cam action. How do you know if they’re fighting if the camera isn’t shaking these days?! Sigh. Regardless, it’s not too over the top that I couldn’t handle it.
The premier action scene of the film was the mountain top battle and damn, I could have used more of that. It was fucking rad ass. And this is not to say that the other action scenes aren’t as good, it’s just really hard to top two ninja bad asses fighting an army of ninjas.
The 3D was surprisingly solid for post 3D conversion. I’m a fan of 3D, so for me it was totally worth it to see it in 3D. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the perfect movie for 3D, big, dumb, over the top fun. 3D helps this movie as much as surround sound to become a more enjoyable experience. Now if they could only find a way to heat up the theater when there are big explosions on screen…
Without going too deeply into it, the most negative aspects were the ludicrous plot by Cobra (though not much more crazy than plots for any of these types of movies), a bit of action fatigue by the end, and the resolution of the Storm Shadow / Snake Eyes bit. And at least one subplot that I felt wasted valuable screen time. While that was handled much closer to the comics than I’d ever imagined, I’ll put a deeper look at in in the spoiler section of this review. Overall though, I enjoyed myself enough to carry me through the bits I didn’t like. If you want to see me tear into the movie a bit, be sure to check out the spoilers section below.
The general feeling I got from Retaliation was that the writers and the directors had an understanding of what G.I. Joe was and is supposed to be. They didn’t always hit the mark, but most of the times it really felt like G.I. Joe.
More often than not I’ve been disappointed while seeing movies in the theater latey. It’s been a long time where I’ve left and felt really good about the experience. In fact, Retaliation is one of the relatively few movies where I’d contemplate seeing it again in the theater. I enjoyed myself that much.
As for how I feel about particular characters, I’ll break them down:
Cobra Commander: Cobra Commander was totally rad. He’s the Cobra Commander that should have been in the first film. The only complaint about it was that he wasn’t in it enough. He basically shows up from time to time to give orders. I think part of the problem here is the way that the first movie boxed in the plot for this movie. Zartan had to take the lead because well, he had all the power.
Zartan: As for bad guys, Zartan rules. His quips are genuinely witty and Jonathan Pryce really nails it.
Roadblock: Roadblock is easily the “star” of the movie based on screen time and the star power of The Rock. Basically, he’s the Rock in G.I. Joe with the name of Roadblock. Does a solid job, yet he doesn’t rhyme like in the cartoon. That makes me a little sad.
Flint: Flint was okay, but he was basically Flint in name only. I didn’t really get any indication that he was the real deal. I liked him, yet he just didn’t feel like Flint.
Lady Jaye: Again she wasn’t exactly the one we know and love from comics. I’ve always liked Lady Jaye the most out of the ladies of G.I. Joe (even more than Baroness!) and I have a bit of a crush on her. In this movie she was less the capable woman of action and served as more of a sexpot infiltrator. And damn her subplot was “meh”
Snake Eyes: It is really bizarre that there’s mainstream movie where one of the characters never takes off his mask and doesn’t speak. Just think about that. In every superhero film the Superhero always ends up mask-less at the end so we can see his actor face. Regardless, Snake Eyes was fucking awesome.
Jinx: She doesn’t serve much of a purpose in this film aside from A. Being a total bad ass B. Giving another positive woman character C. Acting as a semi-mouthpiece for Snake Eyes.
Firefly: Man alive, Firefly got way more screen time than I thought he would. I wasn’t exactly hot on his accent as he reminded me more of Copperhead than Firefly, but overall I dug him. I was really surprised that he wore a camo hood. It was a great nod to the original character. As a fan, it’s so sweet to see so many things that are similar to what we know as G.I Joe.
Joe Colton: Bruce Willis is awesome as the original G.I. Joe, Joe Colton. I liked that they were able to get old school G.I. Joe mixed in with 80’s era A Real American Hero stuff. If there’s one thing I could have used more of though, it was the old dude team that Joe brought in. You know at least one of those fuckers had a Kung Fu grip.
Score: 3 out of 3 Thumbs Up
Duke: I was really surprised that Retaliation really made me like Channing Tatum’s Duke before blowing his ass up. While his scenes with Roadblock that showed how close of friends they were so so, they managed to make me think, “Oh shit, Duke’s going to die… I like him now.”
Snake Eyes / Storm Shadow Rivalry: SE and SS where far too young for that story to play out sensibly. And it was rushed. Storm Shadow figured everything out because the plot demanded it. It didn’t feel real at all. And none of the ninja clan that saw that sword couldn’t immediately tell that it wasn’t one of their making?
Also RZA as “Blind Master” was fucking awful. Took me completely out of the film every time he spoke.
However, despite these problems I loved the ninja stuff. Every second of ninja fighting was pure gold.
London Blowing Up: Wow. In a movie like this, I think destroying all of London was a mistake. Maybe I’m too empathetic, but it would be such a tragedy that it ruins the “fun” of the film. Through the entire ending I couldn’t stop thinking about all the dead people in England. It put a really sour note on the otherwise upbeat ending of the film.
Tank Battle: Roadblock driving around was a little disjointed without longer shots of showing where he was in relation to the HISS tanks.
Nuclear War: I’m pretty sure you can’t just blow up all your nukes in orbit instantaneously with a touch of the button. You think North Korea would have a failsafe like that in their missiles? Hell. No. And even if they did have a failsafe in a nuke, you have to figure that a few of the failsafes would actually fail.
Zeus Device: When Roadblock hits the stop sequence on the Zeus device, it automatically blows up the satellites, not just stops them. Huh.
Fan Service: There’s a good amount of G.I. Joe fan service without it feeling too over the top. From the costumes to a few bits here and there, it really helped make me feel like I was watching a G.I. Joe movie and not something that was just branded G.I. Joe. Loved the HISS tanks and they seemed like plausible machines of war. Also loved the old camo outfit that was in Colton’s secret stash.
Final Battle: At the end I was feeling a little fatigued when Roadblock and Firefly were dukeing it out for control of the case. I just wanted it to be over. And the rushing to push a button on a briefcase has been done to death… ah hem… Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol comes to mind as the film I’ve most recently seen that does the exact same thing.