REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Back in the 1960s, like most boys, I had at least G.I. Joe action figure. They were cool but maybe not as cool as Captain Action, which followed two years later. Of course, both faded away over time until the Joe concept was revised by Hasbro. Working with Larry Hama and Marvel Comics, the idea was expanded, the figures scaled down and a phenomenon was born.
Given the wild success of the toys, the animated series, and the long-running comic, I remain baffled why it took until 2009 before a live-action film was made. Here were all the kids’ favorite good guys and bad guys brought to life, looking sleek and cool and yes, sexy. The film was a smash success so of course the wait for a sequel began immediately.
It wasn’t until early 2011 that work finally began and then we were promised the movie in 20123 and despite a mammoth marketing campaign; it was pulled just weeks before release. G.I. Joe Retaliation bounced around the schedule as there was a little reshooting, some re-editing and then upgrading to 3-D. Finally, four years later, the sequel arrived this spring and is now available on home video from Paramount Home Entertainment.
This is one of those critic-proof movies so despite almost universal panning, it racked up huge bucks at the box office making a third film likely. But, given the devastation wrought to the cast this time around, the question becomes who is left to star?
Wisely picking up from where the last one ended, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) has replaced the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). Now he embarks on a plan to execute the Joes, frame them for mayhem, and then rescue Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) so Cobra’s latest plan to rule the world can begin.
Sure enough, most of the Joes are offed in short order with just three survivors: Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). MIA and presumed alive is Snake Eyes (Ray Park). They’re on the run and need to regroup to save the world. Meantime, half a world away, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Joe turned enemy Firefly (Ray Stevenson) free Cobra Commander with the ninja injured in the process. Alerted to this event, the Blind Master (RZA) dispatches Snake Eyes and his protégé Jinx (Elodie Yung), Shadow’s relative, to retrieve him so he can answer for the death of the Hard Master (don’t go there). One of the freshest and most visually interesting battles occurs on the snowy mountains as a result.
While that’s happening, the Prez names Cobra his new security force and Roadblock turns to the first Joe (Bruce Willis) for guidance. All the pieces are then moved around the chessboard for a while until everything climaxes during a global summit held at Fort Sumter. Things blow up real well until the world is saved.
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) do a passable job of keeping things moving even if they don’t always make sense and merely wave at characterization rather than truly explore what a world in which high-tech forces as Cobra exist. They open things up with a plausible breakdown of the Pakistan government and the Joes are sent in to retrieve all of their nuclear warheads lest they fall into unsavory hands. No one pauses to think about this or condemn the US for such an action. There are similar things that zip buy that beg for exploration but then again, this isn’t that kind of a movie.
The screenwriters also give use the sketchiest of characterizations and poor Lady Jaye is twice reduced to being a sex object and not once does she complain, instead talks about her daddy issues with Flint who has even less of a character. At least Jaye has the funniest exchange with Willis’s Joe so there’s that.
The movie barely acknowledges the characters from the first except for Duke (Channing Tatum) who is on screen long enough to be remembered and then is mourned.
Director John M. Chu keeps things moving and keeps the movie visually interesting even when the story falls flat. To his credit, at 1:L50, things move along and the action is not overdone compared with the action films that followed this year.
Perhaps the best thing about the film is the transfer to high definition. This is wonderful to watch with flawless colors and resolution. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack is a perfect complement so those owning this will be quite pleased.
The combo set offers you the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy with all the goodies added to only the Blu-ray disc. In a nice touch, you can pick a G.I. Joe or Cobra theme for the menus. Here you get three deleted scenes with one, set at Arlington Cemetery, truly missed. In the Audio Commentary, Chu and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura provides some nice insights into how the film came together and the choices made. G.I. DeClassified is a complete 1:12 eight-part look at how the film was assembled from concept to special effects. It’s interesting to see Military Advisor and ex-Navy SEAL Harry Humphries turn the cast into military-grade commandoes. The emphasis is on the effects, sets, and action sequences although one does focus on Willis and the classic toy line.
While I wish for a stronger script, it’s pretty much what fans of the toys and cartoons will expect and appreciate.