G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review

JoesSo tonight I saw G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the sequel to the 2009 film, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra in 3D. I went to the movie with my 11-year old daughter, my friend, his 10-year old son and teenage daughter. I didn’t think that this would be a movie that my daughter would want to see. She insisted on seeing it so it was her call today. I wanted to check out Olympus Has Fallen instead but I guess that’ll have to wait for another day. I wasn’t too thrilled with the first G.I. Joe movie so I really didn’t see any high hopes for the sequel. The only redeeming quality about it was the inclusion of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis (big fan of both actors), new characters in the series.  Will their performances elevate this film from the lukewarm original?

Sadly, the answer is no. Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock) pretty much carries this movie with Bruce Willis only getting no more than 20 minutes tops of screen time in the entire movie. His character was ineffectively comical as the gun-loving General Joe Colton (“just call me Joe,” he says). He exemplified the epitome of Americans who lust for their guns as he showed the Joes his hidden arsenal behind kitchen utensils, stove tops, cupboards and every cabinet you can think of in a modern day kitchen. The glorification of these weapons was a little disturbing in light of the recent shootings here in the US this past year. The 80’s Hasbro toys were no better one can argue but we’re living in different times now.

The auxiliary characters in the movie are not completely fleshed out and to be honest, I never really cared for them. The only exception was Snake Eyes (played by an always silent Ray Park of Star Wars Phantom Menace fame) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) who provide some really good fighting scenes along with a new character, Jinx (Elodie Yung).

The plot of the movie is  outlandish: The President of the United States is impersonated by a character called Zartan (played by the always evil Arnold Vosloo) who utilizes some sci-fi wiz nanotechnology to not only recreate a mask of the president’s face but his voice, physicality and mannerisms. The doppleganger president kills the G.I. Joes save three, who must now go out and clear their names and go after the president. In the aftermath, they all deduce that the President — the President folks — sold them out and then set out for vengeance. Using video footage and super flimsy deduction, the Joes figure out what no one in the entire US government — not even the secret service! — has figured out. First the Columbian sex scandal and now this? The secret service isn’t looking so hot these days. Don’t get me started on the whole DNA plan the Joes cooked up to prove that the President was an impostor.

Behind this scheme is Cobra Commander, who is held in a super-max underground prison. After the obligatory jailbreak sequence, Cobra Commander settles into the all too familiar role of doing nothing but walking in slow motion or running away amid gun-fire, his plans of ruling the world going up in smoke yet again. What? You never watched the cartoons back in the 80s? I hope I didn’t spoil anything here for you. Anyway, he wants to rule the world by destroying major cities around the world via death-dealing satellites he sent out in space secretly, backed by hundreds of military personell who are perfectly fine with it.

Then there’s the side story of Storm Shadow’s redemption that starts out with his abduction from an airy mountain-top temple and ends with some deft-defying zip-line sword fighting with Snake Eyes and Jinx and a score of red costumed ninjas. If you didn’t watch the first film, you would surely be lost here (like my daughter was) as they quickly re-hash Storm Shadow’s backstory and the reasoning behind his hatred for Snake Eyes. Deciding to join the Joes against Zartan and Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow and Jinx then magically appear in the next sequence besides Cobra Commander and his goons to foil their plans. What? Did I miss something? How did he get to Cobra Commander so quickly? No one questioned Storm Shadow after he was abducted by Snake Eyes and a zillion red costumed ninjas were massacred, returning to the fold as if nothing happened?

I had to stifle a laugh when I saw the “Blind Master” played by RZA from Wu-Tang Clan.  I love RZA and his music and really appreciate his passion for martial arts films (last year he co-wrote, directed and starred in The Man with the Iron Fists – now that I mention it, I really have to go and rent this flick!) but I just didn’t buy this “old master” role. I just saw Wu-Tang Clan on the screen and the ridiculous white hair and weak makeup, not the character he was portraying.

The movie had a lot of action in the form of countless fire-fights, hand-to-hand combat, explosions, vehicles and nifty gadgets. It had two of the biggest action stars in cinema; the old vanguard and the up-and-coming contender representing a new breed of action hero. If only it had better writing. There were so many plot holes and little things I saw wrong that I simply “checked out” halfway through and didn’t question it any longer. I’ll just wait for YouTube’s CinemaSins‘ to do an “Everything Wrong with G.I. Joe: Retaliation in 5 Minutes or Less review”. If you haven’t seen any of their videos, go to YouTube now and check them out. They’re hilarious. They’ll have plenty of material with this movie.

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