G.I. JOE: Retaliation ReviewApril 2, 2013
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a stupid film, but at least it’s a marked improvement over its predecessor.
I’m going to frank – I absolutely hated G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Even though that film had a little bit of entertaining action, it’s unarguable that it was a cinematic disaster. That is why I naturally had reservations when a sequel was announced… until the trailer was released. I still assumed that the film would be ridiculous based on the source material, but what brought up my hopes was the revamped style, a new director and the fact that the writers of Zombieland were attached to the project. With supposedly a reassembled team, is G.I. Joe: Retaliation proof that there is actual potential for this Hasbro franchise to survive on the big screen?
The G.I. Joes are assigned a mission to extract a massive amount of nuclear warheads in a Pakistani compound, where incidentally the president of that nation was recently assassinated. After another successful mission, the ruthless Cobra insurgent named Zartan robs the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) of his identity, resulting in a secret overtaking of the White House. As a result, the G.I. Joes are soon met with a terrible attack from undercover Cobra helicopters. This fatal airstrike results in the death of nearly every single member of the elite force, including the team’s captain Duke (Channing Tatum). With this terrible loss, second-in-command and best friend Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) assumes leadership over the two remaining G.I. Joes at the base, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona). Together with Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and retired General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis), the survivors band together to rescue the President and stop Cobra’s plan for world domination.
I’m not assuming that anyone going into this film is expecting high cinematic art. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a decisively ridiculous film, and it has its share of problems. This film has the standard issues of implausibility and cheesy dialogue that most action films wrestle with, while one could also argue that the middle section gets slightly convoluted and the story doesn’t have much of a message. However, what mattered towards G.I. Joe: Retaliation being an improvement over the original is a new tone, entertaining action and an engaging story, and thankfully this film has all of these things. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is big, cheesy, dumb, and a whole lot of fun, which is exactly the kind of film it needs to be. Sometimes the film takes itself a little too seriously – and fails – but otherwise writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese of Zombieland recognized this material’s absurdity and scribed a very enjoyable action flick. Essentially, what one should expect from G.I. Joe: Retaliation is something akin to an awesome Saturday morning cartoon with plenty of exaggerated elements, but enough fun to make those aspects forgivable. I guarantee that you will have fun with G.I. Joe: Retaliation if you do so.
Of course, the acting in G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t anything noteworthy – but again, what did any of us expect in the first place? What’s important is that the horrible actors from the original film are gone, and now we have a new and improved cast. Channing Tatum has certainly come along as an actor since then, so (spoilers) it’s a real shame that he was written out of this film early on, considering that his character and Dwayne Johnson’s Roadblock gave a lot of personality to G.I. Joe: Retaliation. That could have done a lot for the film, so his exclusion from the rest of the story is certainly a flaw (end spoilers). Even so, it’s great to once again see Dwayne Johnson save a dying franchise, for he serves his job quite well as Roadblock. At this point he is becoming a serious action star, and that transition is definitely apparent in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. D.J. Cotrona is completely forgettable as Flint, and Adrianne Palicki does not bring much depth to her character aside from the fact that she is eye candy. RZA also has a terrible supporting role, and Jonathan Pryce looks like he did not want to be on set for filming. Bruce Willis’ inclusion in the cast is one of the most notable aspects of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and his role is minimal but fun enough. Most of the time he is just there to poke fun at his career, but otherwise his one-liners and brief action scenes are entertaining.
A key reason why G.I. Joe: Retaliation is an improvement over its predecessor is because of the direction. One could understandably worry about the director since he previously directed two of the Step Up films, but it turns out that his experience with camera work and choreography has greatly benefited this film. Yes, there is CGI in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but at least there is a lot less this time around, and that type of imagery is convincing when it’s employed. Otherwise, this film is very pleasing to look at, and sound design is solid. Notably, there are fewer edits in the action scenes, so it’s possible to actually comprehend what’s happening on-screen this time around. As previously noted, director Jon Chu’s experience with choreography carries over into G.I. Joe: Retaliation, for the action is well-staged, tense and a lot of fun – a clash between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is certainly a standout in the improved action. As for the 3D (one of the reasons for the 9 month delay), it is passable. The 3D experience of G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t terrible- it’s just that the effect is not immersive enough for the 3D option to be a major selling point.
If you see G.I. Joe: Retaliation and loathe the entire experience, I understand completely. I recognize that this film is laced with implausible moments, ridiculous story elements and standard action clichés. Even so, my main hope with G.I. Joe: Retaliation is that it would be an improvement over its terrible predecessor, and it most definitely was. Surprisingly enough, I had plenty of fun watching this film due to its somewhat self-aware storyline and excellent action. Yes, as it stands this is a stupid, ridiculous and often over-exaggerated film. Even so, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a film that asks its audience to look past its absurdity and have a good time. Thankfully for us, that helps it to be a surprising success.