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Movie Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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GI Joe: Retaliation PosterG.I. Joe: Retaliation
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Ray Park, Bruce Willis
Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 110 Minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2013

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3D), G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the sequel to Stephen Sommers’ instantly forgettable 2009 film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

At the conclusion of that film, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), having had his physical appearance altered by nanomites, infiltrates the White House and assumes the identity of the President of the United States of America (Jonathan Pryce).

Chu’s sequel begins with Zartan in control of the United States government. The master of make-up and disguise frames the G.I. Joes as traitors and launches an all-out attack on the Joes, wiping out their ranks (including Channing Tatum‘s Sgt. Duke) in one fell swoop.

Meanwhile, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) infiltrate a top-secret subterranean prison to free Cobra Commander. Previously portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the supreme leader of COBRA is played by Australian actor Luke Bracey this time around and voiced by Robert Baker.

Cobra Commander’s plan is simple: eliminate the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons so COBRA can rule the world unopposed by using Zeus, a sub-orbital weapon of mass destruction that’s twice as powerful as a nuclear bomb.

The remaining G.I. Joes — Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) — team up with General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis), the “original” G.I. Joe, to stop Cobra Commander from implementing his plan.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - The Rock and Channing Tatum

Director Jon M. Chu’s filmography is composed primarily of dance and concert films like Step Up 2: The Streets and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, so G.I. Joe: Retaliation is really his first foray into blockbuster filmmaking. There’s a lot of things to juggle: insane budgets, special effects, elaborate action sequences, and, perhaps most daunting, taking the reins of a film franchise based off a beloved comic book, cartoon series, and toy line.

That’s a lot of pressure, considering The Rise of Cobra was so, so crappy. That’s right, I’m forced to use the word “crappy” because that’s really the only way to describe Stephen Sommers’ silly, N64-powered cartoon. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a competent, entertaining action fantasy that outdoes its predecessor on every single level while providing fan service to those who grew up with the franchise.

Sure, there are some problems: What happened to Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and Baroness (Sienna Miller) or 90% of the original cast? I guess they got wiped out during Zartan’s blitzkrieg. As for Destro, you’ll catch a glimpse of the metal-headed villain briefly, but Christopher Eccleston doesn’t reprise his role – not that he really needs to, the guy’s wearing a metal mask – it’s an easy fix.

G.I. Joe: Retalation - Cobra Commander and Storm Shadow

Chu does an admirable job in making the film a sequel while, at the same time, essentially rebooting the franchise with The Rock as the male lead and a Cobra Commander who looks like he just stepped out of the cartoon. All that’s missing is that shrill, high-pitched voice screaming “Cobra!” or “Attack!” Cobra Commander has a little more bass in his voice this time around, but he does manage to deliver a pretty great Destro diss: “Destro, you’re out of the band.” Ha!

Really, all you need to know about this movie is that there’s a kick-ass action sequence involving ninjas fighting on the side of a snow-covered mountain, zip-lining and bungie-jumping their way through canyons and running along cliff faces with ninja swords drawn.

Ray Park (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) returns as Snake Eyes, the Boba Fett of G.I. Joe – and by that I mean, the silent but deadly bad-ass who makes for the coolest action figure. This time, Snake Eyes is joined by fellow ninja Jinx (Elodie Yung), who aids him in his quest to bring Storm Shadow to justice.

The Rock is, as always, a charismatic tough guy with the arms of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the winning smile of Billy Dee Williams. When he isn’t quoting Jay-Z or screaming “Let’s kick that ass!,” The Rock is in a knock-down, drag-out fistfight with Firefly or mowing down legions of COBRA soldiers with a big-ass gatling gun – you know, the usual stuff.

As for the rest of the cast, Adrianne Palicki and D.J. Cotrona turn in solid supporting performances as Lady Jaye and Flint while Bruce Willis avoids completely ruining the film with yet another phoned-in performance. G.I. Joe: Retaliation won’t be winning any Oscars or BAFTAs this year – but for what it is (a cheesy, entertaining movie based on a toy line), it’s a perfectly absurd, but absurdly fun movie.

I can only hope the third film in the franchise is called G.I. Joe: Night on Ninja Mountain and features 110 minutes of non-stop ninja fights, sweet-ass vehicles, and Cobra Commander screaming and pointing at things.

Follow Me on Twitter, or I’ll Kick that Ass!

P.S: G.I. Joe: Night on Ninja Mountain may or may not be a sequel/crossover to 1998’s 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain.

4 Comments »

  1. Now that was a review. Everything I needed to know before I chance my time.

    Comment by DavidCrowell — March 30, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  2. Thanks, David!

    Comment by Adam Frazier — March 30, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

  3. Excellent review because the writer understands that G.I. JOE is essentially a military fantasy and yes, even a comic-book movie. It’s not supposed to be a Merchant /.Ivory drama – it’s a fun, summer-type popcorn flick. It’s kid-friendly as even the most menacing of weapons turns out to cause most of the damage off screen – or where it’s not visible as to how the bad guy Cobras die, i.e. no blood.

    No one wants an “R” rated G.I. Joe movie, but even the PG-13 tag isn’t very accurate. No sex, just some explosions and fighting. And comic-book fun at that. The Rock quipping jokes and Ninjas battling on the edge of a mountain – an amazing 9-minute silent scene that totally rocks in 3-D.

    Could the film have been better? Yes, but this is much more like the G.I. JOE the fans have been waiting for. The first film – RISE OF COBRA – had a lot of things that went wrong, iconic pieces of the JOE Universe were drastically changed for no reason (and with horrible results). Take Cobra Commander’s look – seriously, WTF was that helmet design from ROC? Hideous! In RETALIATION, Cobra Commander rocks a helmet and costume design that is perfect! Taken right from the comics, action figures, and cartoons.

    Frustrating that so many great, top-tier characters were not in RETALIATION, but also the unnecessary “killing off” of most of the JOES. Now, characters could show up in the next film portrayed by new actors, but there are HUNDREDS of cool JOES that can be worked in. Really a shame that so many of the actors bailed (and I’m not sure what the contracts were, but I thought that Paramount would’ve locked in actors for a 3-picture deal, especially as G.I. Joe was geared to be at least a trilogy, such as Transformers or The Dark Knight films.

    I could nit-pick the film – it wasn’t flawless; plenty to quibble about – but overall, there was a lot to like. I hope the word spreads about RETALIATION (and does well on blu-ray / dvd too). This is a major step in the right direction and even if Bruce Willis decides to not return for another cake-walk performance, The Rock is a mega-star and G.I. Joe is the perfect vehicle for him.

    So cool to see HISS TANKS and other G.I. JOE Universe vehicles and costumes. Next time, we need a stronger script and then just push the boundries, in the right direction, by using the 31-year legacy of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and treating the material with respect, dignity, and fun.

    It’s shocking to me that Transformers is going on it’s 4th film and the movies have been just noisy, blurry, swirling metal confusion. G.I. Joe can be so much more. But it has to be G.I. Joe – not some guys in super-suits running down the street trying to avoid missiles as incredulously shown in Rise of Cobra. And the lose of Channing Tatum hopefully won’t be a mistake by the producers as his star continues to brighten. Maybe recast a new Duke (or Hawk), or more importantly adding Shipwreck, Dusty, Dial-Tone, Ace, Footloose or any number of awesome Joes that deserve screen-time. And give Flint some sort of character, jeez. The guy was a step-above a glorified extra – and in the Joe Legacy, Flint is one of the top 5 guys!

    I could go on and on – that’s how much I love G.I. Joe. Retaliation was fun, had a few flaws, but I sure felt a whole lot better after seeing it than the first film.

    Yo Joe!

    Comment by Michael Elhardt — April 3, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  4. […] Click here for full review. […]

    Pingback by North Carolina Film Critics Association — April 4, 2013 @ 1:55 am

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