G.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.
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.
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.