Director: John M. Chu
Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park
Series: G.I. Joe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 Minutes
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Retaliation Against Intelligence
(This review contains spoilers for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra).
After the success of 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it was announced that another Joe movie would be coming out in 2011. However, the film was pushed back and now in 2013 the silver screens of America are tainted with this thoughtless action romp.
The film picks up almost immediately where the first left off. The President of the United States has been kidnapped and replaced by an impostor named Zartan (Arnold Vosloo/ Jonathon Pryce). The Joes have become America’s top counter terrorist squad, and Duke (Channing Tatum) now leads them. Together with an old friend, Roadblock (Dwayne “CAN YOU SMEL-L-L WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN'” Johnson), and some other new faces, Duke sets out to retrieve some nuclear warheads.
After the mission is complete, the Joes retreat to their extraction point where they are ambushed by a small fleet of helicopters. Most of the Joes are killed and Zartan uses the incident to place the blame for the missing warheads on the unit and it’s leadership. Now with the world turned against them and the Cobra leaders freed from their prison, the Joes seek help from the original G.I. Joe (Bruce Willis) to try and stop a plot to destroy civilization.
Let me start this with a positive. This film did surprise me on more than one occasion with some bold plot twists toward the beginning. And now that that’s out of the way… Director John Chu has said that he feel that this film would be a reboot of the franchise. With only a few returning characters, it does feel like a different film than the first.
However, this is not a good thing. The film further severs whatever links held it to the original toys and comics, and instead adds overdoses of action and half assed relevance to today’s political climate (and by that I mean they make fun of Kim Jong-un). The filmmakers play with war and chaos the way an eight year old might play with action figures. There seems to be no qualms with destroying cities and murdering thousands of innocents, and even less time given to audience to consider the consequences.
In one scene spoiled in the trailers, London is reduced to a wasteland by a WMD. As it happens, the film allows you to watch the destruction unfold before quickly shifting gears back to the roided out squad of Joes kicking in bad guy’s faces. You see all of London crumble, but aren’t subject to feelings of horror or dismay as you aren’t given time to even properly register what happened. The film’s philosophy seems to be that if the audience doesn’t have time to think or feel anything that the film can tread on whatever ground it needs to.
Each of the surviving Joes is given a loose backstory, usually a troubled childhood followed by an enlistment, that is supposed to make you feel for them but instead just makes their motivations even more cheesy than if they were just doing this because it’s their job. The characters are wafer thin, and even when a major character is in danger, it’s really hard to care.
The plot eventually becomes as routine as the characters. Insert a betrayal here, insert a flashback reveal there. Eventually the plot becomes secondary to the action, and about every twenty minutes the film forces you to endure a piss poor performance from The RZA as a Zatoichi wannabe, who conveniently runs down the plot developments with a monologue as the Joes share steely glances. By the end of the film all I knew (or for that matter, cared to know) was that Dwayne Johnson can carry and fire a Barrett 50 cal. and that there would be a third film.
For a movie that literally has nonstop action, you’d think it wouldn’t be too boring, but somehow all the fun is removed and each action scene blends into the next with little to no tension built. You know the Joes are going to win, and the stakes in each battle give you no reason to think any differently. By the film’s climax I found myself sighing and rolling my eyes.
The film doesn’t even seem to want to make you care that the world is being threatened, it just needs excuses for things to go boom. Even Bruce Willis can’t save this film, and he winds up spending his screen time as a sexist old general, who spends most of his time in fights laying on his back. The poor man can barely move (a fact made painfully evident in A Good Day to Die Hard).
A dumb, thoughtless mess of jumpy editing and special effects, G.I. Joe: Retaliation offers nothing memorable to the audience and instead treats them to a wholly lackluster action flick the same way a homeless man in Chicago treats a sidewalk with a close up of his errant feces. This movie doesn’t care about you or itself, and seems only to serve as a commercial for Hasbro’s new line of Joe toys. If ignorance is truly bliss, then this movie is Nirvana.