Part sequel, part reboot, G.I. Joe is a much better movie than it’s predecessor, but still fails victim to many of the same problems. While the action is hectic and mostly entertaining, the unbalanced, awkward plot and paper-thin characters keep this from being anything other than mindless entertainment.
Picking up sometime after G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Retaliation starts off strongly, giving the viewer a quick summary of the important aspects of what came before, while also introducing new characters such Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona).
Conrad “Duke” Hauser is now the team leader of the elite squad of soldiers known as the G.I. Joes’, and when the President (Jonathon Pryce), tasks them with retrieving nuclear weapons, in true Joe fashion, they infiltrate a large compound and shoot lots of nameless thugs.
The beginning of Retaliation gave me hope that this movie wouldn’t just be better than its predecessor, but would actually end up being a good action movie overall. Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum have great chemistry in the opening moments, and it’s really impressive seeing just how much Tatum has matured as an actor since Rise of Cobra.
Tatum comes off as having strong charisma, and his back-and-forth with Johnson’s character Roadblock is entertaining and even humorous. Sadly, however, Tatum takes an abrupt exit from the film, leaving the movie to rest on the shoulders of Johnson, Palicki, and Cotrona. And that’s where things start slipping.
While Johnson is a likable actor, his character is written to be nothing more than a brute of an action hero, and Palicki, while also likable in her own way, is also written poorly so that she comes across as being nothing more than eye-candy. And Cotrona, who plays Flint, well, he’s just flat-out boring across the board.
You see, Rise of Cobra was a terribly dumb movie, but it benefited from a fun cast of characters and a firm tongue-in-cheek tone. However, Retaliation, while definitely more realistic and less over-the-top, is still so laughably flat that no matter how flashy the explosions are, it just feels empty.
Much of this is due to the plot, which, quite frankly, is terrible. It had the potential to be good, but it tries to do too much, and ends up being convoluted and overly ambitious. It tries to juggle too many plot threads and spends so little time developing any of them that the whole thing seems like a half-hearted attempt at a good storyline.
The same can be said for the characters. While Jonathon Pryce seems to be having fun as the President, and Bruce Willis makes a fun appearance as General Joe Colton, the rest of the cast seems lifeless and depressingly two-dimensional.
I can’t help but wonder how different, and probably better, this movie would’ve been if Tatum had stuck around as the lead. And that’s something I never thought I’d say.
However, with all that said, this movie does have it’s bright points. The action, while not necessarily original, is fast-paced and hectic enough to hold your attention most of the time, but where the movie really shines is in its awesome ninja on ninja fight sequences.
Almost every time Snake Eyes, his female protege Jinx, or Storm Shadow show up-screen, the movie is at its best. The sword fights are well-choreographed and exciting, mostly due to director Jon Chu’s dancing movie background no doubt, and inject the movie with a much-needed energy boost.
The film’s most impressive set-piece, taking place on a cliff side, is a true visual treat. Seeing over a dozen of ninjas fight each other while suspended over an incredible height is just as exhilarating as it sounds, and stands out as the best scene in the entire movie. Which sadly makes the climax seem lackluster in comparison, even if it is exciting in its own way.
Also, it was nice seeing the villains come across as much more menacing than they did in Rise of Cobra. Cobra Commander actually looks like he’s supposed too, and Firefly and Storm Shadow are just menacing enough to be both entertaining villains and exciting additions to the action.
Overall though, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a forgettable yet fun action romp; but one that fails victim to an incredibly poor script. Would I recommend it, not necessarily, but I wouldn’t not recommend it. There’s enough fun moments to please diehard G.I. Joe fans or the casual action movie fan, but not nearly enough character or plot development to make anyone walk away feeling truly impressed.
If you decide to check this movie out, go in expecting a brainless, purely popcorn entertainment kind of movie. And if you look past the paper-thin plot and mostly boring characters, there’s a a fun action movie to be seen. Just make sure you set your expectations accordingly.