G.I. Joe: Retaliation Directed by: Jon M. Chu Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: March 29, 2013
PLOT: After their base is attacked, members of the "elite fighting force" G.I Joe (Johnson, Cotrona, Palicki) return to America to stop the evil Cobra Commander from unleashing nuclear war.
WHO'S IT FOR? You don't have to be a teenager to enjoy G.I. Joe: Retaliation for whatever it is, but it is necessary to anticipate how intentionally unintelligent this action movie will be.
EXPECTATIONS: Previous film G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra was pretty successful in making silly spectacle out of a film adapted from a toy. Would Step Up 2: The Streets director Jon M. Chu be able to continue this attitude, with the help of Dwayne Johnson?
Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock: Movie by movie, Johnson is certainly on the path to be the all-American new version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is another step or two in that direction, providing Johnson with a role in which he is a muscly man of the American people; he can also fire a big gun and a good joke with the same natural charisma. For a movie in which original G.I. Joe hero Tatum isn't onscreen for too long, Johnson takes over immediately, and doesn't let us look back. I now consider myself actively interested to see where Johnson is off to next. Score: 7
Rest of Cast: Tatum isn't onscreen for too long, but he does have good buddy chemistry with Johnson in the first act. Cotrona and Palicki are quite dull sidekicks for Roadblock, especially when compared to Rachel Nichols and Marlon Wayans in Rise of the Cobra, who they have essentially replaced. Pryce steals the circus like Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2, offering some bizarre comedy through unexpected casting. Willis is brought into the movie to be Bruce Willis, and to have a gun cache that can be activated by the code "1776." Yup, that's G.I. Joe: Retaliation in a passcode. Score: 6
TALKING: The key to "getting" this movie is appreciating its dialogue. As led by Pryce's possessed president, the words spoken by the characters of the film are absurdly silly, and yet so funny and perfect for this movie's attitude. G.I. Joe: Retaliation encourages its audience to lighten up with moments like when Cobra Commander tells Destro, "You're out of the band," or when Zartan (as Pryce), says of his presidential duties, "They say it's a thankless job, but I got to meet Bono yesterday." While most movies use silly lines as comic relief, this attitude covers the entire film, and makes it all the more enjoyable with the script well in tune with how ridiculous everything is. If there could be a laugh track to the moment in which Cobra flags drape over the White House (as seen in the trailer), I'm sure the writers would have pushed for that as well. Score: 7
SIGHTS: What really matters for a film like G.I. Joe is that its action delivers. And does it? For Retaliation, the results are not as perfect as they should be, but the movie doesn't disappoint with its action being cohesive, and its war technology always offering a surprise. However, a multi-ninja fight sequence on the side of a mountain proves to easily be the most inspired action scene, leaving other gun-heavy scenes in more generic placement. Chu's choice to make the action of this movie smaller (it doesn't feature an all-out battle like Rise of Cobra's climax) isn't as compensated by creativity as well as it should be. And if you're curious, no, the 3D might be fine, but the image captured itself doesn't need a dimension boost. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Maybe it's not actually meant to be a joke, but guitarist Joe Perry provides some cheesy git-box riffing throughout the movie, especially with a sludgy piece accompanying the moody Joes at their time of hometown retreat. The rest of the film's score fluctuates from rock to electronic stuff, with computerized bass drops used constantly to indicate somethin' is about to go down onscreen. The film's overall laziest moment is the use of "How Do You Like Me Now?" during the end credits. Transformers gets a crummy Linkin Park song for every new credit sequence, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation only gets a car commercial tune? Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Easily the sequence in which Snake Eyes is fighting a group of ninjas while rock climbing. Although it runs a tad repetitive, it is still original, and the constant shots of the defeated falling to the unknown provides good tension.
ENDING: Reminding you that this isn't just an action movie, but one based on cartoon, Cobra Commander gets away. That's all, folks.
QUESTIONS: Okay, Chu, we've seen you do a silly action movie, but can you handle something bigger, and more serious?
REWATCHABILITY: Rise of Cobra proved to be a lot of fun the first time, but not so much when I returned soon after that to see it a second time. (For the record, it was still pretty grand watching it for a third time a couple days ago). I expect that's the same for Retaliation; if I give it a couple years, I'll see it again and re-love that dialogue.
In terms of its attitude, Retaliation is a rare franchise flick - it's not a serious action film that devolves into silliness, or uses silliness as a comic relief to patch up other shortcomings. Instead, it's one that already starts on a very goofy level, and continues to chug right along, throwing all of the campy dialogue and kind-of-disturbing gun porn an audience can handle. To criticize this movie as solely stupid is to only call this movie by its unused subtitle (Retaliation admittedly looks better on a poster).
As mentioned above, the action scenes in the film (which matter to a G.I. Joe movie more than plot cohesion) do make for quite a jolly ol' time at the multiplex. Retaliation is certainly a couple more inspired action scenes from being a great movie, and its the glaring truth of that which certainly hurts Retaliation. This is where a sense of laziness negatively affects the film; a mountainside mini-battle could be conceived, but nothing to stand next to that? I guess I'll just settle for overall cohesive action chaos.
Potentially a good sign of satisfying and efficiently light entertainment coming our way in the next season, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a welcome piece of self-aware entertainment that is much funnier than one could ever expect. It's the type of film with an insanely low IQ that proves to be smarter than its seemingly more sophisticated contemporaries.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10