A film review by Craig J. Koban April 3, 2013
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
2013, PG-13, 112 mins.
2013, PG-13, 112 mins.
Duke: Channing Tatum /
Roadblock: Dwayne Johnson /
Colton: Bruce Willis /
Snake Eyes: Ray Park /
Jaye: Adrianne Palicki /
Flint: D.J. Cotrona
Of all of the films that I’ve seen based on a very famous and much cherished Hasbro-made militaristic toy line from my childhood, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION is by far the worst.
highly fitting, then, that this film is as lifeless as the original
3 and ¾ inch scale action figures of my innocent youth.
As a sequel to the slightly better and a bit more tolerable G.I.
JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA from 2009, this film comes off even more
this time as a mass marketed entity to shamelessly sell a product and
familiar brand, something that will only appeal to the
fetishistic drives of 8-year old viewers…or many an adult in the
audience forever trapped in a pathetic state of arrested development.
not sure what is entirely more unforgivable: that (a) the film is from the
snappy and witty writing duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who penned
the wondrously sly ZOMBIELAND or (b) that
it is directed by the same man that helmed JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER
and the STEP UP films. Regardless
of the people behind the scenes, films like G.I. JOE: RETALIATION operate on
pure franchise autopilot, delivering just more of the same of what the
initial Stephen Sommers forgettable entry already did.
I have heard that some critics like how big, dumb, and silly this sequel
is, which makes it, as a result and in their minds, so rewardingly enjoyable.
Note to these people: just because a tentpole film like this is
noisy, bombastic, unpretentiously infantile and dumber than a proverbial
bag of hammers doesn’t automatically mean that it’s an enjoyable
JOE: RETALIATION is not so much a dedicated and loyal sequel to the
original as it is a sequel/reboot (some of the major players from
the first are back this go-around in a very limited capacity, whereas others have been
completely left out). The
plot this time, perhaps even more than its antecedent, is ripped right out
of a Saturday morning cartoon, which seems like a bit of a slap to the face of
some decent Saturday morning cartoons.
Heroes and villains are so black and white they blind out all of
colors of the visual spectrum: There’s the "Joes" (global good guys)
versus COBRA (global bad guys) with the latter disgracing and framing the
former (for stealing nukes from Pakistan), all while the U.S. president is
held hostage and a doppelganger serves in his place. Only the Joes and a very famous DIE HARD actor are able to
save the day.
does all of this happen? Zartan
(Arnold Vosloo) is second in command to the head commander of COBRA, who is named, yup,
Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey, but since he’s behind a full helmet and
sports a voice that’s like Christian Bale’s Batman in desperate need
of a throat lozenge, just about any actor would have done) that uses nanotechnology to make himself look exactly like the
president (who, in this case, is Jonathon Pryce).
Zartan's first mission parameter is to make it look like the G.I. Joes
– comprised of Duke (Channing Tatum), Roadblock (played by an actual
physical roadblock, Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jane (Adrianne Palicki), and
Flint (D.J. Cotrona) – have maliciously stolen a nuclear warhead from
another country, after which Zartan – as the pres – orders all of the
Joes to be eliminated.
on Zartan’s list is to send out Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and Storm Shadow
(Byung-hun Lee) to free his now incarcerated and frozen master Cobra
Commander, during which time Storm Shadow is injured and retreats to a
secret lair in the Himalayas. Realizing
that Storm Shadow is alive, the “Blind Master” (played in the WTF-cameo of the
year by raper RZA), leader of the Arashikage Clan, sends in prized pupil
Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and his apprentice, Jinx (Elodie Yung) – actually
Storm Shadows’ cousin – to apprehend Storm Shadow so that he can be
punished for murdering his uncle, the “Hard Master’.
just gone crossed eyed, but are you still
the remaining Joes that were not killed set up a base of operations in an
abandoned gym. They hope to
seek out and find one of the original Joes, General Joseph Colton (Bruce
Willis, in the second WTF-cameo of the year), whom they want to come out of
retirement and help the team and fight back against Cobra.
Zartan’s end-game reaches a crescendo when he invites leaders
from major countries around the world and tricks them into disarming their
nukes (this really pisses off North Korea) and then unleashes Cobra’s
newest weapon, a Death Star-like satellite that can destroy an entire city
without radiation fallout. Now,
why Cobra does not just launch the weapon to destroy the city where the
Joes are located is beyond me, outside, of course, that we would not have
an action packed climax where the heroes reign supreme, I guess.
me, there were three things I liked about this film: (1) I really liked
looking at Adrianne Palicki, (2) The Rock exudes effortless charm even in
the most throwaway roles and (3) the action scenes are pretty cleanly
presented, as is the case in a nifty mid-movie set piece involving Snake
Eyes and Jinx battling a squadron of ninjas while swinging off the
mountains of the Himalayas (preposterous, yes, but also cleverly
Beyond that, the film just offers up overblown and overproduced
spectacle without a care in the world to actually defining the Joes as
fully realized characters worthy of our rooting interest. For the most part, they have zero personality beyond their
gender and weapons specialty. When
Willis shows up as Joe you would think that it would provide a hypodermic
needle-like jolt this film, but he looks so positively bored and stiff in
his exceedingly pithy cameo (maybe he was mentally busy counting all of the
zeros on what must have been a large paycheck).
At least Joseph Gordon-Levitt opted out of the sequel, perhaps
realizing that his career-low work as Cobra Commander in G.I. JOE 1 was
there are the many moments of mindless incredulity in the script
(which appears at times to be written by pre-pubescent boys) where inane
things happen, like, for instance, the entire city of London being
instantly destroyed by Cobra’s weapon as a show of force; the
unimaginable destruction looks spiffy in its own pristine CGI-enhanced
way, but then we never hear about the affect this has had on
Europe and the world at large. Untold
millions of people perished and the city – by what’s shown – will
never be able to be rebuilt as a result of the geological damage, but in
the end the real president addresses the world and ensures that everything
is a-okay. I have never seen
a film where such a cataclysmic loss of human life has been so discretely
thrown under the rug by the ho-hum screenplay.
There’s something a bit distasteful about the decimation of real
cities in films that are shown for the purposes of sensationalistic
thrills…and in eye-gamsic 3D (the film was delayed for a year to
give all of this rather bloodless and consequence-free carnage a
multi-dimensional face lift).
Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. It’s not that G.I. JOE: RETALIATION is not a slick and professional looking film. The 3D upconvert is actually fairly decent and the visual effects are solid. It’s just that…well…I didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone in the film. G.I. JOE; RETALIATION is technically assured and precise, but it's empty minded and ultimately lacks a soul. If this film is a success – which it seems destined to be – and G.I. JOE 3 is a reality, perhaps it could easily improve upon this entry by getting rid of the emotionally vacant actors – who are just props here – and replace them with action figures from the toy line that are stop motion animated. That I would see.