Review - G.I. Joe: Retaliation

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), PG-13, 110 minutes - After a delay of almost one full year, G.I. Joe: Retaliation hit theaters this past weekend.  The official reason for the delay was that they were going to convert it to 3D.  Then, after the delay was announced, there was speculation that it might be re-shot to capitalize on Channing Tatum's meteoric rise over the previous year.  Tatum was reprising his role as Duke from 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and was rumored to have been killed off after a short stint in Retaliation.  The official reason proved to be true, and although I did not see Retaliation in 3D, I did find it to be a better film than its predecessor.

Retaliation opens up with a quick overview of the players involved in the form of a sort of mission brief.  It is a nice touch because it brings everyone up to speed without making them sit through the two hours worth of Rise of Cobra, which as you can gather from my original review posted below, really isn't worth the time and effort.  I don't want to come across as movie snobbish here.  I do realize that these are movies based on a line of toys, but the poor story presentation really overshadowed the cool design concepts and visual effects that appeared in the first film.  Anyway, back to Retaliation.  We get to see a few key characters carry over (Duke, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander, and Zartan), along with the introduction of a few new ones - at least to the films (Roadblock, Jaye, Flint, Jinx, Firefly).  Without getting too spoilery for Rise of Cobra - just in case you should have the desire to check it out - Retaliation centers around a team of Joes (special forces unit) that tries to expose and thwart a Cobra plot to take over the world under the guise of the United States government (they infiltrated in in Rise).

Rumors of expanding Channing Tatum's role were unfounded, but even then I was surprised by how little he actually appeared in this film.  It was actually kind of disappointing.  Not only has he become a bankable actor in the past year and a half, his rapport with Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock) was very entertaining in their limited time together.  At least his exit from the story line wasn't in vain, it motivated Roadblock to take command of the remaining team in their quest to stop Cobra's attempt at world domination.  There's also a fairly entertaining Bruce Willis appearance, although I say that mainly because I just can't think of anyone else who could actually play General Joe Colton (the Joes namesake), a man's man with a weapons cache disguised as a house.  Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow), and Elodie Yung (Jinx) bring the necessary martial arts action to the mix quite well.  There's one scene (teased in the trailer for the past year) that takes place on a mountainside with a swarm of ninja that is almost worth the price of admission by itself.  The rest of the main cast is rounded out by Adrianne Palicki (Jaye), D.J. Cotrona (Flint), Ray Stevenson (Firefly), and Jonathan Pryce (the President).  Luke Bracey plays Cobra Commander this time around, taking Joseph Gordon-Levitt's place.  You may be asking who that is, and I don't know either.  This role won't help us find out though as he's always behind the mirror-like mask that Cobra Commander is known for and his voice is odd, reminiscent of his voice in the '80s cartoon.  There is one more familiar face though.  That of Walton Goggins, who cameo's as the warden of the secure underground prison that Cobra Commander is being held in.

There were a couple of plot points that felt sort of forced to me (which I'll discuss in the spoiler section below), but overall I enjoyed G.I. Joe: Retaliation quite a bit.  I think it did a good job of being both a sequel and a reboot for the franchise.  After a film like Rise of Cobra that seemed to try and go in too many directions at once, Retaliation is a step in the right direction.  They've got an entertaining, likable cast led by Dwayne Johnson and they've already announced that a third film has been green lit.  I'm intrigued to see what comes next.  I can't speak for its 3D conversion, but if nothing else, Retaliation ended up with a better release date and didn't have to try and compete with the juggernauts of summer that were The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises a year ago.  If you're looking for a fun action movie, or are even just feeling nostalgic for your childhood (I mean you my fellow children of the '80s), G.I. Joe: Retaliation is worth giving a look.











*****SPOILERS*****


- I really enjoyed the inclusion of vehicle designs from the toy line and the '80s cartoon.  I'm not nearly a big enough G.I. Joe nerd to remember what they were called, but Cobra tanks, helicopters, and hydroplanes all make appearances along with the quasi-tank thing that Roadblock drove towards the end of the film.

- The fact that General Colton was Jaye's father was a nice little twist, but I felt like it was too telegraphed.  His repeatedly calling her the wrong name just seemed a little heavy handed.

- RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan makes an appearance as Blind Master of the Arashikage Clan.

- I always thought that Zartan was cool in the '80s cartoon, but here he just stayed in his disguise as the President for virtually the entire movie.  There really wasn't anything for Arnold Vosloo to do, it was all Jonathan Pryce this time around.

- I'm not sure what they do with Storm Shadow now.  He betrayed Cobra but clearly isn't switching sides permanently.  He and Snake Eyes almost go hand in hand and they've already covered that relationship pretty well already in these two movies.

- I really am happy that they got Snake Eyes' look right this time around.  Trying to give his mask a mouth in Rise of Cobra was one of the worst ideas ever.

- Firefly's ordnance was pretty cool, using nano-tech fireflies to deliver explosives.

- I honestly don't remember if it happened this way in the original cartoon, but I did like the reasoning behind Cobra Commander's mask never coming off: it was a breathing apparatus necessary after the events of Rise of Cobra.





***BONUS***

Archive Review - G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (originally posted on Flixster in August of 2009)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), PG-13, 118 minutes - I didn't have very high expectations going into this live action adaptation of G.I. Joe which is a good thing because it's just really not that good. As opposed to the shredding I gave Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen I'm going to try and stick with the positives here. 

- The underwater/under icecap bases where pretty cool (or would be for a ten year old - but that's how old we were when we played with the toys growing up right?) 
- There were some pretty cool looking special effects. 
- The Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow sub plot was the best part of the film. 
- Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and The Baroness (Sienna Miller) were gorgeous. 
- After originally being credited on imdb.com as Cobra Commander, then changed to 'The Doctor', Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in fact Cobra Commander when it was all said and done. 
- Even if it was a blatant set up for a sequel, Zartan was used just the way he would have been in the cartoon. 

Those things being said, G.I. Joe just won't hold the attention of anyone old enough to remember the cartoon/toys from the 80's. It's a live action movie made for ten year olds twenty years late. Oh yeah, one last thing - giving Snake Eyes' mask a mouth was the worst idea ever.

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