G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not only the sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but also a reboot of the franchise. A sequel because Channing Tatum, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-Hun Lee, Arnold Vosloo, and Ray Park return to play their characters from the first film, and in the film's narration after the opening, it states that it takes place after the nanomite wars from the first film. A reboot because of brand new characters, Cobra Commander's mask looking different, the radically different tone, and the several continuity errors with the first film.
Replacing Stephen Sommers in the director's chair is Jon M. Chu, the director of such great films as Step Up 2 and 3, and Justin Bieber's two documentaries Never Say Never and Believe. Such a credible director for an action sequel. However, the sequel was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writers of Zombieland, so there was SOME hope at least. The new cast included Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, RZA, Bruce Willis, Elodie Yung, Joseph Mazzello, Ray Stevenson, Luke Bracey, and Robert Baker. Let's get this show on the road.
We continue about well over a year after the ending of The Rise of Cobra, where Zartan has been impersonating the U.S. President and keeping the real President as a prisoner. After the events of the first film, Duke has now become the leader of the G.I. Joes, his team consisting of Flint, played by D.J. Cotrona, Lady Jaye, played by Adrianne Palicki, Roadblock, played by Dwayne Johnson, and Snake Eyes, played once again by Ray Park. I must ask: what the hell happened to Scarlet, Ripcord, Breaker, Heavy Duty, and General Hawk? Oh, wait, I forgot. This film is a seboot (sequel/reboot). Zartan frames the Joes for stealing nuclear warheads and has them all terminated, including Duke. Yeah. They fucking killed off Duke. That's...just...insulting. Flint, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, and Snake Eyes are the only survivors. They must team up with the original G.I. Joe, General Joe Colton, played by Bruce Willis, in order to stop Zartan from destroying the world.
As a G.I. Joe fan, I was disappointed with the characters. There wasn't really any development, and we know hardly anything about them. That's absolutely shocking considering that the characters in the first film and in Zombieland were well-developed. The things we do know about the Joes is that Lady Jaye had issues with her dad and Roadblock was a former street fighter (no, he didn't meet Ryu or Ken). When I heard Lady Jaye and Flint, who were in a relationship in the cartoon and the comics, were gonna be the main characters in this film, I was looking forward to seeing that relationship develop and evolve. But we don't get a relationship, and that was a bummer. Also, Lady Jaye is nothing but eye candy in this movie. Granted she's really, REALLY nice to look at, she rarely does shit until the end when she shoots some bad guys with Bruce Willis. However, on the plus side, the actors do a good job playing their characters. D.J. Cotrona does a decent job playing Flint, but the character is just bland, forgettable, and sometimes useless. He doesn't do jack shit the entire movie.
Snake Eyes is back and now has an apprentice, Jinx, the cousin of Storm Shadow and the daughter of Storm Shadow's uncle/master. In the extended action cut, we get a pretty bad-ass training/fight scene with Snake Eyes in a swordfight with Jinx as the Blind Master, played by RZA, watches. Snake Eyes and Jinx will also be involved in many other action scenes. The action is entertaining as hell. They were well-shot by Jon M. Chu and the special effects and CGI have been vastly improved upon. What I like is that they try to bring a bit of gritty realism in the action together with the special effects, and for the most part, it works well.
Bruce Willis plays Joe Colton, the original G.I. Joe. He doesn't do a damn thing in this movie except at the end when he shoots up some bad guys. However, his attempts at humor did manage to get chuckles out of me, not because of the jokes themselves, but because of how Willis tells the jokes. Trust me, his jokes are certainly less annoying than his repeated usage of "I'm on fucking vacation!" in Die Hard 5. What I say about that is a fact.
Then, we have our villains: Zartan, Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, and Firefly. Cobra Commander's mask looks a lot like his mask in the cartoon, which I do appreciate, but all he does in this movie is stand around and act boring while all the other members of Cobra do all the work. Fucking really? But that's not all, he escapes a prison and leaves Destro left for dead, saying this: "Destro, you're out of the band." May I mind you that Destro is one of the best and most primary villains in the G.I. Joe universe. Also, if he didn't need Destro, then why did he save him at the end of the first film? Firefly, played by Ray Stevenson, is a bad-ass, and you can tell Stevenson was having a blast playing the character. He even manages to get a good fight scene with Dwayne Johnson. But he's criminally underused as fuck.
Here's Zartan's plan: He terminates the Joes in order to hold a meeting with the world's leaders so that they can get rid of all their nuclear weapons by launching them and exploding them in the sky, so that he can use the Zeus cannon to fire at their countries and destroy them. This plan makes absolutely no sense. But then again, this is an incredibly mindless action film that's supposed to entertain, so you really, REALLY need to turn off your brain (that goes double for you, Tut). Exactly how does he get the world leaders to launch their nuclear missiles into space. Well, through his, and I quote, "cleverness," Zartan holds a meeting with them to convince them to get rid of their nuclear weapons and when they refuse, he launches all the U.S. nukes towards their countries, so they pull out several briefcases, each containing their own nukes that they can launch towards America. Yep, you heard that right.
Then, we have Storm Shadow. There's no explanation as to why and how he's still alive after being stabbed by Snake Eyes and falling and drowning in the cold, icy waters. Oh, wait, I keep forgetting. This is both a sequel AND a reboot. Movie, you need to realize that using these two forms of creating another movie in a franchise don't work together. Pick one and fucking go with it. Seriously, it's not that fucking hard. This isn't rocket science, Paramount. BTW, at the end, he's actually working with the Joes. Why? Well, it turns out Storm Shadow didn't kill his master. Zartan was the killer, took Storm Shadow in as his pupil, and trained him to become an assassin. Are you fucking kidding me?
In Rise of Cobra, we CLEARLY saw that he killed his master. The master's murder was what caused his rivalry with Snake Eyes to begin with. Not to mention, Storm Shadow hated working with Zartan and had morals that were completely different from his. This twist is bullshit. I'm not buying it. Storm Shadow working with the Joes isn't anything new. In the show and the comics, he work with the Joes at certain points when he felt it was absolutely necessary. If you wanted to have him work with the Joes, that's absolutely fine, but at least do it in a way that makes sense.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10
Cons include tonal inconsistencies, continuity errors, lack of character development, a nonsensical villain plot, killing off Duke and Destro, and a forgettable story. Pros include decent acting, entertaining action, good effects, and chuckle-worthy jokes from Bruce Willis. So, I'm about half-and-half on this one. As a standalone sci-fi action film, it's pretty damn fucking awesome. But it's a sucky-as-hell mess as a G.I. Joe film. The first few times I saw this movie, I'd give it a 7.5/10 (the first time was in theaters, the second and third times were on Blu-ray). But after giving this a fourth watch, I don't like it as much. I really hope G.I. Joe 3 makes up for this. There's a good chance it won't considering it's written by the guy who did the screenplay for that piece of shit Killing Season.