G.I. Joe: Retaliation Reviews
I thought Cobra Commander was being a real American hero by forcing North Korea to give up its nukes and surrender - if I were Cobra Commander I would have done the exact same thing, no actually I wouldn't even let them surrender and force them to swear allegiance to me I'd open fire on them after they give up their own nukes then cut off Kim Jong's head with Storm Shadow's sword and hang it on my wall above the fireplace as a trophy. I might do the same thing to all those world leaders who just got forced to surrender their nukes, but I'd definitely start with Kim Jong.
For fans of the cartoon/toy/comics as kids (namely, me), there are a lot more elements of Retaliation that make it more of the GI Joe we know and love than Rise of Cobra. Let's start with the positive aspects. The Rock as Roadblock was great. Without Michael Clarke Duncan in this world anymore, I can't imagine a better cast. Adrianne Palicki, fresh off her failed Wonder Woman pilot, was very good as Lady Jaye. Ray Stevenson was the strongest add as a PERFECT Firefly. They greatly improved on the presentation of Cobra Commander, who sounded perfect and acted like the commander from the 80s. Zartan's character, though portraying the President most of the movie, still acted like the Zartan we all knew. Introduction of the F.A.N.G copter, the H.I.S.S. tank and even the Moccasin airboat made my 13 year old pants go crazy. Very cool stuff. And, as always, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes were perfect. The best action scenes were, by far, the mountain fighting. Superbly done. Best stuff I've seen in a long time. Any battle with Firefly was exciting.
Now the bad...
While the story was right out of the cartoons and maintained the same vibe, the dialogue was just idiotic (not that the . I know the strength of the actors wasn't great, but with a script that bad, they never had a chance. While the cartoon and comics do a very thorough job of explaining the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes relationship (which are some of the best stories I've ever read, oddly enough), the way they come together in this movie is just stupid and sudden. No emotional build-up or story/character strengthening. It's as though fans of the show/comics/toys tried to cram in as much as possible to appease fans without actually writing much of a story. It was disappointing as there was a ton of potential to do it right. I know Christopher Nolan can't bring every childhood memory of mine to life, but still. Didn't the rest of Hollywood LEARN anything from Nolan's Batman series? You CAN have action, good actors, great action and a VERY GOOD SCRIPT.
As for the changes from the first to the second movie that didn't go well, the primary mistake was not bringing back Rachel Nichols as Scarlet was a HUGE mistake. Not just because she is liquid hot, but I can't fathom a GI Joe movie without some basic characters. Duke, Scarlet and Snake Eyes are MUSTS. So not having Scarlet was bad move number one.
Bad move number two. Duke dying in the first 5 minutes of the movie? Channing Tatum clearly had no interest in doing this movie, but was contractually obligated. Well...they got him in the movie and on the poster, but he isn't a player in this movie at all. Sorry for the spoiler.
Bad move number three. Not taking Destro with Cobra Commander from the prison was just...dumb. Destro is CC's right hand man. Not having him in the second movie in any meaningful way was just...dumb.
Bad move number four. I understand why Sienna Miller would not have wanted to return, but no Baroness??? Ridiculous.
Retaliation wasn't as bas I was expecting it to be, but given all the good things from it, I know how much better it could have been.
GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) No, only my self-respect for believing that Bruce Willis could make this movie worth seeing. This is a movie based upon the Hasbro toy line of the same name, and it is a sequel to 2009s GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There is a better plot here than the first go-round. But it is a movie divided against itself as well discuss later. GI Joe: Retaliation is apparently aimed at Baby Boomers who grew up playing with the 6-inch action figures and watching the Saturday morning cartoon series. As it is rated PG-13 it is appropriate for adults and older kids alike. Channing Tatum returns in the role he played in the prequel and is joined by Dwayne Johnson with a little help from Bruce Willis. So, it has the star power to attract an adult audience. However, the plot never rises above the quality of the Saturday morning cartoons.
SCOTT: To be fair, the movie isnt intended for balding, over-educated, middle-aged geeks like us. The average 12 year-old boy might love it, assuming hes into explosions, gunfire, and sword play. Heres a brief synopsis of the opening act: The Joes have just completed a successful mission in Pakistan but are unaware that the President of the U.S. (Jonathan Pryce) has been replaced by an evil imposter. This bad guy in the White House betrays the Joes by publicly renouncing them and then by bombing them into oblivion. Duke (Channing Tatum) is killed, leaving Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) as the only active Joes remaining. This trio vows to clear their good names and fix what has happened.
GREG: What follows is two movies in one. Which I suppose is necessary because the main plot doesnt have enough weight to make it span two hours. The main plot follows Roadblock, Flint, and Lady Jaye as they return to the States and set up shop in an abandoned gym. They determine that there is an imposter in the White House and they need help to expose him. And there is only one man they can trust - the original GI Joe: General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). Meanwhile, Snake Eyes and Jinx are on a separate mission to track down and abduct the evil Storm Shadow. This B plot was mostly a lot of ridiculous ninja-style fighting. And when I say ridiculous, imagine two dozen ninjas suspended from a cliff by hand-gun shot grappling hooks all swinging around trying to kill our intrepid heroes with swords. The heroes are likewise swinging around on a zip cord between two mountains. In my mind I was wondering why the ninjas didnt just slice the zip cord. Case closed. As it turns out, Storm Shadow isnt as evil as you might think as he was framed by Zartan who is posing as the President. Honestly, I felt I needed a score card to keep up with all the characters in this movie. A quarter of them were wearing masks or helmets so there was no way to tell who was talking at times. Although the writers did give Snake Eyes an out as he took a vow of silence.
SCOTT: Greg, I dont think most 12 year-olds care about believability. They just want to see cool fight scenes on the sides of mountain cliffs. And the movie delivers in that respect. The main problem I had with G.I. Joe: Retaliation was the near total absence of character development at the beginning of the movie, and the same absence of character transformation at the end. We have a slew of one-dimensional characters who are certainly heroic, but their heroism is like one of those cheap chocolate Easter bunnies I just ate -- completely hollow.
GREG: Scott, how can you on the one hand excuse believability because the movie appeals to 12-year-olds and then complain about one-dimensional characters on the other? You can have both good plot and characterization in a movie for youngsters, you know (witness our recent review of The Croods). Still, the heroes are very black-and-white. As such, Roadblock plays the classic reluctant leader. General Joe Colton plays the grizzled veteran. And Lady Jaye is the hot babe who kicks butt while wearing a sport bra and heels. And there aint gonna be a lot of depth in those roles.
SCOTT: Im not saying Im excusing it, just understanding it. And please dont tell me that The Croods was believable! Come to think of it, most movies these days require a heroic effort on our part to suspend our disbelief. I guess I can forgive a lack of believability, but I cant forgive a lame-arse hero story. Now having said that, its possible we should cut G.I. Joe: Retaliation some slack for having such a feeble hero story because its part of a series. Its often the case that a single installment of a series rarely contains the full hero journey. Notice that I said that its possible to cut some slack here. Personally, Im not going to do any slack-cutting because it didnt look like any effort was being made at all to craft a meaningful hero. Apparently nonstop action was the goal.
GREG: And it was achieved. The movie moves along at a good clip and Dwayne Johnson was good in the role. Im going to give G.I. Joe Retaliation 2 Reels for being what it sets out to be - a shoot-em-up for pre-teens and fan-boys. But I can only give 1 Hero for the thinly-painted characters. Movie: Hero:
SCOTT: I went into the theater with low expectations, and those expectations were fully met. Even Bruce Willis couldn t salvage G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Im going to be very generous and give the movie 2 Reels if only because I can think of movies that are worse than this one. Ill give the movie 2 Heroes because there is nothing more painful than agreeing with Greg on both ratings! Movie: Hero: