Starring: Dwayne Johnson (Fast Five), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Channing Tatum (Side Effects), Jonathan Pryce (Brazil), Ray Stevenson (Punisher War Zone)
Director: Jon Chu (Step Up 3D)
Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland)
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
Release Date: 27 March (UK), 28 March (US)
Whilst in no way a good movie, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra can be a ridiculous bit of fun if you keep your expectations low and go in with the right mind set. After spending nearly a year delayed for a pointless 3D conversion (which I didn’t even bother to see it in), the sequel Retaliation is now here with a big change up in cast and style. Is it worth taking up the call of duty again, or will you feel as betrayed as the Joes?
The plot of Retaliation follows a very simple and familiar plot: the old betrayed-by-the-government-and-go-undercover routine. After seeing this so recently in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the whole thing seemed played out and predictable. However, it’s clear that this movie knows its stupid and doesn’t try to linger on it too much by moving at a fast clip and shoving as many action scenes as it can. Regardless, the film lacks any kind of surprise or intrigue; there are no major twists and everything is laid out for you whilst the movie holds your hand. My main problem, however, is the confusing continuity. In a move similar to the Resident Evil movies, Retaliation wants you to both remember and forget things from the previous film. Certain elements are carried over (the fake president, Channing Tatum, Snake Eyes), whilst certain characters are written out with little fanfare (Destro) and other major players from the first film (Baroness, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans) are never even mentioned in passing. It seems like the movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a sequel or a reboot and kinda went for both. Overall, the film at least has a good sense of humour and feels much more like a GI Joe film than the first one. Sillier elements like the Exo-Suits and the underground bases are gone, but this definitely does not mean the film goes completely for realism; it just never goes into the sci-fi-esque area the first went.
I don’t think anyone expects Oscar-caliber performances from GI Joe: Retaliation, but I think the acting in the film does help liven the proceedings in certain areas. Dwayne Johnson brings his trademark charm to the role of Roadblock, making him very hard to dislike despite the fact we don’t know much about other than he has two daughters and likes to quote Jay-Z. His chemistry with Tatum is strong and they get some good digs at each other, but then Tatum is hastily written out of the movie (probably just him fulfilling his contract from the first movie) and we lose one of the stronger aspects of the film. Bruce Willis enters the cast as the original Joe; he surprisingly puts much more effort in here than he did in Die Hard 5 and clearly knows what kind of movie he’s in. Ray Park returns as Snake Eyes to continue kicking some more ass, whilst RZA shows up out of nowhere in a terrible performance that has obviously been fiddled with in post. The rest of the main Joes are pretty forgettable; some are given some minor motivation and character (Lady Jaye) whilst others are given pretty much none at all (Flint, Jinx). On the Cobra side, Jonathan Pryce hams it up as Zartan in disguise as the president and Cobra Commander (now Joseph Gordon-Levitt free) has been given a much-deserved redesign to match his toy counterpart. Ray Stevenson plays a good heavy in the role of Firefly (but really cocks up his Southern accent) whilst Byung-hun Lee returns as Storm Shadow and seems to be the only one taking this s*** seriously.
Movies like GI Joe: Retaliation are made purely to create some expensive explosions and fight scenes, and the film accomplishes this task with schizophrenic results. The much-promoted Cliffside ninja battle is easily the best scene in the movie, and the punch-ups between Johnson and Stevenson can be pretty fun. Unfortunately, the film falls into the quick-cut trap and makes a chunk of the action incomprehensible. Other than the aforementioned ninja battle, the film lacks the ridiculous set pieces that made the first film enjoyable.
GI Joe: Retaliation isn’t as ridiculous as the first film, but it’s just as stupid. The film can be fun in pieces and is a much closer adaptation of the source, but it just doesn’t have the guts to go completely bats*** insane. It is a much better made film than the original on a writing and technical level and has just enough in it to be worth a watch, but the formula still isn’t right. If a third GI Joe adventure ever occurs, I hope they take the best elements of both films and mash them into a much more satisfying experience.
FINAL VERDICT: 6/10