Considering that the first GI Joe movie, Rise of Cobra was widely panned by critics I was a little surprised when I found out last year that there was going to be a sequel. For the record I actually enjoyed the first one for what it was, a mindless popcorn action flick with the Hasbro toy stamp on it. So when I went into the theater for Retaliation I was not expecting much more than what I got the first time around.
In Retaliation, years have passed since the ending of the first movie where Cobra Commander and Destro were captured, fabled evil ninja Storm Shadow was presumed dead, and Zartan disguised as the President took office. Duke (Channing Tatum) now runs the Joes with Roadblock (The Rock) as his 2nd in command. Along with Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) the Joes have become the go to covert military option for the White House.
Everything goes to hell when the Joes are tasked to recover missing nuclear warheads by the fake president, and after successfully retrieving them he orders that the Joes base of operations be wiped out. Thankfully for Uhmerika and the rest of the world Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye survive the attack, are left to figure out why the attack happened and who’s behind it all.
So, um yeah, retro spoiler alert, Channing Tatum is killed off in the first 20 mins of the movie and it was the right call. The Rock is SOOOO much more of a screen presence than Tatutm, and after his death The Rock takes control of the Joes and the movie almost instantly. In terms of actor performances other than The Rock the only other person who seems to be doing any real “acting” is Jonathan Pryce who plays the President and Zartan disguised as the President. Seriously, all the other characters in the movie are one note archetypes. Lady Jaye is the hot girl trying to prove something to her male counterparts and Flint is the brash male eye candy meant to compensate for Tatum’s absence.
The movie attempts to give us story lines for each of the characters, but they aren’t at all fleshed out or developed. The age old martial arts honor vs. dishonor plot line surrounding Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee), Jinx (Elodie Yung) and The Rza (Yes thatss not a typo, The Rza makes an appearance here) seems very much out of place in this more realistic less cartoonish army movie but does provide you with the pretense to have the pretty good mountain climbing fight scene you see in the trailers.
The movie certainly improves on past mistakes though when it excludes Destro almost entirely from the plot and gives Cobra Commander a much needed make over from the first movie but I have to say that not having Sienna Miller bask as the Baroness was a BIG let down for me. Adrianne Palicki is quite the hottie in this movie but she doesn’t hold a candle to Miller’s leather clad Baroness. Just my opinion. Bruce Willis’s appearance as General Joe Colton (The original GI Joe) is a great nod to the comic book and TV show fans but he’s phoning it in here as well and is not very interesting.
As I mentioned at the outset of my review Rise of Cobra was light-hearted, over the top mindless fun. Retaliation, however, is just mindless and over the top. The lightheartedness is stripped away from the movie, except for Tatum’s early performance and the scene where Jonathan Pryce bags on North Korea. In essence, Retaliation is a PG-13 war movie with The Rock waving Hasbro’s flag in it and despite his performance it’s not as entertaining to me as the first one was.
And to make me even more disappointed I saw it in 3-D and was not impressed at all on that front either. Die hard Joe fans will enjoy the nods to the comics and TV show but other than them wait for this to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray and rent it. And while you wait for it to come out on those formats, go watch Rise of Cobra and see it done better.
Oh, and despite all of this, G.I. Joe: Retaliation earned a staggering $41.2 million for a #1 debut at the box office this weekend.