Craig's Movie Breakdown: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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The sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Retaliation features the G.I. Joe Team coming into a conflict with Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), Storm Shadow and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) all serving under the newly released Cobra Commander. Zartan (who is last seen in disguise as the President of the United States) frames all G.I. Joe operatives as traitors and wipes most of them out in a sneak attack, leaving only Roadblock, Snake Eyes, Flint, and Lady Jaye. Zartan and the Commander now have all the world leaders under Cobra's control, with warheads headed towards innocent populaces. Badly beaten, out numbered, and outgunned the Joes make a desperate plan to expose the truth and stop Cobra from taking over the world. Starring Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye.
2.5

The Lead-up:

 The abysmal “GI: Joe Rise of Cobra” made 300 million worldwide, just enough to warrant a sequel but apparently not enough to keep your job in Hollywood. Director Stephen Sommer has been replaced by “Step Up 2”and “Step Up 3-D” director Jon M. Chu for some reason and Channing Tatum lost his lead role to popular action stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the release of "Magic Mike" last year; Tatum became a marketable star again so the film was pushed back and re-edited to beef up his role and also to convert to 3-D, a terrible strategy by poor quality films (see "The Last Airbender") designed to up the ticket price. The one real piece of good news here is that the screenplay was written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who last collaborated on “Zombieland.”

 

Plot:

Taking over from the last film, Cobra and Destro have been put in Cryo-prison while Duke (Tatum) has become the commanding officer of Roadblock (The Rock) and the rest of the Joes: Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Flint (DJ Cotrona), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and Jinx (Elodie Yung). But what they do not know is that Zoltan has managed to infiltrate the highest office in the land and now wears the replicated body of the president (Jonathan Pryce). His goal is to free Cobra Commander and reunite the rest of Cobra: Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) in the hopes of starting a war. When the Joes are betrayed and framed for a crime in Pakistan, they must rely on former General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis) to help them put an end to Cobras plan.

 

Review:

“GI Joe” thankfully takes itself less seriously than “Olympus Has Fallen” did last week but still also manages to avoid the disastrous cartoonishness of the first film. Yet there is a degree of mind-numbing that can’t be forgiven and on that count, and after two films, the GI Joes should be court martialed. This is essentially a movie about action figures, given the development of a thirty second sound bite, fighting each other and oddly enough Jon M. Chu can’t even do that well. The battles (containing both martial arts, and gun and sword fights) are bloodless and chaotic, moving along with little to no consequence and a video-game like approach of violence just for the sake of more violence. The fact that this all ends with promise of yet another sequel is just more depressing.

It’s also fairly generic stuff, except for one sequence that is actually pretty brilliant as characters, good and bad, zip-line and swing themselves around snowy Alps fighting each other. The rest, which includes all kinds of high tech gadgets and special effects, is fine but mostly this movie inspires more thought about the 3-D, as in how little difference these 2-D to 3-D conversions actually make, than it does about any part of the film itself.

 The Rock is right at home playing an action hero, way better than at playing an action hero playing a father like last months “Snitch.” Willis pops up here for a paycheck and that’s about it. Probably the worst part of the film though is the RZA, playing Blind Master, a kind-of Zen Buddhist martial arts mentor. I’m pretty sure the RZA is very much into this Zen lifestyle but every time he tries to act it out, either here or in “The Man with the Iron Fists” last year,  it’s just a ridiculous train-wreck and he should stop acting, both for the good of the craft of acting and for the good of the religion. But Jonathan Pryce steals every scene he’s in, getting the best lines and digging into this sadistic villain role with an enthusiasm that the rest of the film lacks.

“GI Joe: Retaliation” is amateurish and forgettable, the kind of movie that doesn’t seem to know that the first part of creating adrenaline is giving you a reason to care.