G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
6Apr/130

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

At least it's not North Korea for onceAndrew INDIFFERENCE BannerWhen I was starting to get really serious about movies I joined in the litany of other voices that hated films made from toys and video games.  This was before I knew just how many movies were adaptations of other forms of culture, be they songs, novels, photographs, and so on.  My snobbery has dulled over the years and now I merely wish that if someone wants to take an existing intellectual property, no matter the form, and make a movie out of it that the film be good.

Hopes were not high when I entered G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  After the success of Transformers, Hasbro has been trying to pump out films based on their board games and toys as quickly as possible.  The first film they made from their new brand was the original G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the only thing worth remembering from that film was Joseph Gordon Levitt's performance as Cobra Commander.  The rest was a mess starring Channing Tatum before he found his charisma, an overly schlocky Marlon Wayons, and a bunch of technocratic dohickeys and whatchamacallits filmed in a battlefield of chaotic nonsense.  Really, it would have been more appropriate as one of the Transformers films instead.

I'm happy to at least report that Retaliation is much better than it's predecessor.  It's not enough to earn an outright recommendation from me, but there are a lot of trade-ups involving more masterfully hammy moments in the sequel.  This makes it possibly the best Hasbro movie  to date and, depending on  your mileage to their products, may mean a lot.  If you just want to see Dwayne Johnson mug and fire a huge gun, then this is definitely the product for you.

I do want more out of my films, but there is still nothing about this shot I don't like.

I do want more out of my films, but there is still nothing about this shot I don't like.

The first twenty minutes or so feature him, as Roadblock, and Tatum, returning as Duke, joking around and bloodlessly administering justice around the globe.  I liked these moments and even the accompanying action scenes like the raid which starts the film featuring tech serves one purpose and is absurdly cumbersome (a pair of pliers would have worked almost as well as this metal melting machine).  That bit of unwieldy tech serves as a response to the last film by saying, "Look, no more power suits, we'll just show tough people doing hard things and joking - aiight?"

That's not a bad formula for a film and has dutifully served its purpose since Hollywood puts guns and explosions together.  Alas, the fun is not to remain for long as a surprise attack from their own government leaves the Joe's decimated, Duke killed, and Roadblock alone with the two surviving members Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotorona).  Turns out Cobra has been working overtime in their infiltration game and managed to make it all the way to the President so that Cobra Commander can finally achieve world domination.  Unfortunately Retaliation starts to lose its way as soon as Tatum leaves the picture.  The easy joking gives way to two competing films, one of global annihilation, and one of winking amidst deeds of superheroism.

When Retaliation slows down it nearly grinds to a halt.  One wire-filled action scene featuring returning uber-ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park) goes for elegance but instead features the same figures swinging at each other repeatedly brandishing their swords.  I'm sure it was only eight minutes or so but the sequence felt like it took forever, much like the many scenes of the surviving Joe's sitting around lamenting their fate.  That's not inspiring or fun, just padding in a film that runs out each of its action scenes far too long.

Plenty of slo-mo ninja action in this sequel but it gets redundant pretty quickly.

Plenty of ninja action in this sequel but it gets redundant pretty quickly.

Cut the chaff and the rest of the film is damn good fun as evidenced by the casting.  The RZA pops by appropos of nothing else as Snake Eye's blind ninja master, Walton Goggins as a man desperately happy to have found his torturing niche in life, and Jonathan Pryce, who gets to play double duty as the President and his deliciously evil doppelganger, is also having a lot of fun.  The way that director Jon M. Chu sets up the evil twin angle is done in a way that would either make Chekhov wince in pain or giggle in delight.  Not long after loudly reminding us that the evil Cobra master of disguise is still at-large the camera starts lingering on the President a bit too long while he gives ridiculously ominous gestures.  It gave me a very strong case of the giggles.

While the film goes on way too long it's still got the kind of excess I love tucked away in a lot of scenes.  Outside those performances I also really liked the Joe's secret base of operation, a boxing ring complete with computers and pinball machines that look like they stepped through a dust curtain from the '80s.  Or how in the final battle there's Roadblock chipping away at futuristic death machines in a home-made tank.

Even though recalling these moments is putting a smile on my face it's still not enough for me to go back.  But as a film that could have been a low-effort cash grab I appreciate the attempt.  Anything that gets to cast RZA in a blind master capacity is doing something right.

Retaliation - TailG.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Directed by Jon M. Chu.
Screenplay written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Ray Park, Adrianne Palicki, and Channing Tatum.

Posted by Andrew

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