Dir: Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3)
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis
Synopsis: The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence
It’s not very often when we get a sequel that is intended to be a sequel but at the same time a reboot. This is exactly what Paramount and Hasbro have done with director Jon M. Chu with their highly popular 80’s TV show and toy line G.I. Joe. If you didn’t see G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (lucky bastard) then you really don’t need to worry. The only characters that cross over to Retaliation are Duke (Channing Tatum), Strom Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), The President (Jonathan Pryce), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the character of Cobra Commander (although played and voiced by a different actor).
Now don’t worry, you’re not missing much really but the only real thing you have to know is that Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy) has been planted into the U.S government to take the form of the President by Cobra and that Cobra Commander is locked away. All caught up? Good now lets get on with the review.
I mention before that this movie acts like a sequel but also a reboot for the franchise which the movie truly needed. Besides some of the characters the whole movie brings in a new cast and a new overall approach of being more serious than comedic like The Rise of Cobra. The movie does have humorous scenes which fit very well within the scenes and aren’t so cheesy that it won’t make you roll your eyes.
The early scenes establish the close bond between Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock (Johnson). We’re told in a brief scene that Duke now runs his own unit and includes Snake-Eyes (Park), Flint (Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Palicki) and a few others. But when the Joes are framed and ambushed, Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye (I’ll get to Snake Eyes in a bit) escape and try to clear their names and find out what happened to them.
Now, this is only one half of the movie. The other half of the movie is told through the story of Snake Eyes and of course, ninjas. Maybe one of the only good things about Rise of Cobra was that it went into the some of the back story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Here it goes into more as Snake Eyes is trying to get Storm Shadow so he can pay for the murder of their clan leader.
This actually leads to the standout sequence of the movie and one that has been understandably well-featured in the trailers, the mountainside scene. The reason it truly stands out is because it is a dialogue-free fight between Snake Eyes, Jinx (Yung) and a horde of Red Ninjas, which is inspired by Larry Hama’s famous silent issue of the 1980s G.I. Joe Marvel comic. In about ten minutes all we get is background music and an intense and thrilling action scene that involves everybody diving, gliding, flipping and slicing each other. Retaliation goes back into its roots, more military combat and ninjas, and the movie doesn’t depend on heavy doses of CG, like power suits, expect for the destruction of London (not a spoiler it’s in the trailers) but does have some cool futuristic tech that I kind of wish they used more in the movie.
Let’s get to the performances shall we. They’re all pretty solid. Johnson pretty much runs the show here, arguably next to Snake Eyes, but Johnson proves that he can take over the franchise if need be. On the other end, Jonathan Pryce as the President/Zartan President, has more to do here and you can tell he’s having fun with the role and it’s pretty fun to watch. Palicki and Cotrona don’t really have a lot to do besides their action sequences which they hold their own. Elodie Yung’s Jinx is interesting because despite being a presence’s in the ninja storyline and mountain scene she kind of just gets lost in the background once the stories merge.
Stevenson, with his southern accent, looks to have fun playing the villain Firefly as does Walton Goggins who plays a warden that holds Cobra Commander. Speaking of Commander, he was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the first movie but was replaced in this one by two people (one voice other as the actual character). The funny thing about seeing Cobra Commander is that he actually looks like he does in the TV show and even his voice is a bit closer and yes it does sound a bit cheesy at times but come on that’s the character.
I know the commercials have been pushing Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton, he’s the reason they call themselves Joes, but he’s not really in the movie that much. Willis’s role is really a glorified cameo. But the real negative on the acting side is RZA as the Blind Master. Every time he comes on screen it kind of slows the movie down and the performances comes off more as campy than “good cheesy” (can I use that term?).
All in all, Retaliation is the G.I Joe movie that the first movie should have been. It was tons of fun to watch and really enjoyable with cool action sequences and humor that should please fans. I did end up watching the movie in 3D and some scenes were kind of cool to see but you can go watch it in 2D and won’t miss much.
G.I. Joe Retaliation
4 out of 5