Movie Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Good fight scenes.
Physics is less improbable than the first movie.
Better captures the essence of G.I. Joe.

The Bad:

Dull generic characters.
Nobody sees the need to actually act.
Seriously, nobody in this universe has heard that Cobra are the bad guys?

Cast & Crew:

Director: Jon M. Chu
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language

I’ll say this for G.I. Joe: Retaliation: It is, by far, the best live-action G.I. Joe movie ever made. I went in fully expecting to hate this movie, and came out pleasantly surprised that it earned a “meh”. Retaliation picks up after the first movie, except with almost an entirely different cast of G.I. Joes. (Which I can’t blame them for.)  Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is mimicking the real president (Jonathan Pryce) and occupying the White House. (Surrounding himself with Secret Service agents wearing Cobra lapel pins, and mentioning working with Cobra in national television addresses. Apparently absolutely nobody else in the government has ever heard of this super powerful evil organization.)  Zartan uses his power to back-stab the G.I. Joe team, leaving Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) on their own to battle Cobra, enlisting the help of G.I. Joe’s namesake, General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis).
I have my doubts about the viability of the physics of Cobra’s ultimate master plan, but at least they managed to avoid the more glaring scientific issues, like mach 3 flights from Moscow to D.C. being measured in minutes, or ice sinking in water… and the rest of the unlikelyhoods here can pretty much be chalked up to the magic of advanced technology and your standard action movie fight physics. In general I think the makers of this sequel have a much better idea of what makes G.I. Joe what it is than the makers of the first one. No laser beam guns, but a pretty cool combination of guns and ninja swords nonetheless, and they really did a good job with the vehicles. They really look like something a Hasbro designer would have come up with.
There’s a rather distracting “who killed Snake Eyes’ and Storm Shadow’s old ninja master?” subplot featuring RZA, but to the subplot’s credit it does give us one of the better action sequences when Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Snake Eye’s square off. It gives us some cool gun/ninja interplay and some exciting, if highly improbable, mountainside sword fighting from grappling ropes where grappling guns with hundreds of feet of rope attached seem to be in infinite supply.
There’s really no acting going on here. Johnson and Willis are nice additions, and an improvement over the first movie, but they’re just acting like Johnson and Willis always do in an action movie, and Willis is underused. Palicki, is ok, but playing a fairly dully written character, and Cotrona’s Flint is the most generic brown-haired male character ever. Flint has no personality at all and seems to only be there because Lady Jaye needs a second person to talk to. Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander both suffer the same problem as the Green Goblin suffered in Spider-Man, when you stick the character behind a static mask they’re just a blank slate. And it isn’t helped by the fact that Snake Eyes doesn’t speak at all, and Cobra Commander is far less involved in the plot than he should be.
In the end, this isn’t a bad movie, and it’s definitely an improvement over the first one. If you’re looking for just a dumb action movie that doesn’t insult you too much you could do a lot worse, but there are also a lot better options out there for you to spend your time and money on.
Rob Bernard (108 Posts)

Rob is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Techie of Cinedraft. He hated Million Dollar Baby. And is really excited about the Ender's Game movie. More About Me