For a movie that was delayed an entire year to milk 3D for whatever its worth to the average movie goer, G.I. Joe Retaliation was not worth the wait in any degree.
Now while Rise of Cobra wasn’t a great movie, I at least found it enjoyable enough as an action flick, admittedly my biggest gripe with the film was that it didn’t put me much in the mind of G.I. Joe when Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes weren’t on scene. As a whole, I liked it much better than all three Transformers films combined and was anticipating a sequel. If the opening sentence was any indication, my patience was not rewarded.
1. THE CAST and CHARACTERS
One of the bigger issues I had with this movie is the people chosen to fill the roles of the characters provided, and I have to start with Dwayne Johnson. I was a huge fan of The Rock during his tenure with the WWE and since he’s gone on to films, I have personally been rather bleak towards his movies. He’s a fantastic actor with great range for a man with his size and pro wrestling pedigree and is still the best in the wrestling business on the stick. That being said, his action movies have been lackluster, with the likes of the incredibly lacking remake of Walking Tall and insufferable borefest that was Faster. I was interested to see how he would fare as Roadblock and for the most part, he was pretty good, one of the highlights in the film, yet this was also a huge negative, as he was saddled with a majority of the dialogue, humor and character development, garnering up much of the screen time, and leaving the rest of the characters unable to branch out as anything other than his cheerleading squad.
Gone in this movie are Marlon Wayons (Ripcord), who probably didn’t want to be downplayed by the wrestling phenom, Rachel Nichols (Scarlett), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Cobra Commander). They did decent enough jobs in their roles and as far as Wayons and Nichols go, played the parts of their Joes with a gritty, militaristic aura. I believed they were soldiers at first sight, even if the personalities of the cartoon characters were faint (also Ripcord was a white guy, but if we can have a black King Pin in a Daredevil movie, what can you do?).
The parts of Flint and Lady Jaye was played by D.J. Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki, two beautiful people who in no way played the parts of their respective Joes anywhere close to their cartoon counterparts, much less project themselves as soldiers. Cotrona looks barley over the age of 23 and no amount of makeup made him look like a battle-tested soldier, but a GQ model posing around. Off the field, he mostly had a dear-in-the-headlights look about him and was waiting for Roadblock to tell him to do something. Probably even more disappointing to me was the portrayal of Lady Jaye, who was my favorite character in the cartoon, being resorted a to an uninspired modern-day faux female empowerment archetype. You know, the ones who don’t like to be called “doll”, yet are being objectified in the same scene. This is from her exposition scene where she explains to Flint about how she was overlooked as being a credible soldier by her father because she’s a woman in a military family, yet she’s telling him all of this while UNDRESSING!!!! Yeah, it was shot vaguely out of focus and reflected off a coffee pot, which in no way interrupts you from getting a view of her ass, but it’s still contrast from what she’s saying!! Palicki looked way too gorgeous to be a soldier on the battlefield, what with her perfect eyeshadow, hair that’s way too long for any female infantry unit (if any women serving our country are reading this, please feel free to correct me, but I’m gonna call bullcrap on her hair length) and lipstick, you’d think she’d be attending a Red Carpet event after she’s done playing soldiers here.
She doesn’t look the part at all with her dainty features and pencil-thin arms, I don’t remember her picking up a longbow at all, and her dialogue composed of weak ass tough chick chestnuts. I never thought I would say this, but Michelle Rodriguez would’ve been more suitable. The one time we need an Iron Lady to fill the role, they cast a clearance bin Megan Fox who doesn’t get so much as a scratch on her face.
Other new characters for Retaliation are Jinx, another one of my faves, who barely did anything noteworthy and entire back story was narrated by the Blind Master (RZA. Yeah, Wu-Tang Clan member The RZA. Why? he’s not really a ninja.), and the antagonist, demolitionist Firefly, the character I enjoyed the most, honestly. Bruce Willis is there as Joe Colton and he provides some punchy lines. I liked this character for what he was worth, but I’m not sure why he leaves his house unlocked and decides to hide in clear sight on his own ceiling, fooling allegedly trained soldiers who can’t see a burnt out octogenarian descending behind them in a living room.
Returning characters are Duke, played again by Channing Tatum, whose sole purpose is to die in the first act and set up Roadblock as the new leader of the Joes. It was so obvious what was happening, yet his death left virtually no impact on me. Probably because I missed it when I dropped some Cookie Dough Bites and then I heard ‘Block scream “DUUUUKE!!!” I looked up and apparently he exploded. That was underwhelming to say the least. Back as well are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, the secondary stars of the film (maybe first depending on what you like) who have the best action scenes in the flick. Ray Park is great as always and Byung-hun-Lee shines once again as the cunning Cobra ninja. Their stories were pretty much verbatim from the comics and a strong chance that future films might be centered around their story, which I don’t mind, since the rest of the Joes have left me unimpressed thus far.
2. THE PLOT is weak and TENSION is POOR and PLOTHOLES!!!
The trailer I saw for this movie last year depicted what looked like a hostile takeover, given how the first movie ended, and I was pretty pumped to see Joes scattered throughout the country band together and overthrow the coup. It certainly seemed that way and that’s how it played out, but it was missing a mood, a sense of dread. I didn’t buy for a single second that Cobra was in charge, despite Zartan posing as the President for what I assume are months!
After Cobra Commander is freed from a cartoonishly high-tech prison that may as well have been called One Bad Day Maximum Security Prison by Storm Shadow (seriously, this was about as laughable and stupid as Megatron’s supposed frozen carcass in the deep ocean being revived in Revenge of the Fallen), a plan is set in motion to eliminate the Joes, who are all nearly wiped out in the scene where Duke dies, save ‘Block, Flint, and Jaye. Not only did they survive this mass strike by hiding in a well that the Cobra troops shot a few rounds into instead of throwing a frag grenade into the thing, but they somehow made their way back into the United States, despite the country being on lockdown, President Zartan appointing Cobra as the head of defense, and told everyone to keep an eye open for any members of the G.I. Joes, as they were seen as defectors accused of treason!! Instead, one jumpcut and here’s our three heroes, walking around Washington D.C., in plain sight, with NO DISGUISES!!! This would’ve been done with a sense of urgency, but since I never see them get through customs, pass through security, or are alerted by Cobra operatives that three prominent members of the G.I. Joes survived and are back in the U.S., it’s literally blown off instantly. Speaking of which, Snake Eyes and Jinx sneak an incapacitated Storm Shadow in a giant duffel bag from Asia to the United States without anyone noticing??!!!! Are you kidding me!?!!!! Plotholes abound!!! Why didn’t Cobra track down Joe Colton and have him arrested, because he might stage an attack on your harebrained scheme.
I guess I can give Retaliation one thing; the plan was very Cobra Commander-ish, meaning it’s slightly more dignified than some of Shredder’s ideas. So their plan, after a bunch of pointless scenes that go nowhere including a Fox News Fair and Balanced joke that’s used as a pick up line by President Zartan (I groaned loud enough to be heard by people around me), is to get rid of all nuclear weapons by goading the other nations into launching their warheads with a bait and switch in a hilarious scene that would’ve easily backfired with cataclysmic results, and also undercut by a shot of the president playing Angry Birds during the crisis, which was stupid. The plan otherwise, was brilliant. The problem is that it’s happening at the beginning of the third act!! If all they needed was the president’s retinal scan, they should’ve did this near the very beginning of the damn movie! (PLOTHOLE ALERT) Also, Storm Shadow is just now joining back up with Cobra since he rescued their leader and he’s working with the Joes in overthrowing Cobra to get revenge on Zartan for framing him for the murder of their sensei. Nobody bothered to ask where Storm shadow disappeared to for the last couple of days!? The plotholes are killing me at this point!! So anyway, Cobra’s plan to use this silly satellite rod dropping weapon is thwarted in a matter of minutes, C. Commander escapes, Firefly and Zartan are killed and I’m pissed off. Destro was kicked out of the band, WHY?? It looked like you needed more help.
3. CLOSING thoughts and STUFF
This movie felt less like a G.I. Joe movie than the last one and just came off as a marine war actionfest. At no point did anyone yell “Yo JOE!!”, which would’ve been cheesy (yeah, unlike the Jay Z quotes and the Fair and Balanced joke), but at least I would remember that I’m watching a movie about G.I. Joe. I’m only reminded when the ninjas are on-screen, that’s really about it. The Joes are mostly dressed in camo, not reflecting any individual likenesses of the characters they are supposed to be representing. There was no sense of cohesion from scene to scene, characters are underdeveloped and unimpressive, I can’t wrap my head around a small handful of soldiers overthrowing a mass takeover in a matter of minutes, the plotholes are mind-boggling, and why would ANY defense budget include CPU-powered tracking bullets?!! What a waste of money, is that $174,000.00 for one magazine?! Hopefully, the next movie gets better and I hope that they start to resemble G.I. Joe a little closer with better uses of characters. At least the ninja battle on the mountain was cool.