G.I. Joe: Retaliation

So I think we can all agree that the live action bow of Hasbro’s 3.75-inch, square jawed global enforcers could hardly be described as a timeless, filmmaking masterpiece of subtlety and tact but there was a certain amount of innocent charm in Stephen Sommer’s Rise Of Cobra for those willing to dip their IQ to the requisite amount. Thankfully, as my IQ somewhat fluctuates depending on my mood, I actually found a fair amount to enjoy in the film which balanced it’s adolescent pleasures (Explosions! Ninjas! Bewbs!) with a refreshing lack of self awareness; but while the box office was healthy, the reviews were harsher than Cobra Commander’s singing voice and so when the inevitable sequel was announced some rather odd changes were enforced…

Duke, somehow, now leads the G.I. Joes with the ridiculously muscular Roadblock as his second in command and, as the Joe’s seem to have an employee turnaround rate equal to a fast food restaurant, he has a whole new troop of colourfully named soldiers at his command like Lady Jaye and Flint while Snake Eyes, their resident silent ninja and all round bad motherfucker, is training Jinx, a new recruit. However, soon the fallout from the previous movie starts to rear it’s head as resident evil ninja Storm Shadow and explosives nut Firefly launch a two pronged attack to bust headgear obsessed despot Cobra Commander (but not Destro) out of the secret prison he’s been floating in. If this wasn’t bad enough, the chameleonic agent known as Zartan is still masquerading as the President and orders a sneak attack on our all-anerican heroes, all but wiping them all out and leaving a mere three survivors. While Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Flint mourn for a full 4 minutes and then set about striking back at Cobra, Snake Eyes and his protege make moves to intercept a recuperating Storm Shadow in the Himalayas in order to bring him to justice for murdering the “Hard Master” many years ago (hey, look, I didn’t name these guys, ok?). Eventually the two groups come together in Washington in order to bring Cobra’s plan (something to do with nukes… I dunno) crashing down but to do so they’ll have to recruit General Joseph Colton – the original G.I. Joe…

Despite the fact that it’s as gleefully dumber as a sack of dodos, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is oddly an intriguing beast as it’s essentially a soft reboot that still desides to carry on the major plot threads of the earlier movie. Aside from Duke and Snake Eyes, NO other main character from the Joe’s are even MENTIONED and wrong ‘uns Baroness and Destro are similarly ignored or jettisoned in favour of parachuting in fresh characters and actors like the walking franchise viagra that is Dwayne Johnson. Watching a series that literally is throwing it’s toy out while expecting us to keep our interest in it’s continuing story is an odd experience but thankfully it means it pulls the masterstroke of letting Jonathan Pryce’s imposter President off the fucking chain who swoops in like an impossibly snarky, movie-saving eagle to deliver all the film’s best lines. Also, looking visibly overjoyed that his character is to be killed off 30 minutes into the story, is Channing Tatum who actually looks like he’s having fun this time trading overly masculine barbs with Johnson and getting blown up with a visible look of relief. Aside from that, in a curious turn up for the books, the movie’s best characters end up being the one’s who go “mask-optional” show their faces the least. MVP goes once again to Ray Park’s silent ninja, Snake Eyes and a magnificent mid-film, zip-line ninja scrap that takes place on the side of a mountain that manages to single handedly boost the entire quality of the finished film. On a personal note, having most of your characters sporting more stylish facial coverings than a gimp convention ends up having them look suprisingly accurate to their little plastic counterparts (Cobra Commander looked magnificent to my over excited inner child) and certainly proves to be far, far cooler than the typically dour faced Bruce Willis who plays Colton and looks like he has absolutely no idea what is going on. It’s also slightly galling that the film wastes both Adrianne Palicki as a counterintelligence agent who at one point goes undercover as a jogger with big tits and D.J. Cotrona who shows literally none of the charisma he shows in the From Dusk Till Dawn TV show (he plays the George Clooney role to give you a clue as to exactly how weird it is).
For a movie like this huge lapses of logic are, naturally, everywhere, but it’s still fun to nitpick; the Joe’s heat gloves may be just spiffy for burning through chain link fences but why would you use them on a night time stealth mission? Snipping the bloody wire may be slower but it also doesn’t illuminate proceedings like radioactive Christmas lights. And as Retribution is sent months after Rise Of Cobra so how on earth did Duke end up running the fucking place, do you get promoted by knife-dueling with your boss or something? Also, are we to believe that Scarlet, Heavy Duty and Ripcord are killed (RIP Cord) in Cobra’s airstrike and therefore we just simply have to deal with it? Just like that? Storm Shadow survived by being stabbed and left for dead literally at the bottom of the ocean in the fucking Arctic, you mean to tell me these guys can’t handle a couple of sodding missiles?
Another issue the film has – aside from boring, non-masked people and plot holes you could lose the moon in – is the filmmakers feeling the need to add unnecessary, real-world grit by having the Joes stick their nose into slightly more realistic global scenarios at the start of the film. This proves to be more than a little awkward as having our heroic but cartoonish world-police engaging in fire fights with Pakistani insurgents smarts of being a little lacking in class. Thankfully after the suprisingly cool extended prison break – which features a very welcome Walton Goggins cameo – things go back to being more fantasy based but for all of it’s extensive restructuring (The Heavy’s “How Do You Like Me Now” even bluntly plays over the end credits), Retribution is actually turns out to be no better or worse than it’s predecessor. So still fun in an empty skulled, teenage kind of way but WAY better than you’d think an action movie based on a toy line starring an ex-wrestler and directed by the guy who’s only other credit at the time was a Justin Bieber concert movie has any right to be…
Should’ve put THAT on the poster.

G.I. so so…


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