Review: GI Joe – Retaliation

Directed by: Jon M. Chu.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-hun Lee, Ray Park, Elodie Yung, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum, Ray Stevenson.

Rating:   Running Time: 97 mins.

The G.I. Joes including Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) in a team led by Duke (Channing Tatum), are sent on a mission to recover stolen nuclear warheads, but after successfully doing so are framed for stealing the warheads from Pakistan, with Snake Eyes also framed for murder. The President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) is urged by his cabinet to strike them out, unaware that he is in fact Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), and has the real President held prisoner in a military bunker. Shortly thereafter, the ‘President’ makes a public announcement, denouncing the Joe’s as enemies of the state, and placing a new armed force in charge of military operations, the Cobra army.

BEWARE OF POTENTIAL SPOILERS HEREAFTER

Meanwhile, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) breaks Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) out of a secret prison with the help of Firefly (Ray Stevenson), but is injured in the attack, and sent to a Cobra controlled mountain monastery to be healed. Snake Eyes, upon learning he is alive, meets with the leader of his clan (The RZA), and heads to the monastery with new apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung), Storm Shadow’s cousin, to recover him so that he can face trial for the murder of their master. En route, they learn of the Joe’s fate, making contact with Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye, the only remaining Joe’s. Together they contact the last man who can help them, General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis), a retiree whom the Joes are all named for, set out to avenge their fallen brothers, and find out from Storm Shadow what Cobra are planning.

I was sceptical about the original GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra directed by Stephen Sommers in 2009. Prior to the movie’s release, there had been negative reviews of leaked drafts of the movie’s script and unconfirmed rumours of fall-outs between the director and the studio over the editing and final cut of the movie, which usually means that somewhere along the line someone else has stepped in and re-cut the movie because of fears that it will under-perform at the box office and lose money. Ultimately this was disclaimed by all parties including director Sommers, and when the movie was released it was an enjoyable action movie that was far better than anyone had any right to expect, especially considering the origin of the source material is from Hasbro’s toy-line and cartoon spin-off series.

GI Joe: Retaliation appears to have had every bit the troubled production as it’s predecessor. Originally set to be released in summer of 2012, it was pulled from the schedule with the announcement by the studio that they wanted to convert the movie into 3D, and so pushed the release back to spring of 2013 to allow time for this. I remember at the time suspecting that this was not the entire reason behind the delay, and rumours then began to spread that it was due to poor feedback in test screenings, and that re-shoots were to take place amid concerns of the deaths of certain characters and the limited amount of time they appeared on screen.

There is a feel of this while watching, with scenes early on set at one of the Joe’s home which feels as if it has been added in an attempt to create more of a connection with the characters for the audience, but this has very little impact on the movie unless you’ve seen and enjoyed the first movie, and if this was in fact what was added in the six months delay period, it’s just a symptom of the movie’s main issue – it disregards the characters from the first movie altogether, so that they are not even referenced at any point. We’re told that all of the Joe’s have been wiped out, but in the first movie, the Joe’s were a pretty large organisation, with a General (played by Dennis Quaid) running the show and a whole battalion of soldiers, more so than we see in this movie, and none of them is referenced?

GI Joe: Retaliation is a typical blockbuster action movie, and what’s worse, it’s a typical blockbuster action sequel. At best a disappointment given the fun of the original, and at worst a complete slap in the face and waste of a decent franchise due to this sort of neglectful disdain for the first movie and it’s characters, who at the end of which you actually did start to care about and might have been interested in seeing what happened with them next. It’s odd to say it, but the character that comes off best in the movie is in fact the character that has no lines of dialogue at all, and that’s saying a lot, pun intended.

Ray Park’s Snake Eyes outshines all of the newly introduced characters who you really don’t care anything for, despite attempts to introduce back story to some of them so that they seem more real than paper thin characters, but instead they end up being caricatures of stereotypical movie soldiers, which just feel like empty filler. Another thing that annoys is that a central character returns after being left for dead in the first movie with absolutely no explanation as to how they survived and returned. A couple of simple lines of dialogue would have served this purpose, but even semi-smart dialogue has been left out at the scripting levels. The only person in the movie who gets to have some notably decent scenes with good dialogue is Jonathan Pryce, in a scene where he talks with… himself, playing both Zartan in disguise and The President. Even Bruce Willis turning up doesn’t help the movie’s downward slope, it’s such a wink, wink, role, and you almost expect him to look directly at the camera to apologise for being the butt of a poor joke.

The action sequences are almost as empty and troubled. There is a fairly enjoyable high-wire action sequence in the mountains as Snake Eyes and Jinx try to escape from the monastery with Storm Shadow, which is nicely handled. The choreography of the action is smooth, the CGI effects that are a necessity for the scene are mostly good or otherwise passable, and the visual framing and editing of the scene makes it easy to follow without getting dizzy or getting a headache (despite the 3D, which we’ll get to in a moment), and as the central character in the scene has no dialogue, visual storytelling is relied upon for that sequence, and is pulled off with style, but then shortly afterwards, there’s a small action fight between Roadblock and Firefly which is the complete contrast of this, with the action poorly edited, extremely hard to follow, and just poorly executed.

The same applies to the all out action sequence at the end of the movie, which follows four sets of characters carrying out objectives concurrently, supposedly to achieve some planned goal, only that they do not feel remotely connected to each other in any way, they feel like four separate action scenes independent of one another, which then culminates in the four groups all suddenly being together by the end of it. There is also the issue of the 3D throughout the movie, which it seems is being pushed strongly by the distributor (the cinema showing the movie had it on eight times a day, and only one of these was 2D). The movie has been converted after being filmed, and with no thought of 3D whilst being filmed, which means that the shots do not suit 3D. At times the 3D doesn’t seem present, and at others it’s so present and incorrect that it’s a distraction. As someone who is a supporter of 3D, I can not tell what they were thinking when making this into 3D, and for once, if seeing this, would recommend you to skip the 3D version.

It’s not the worse action movie to have come out in recent years, but it is one of the laziest and most disappointing given what was achieved in the first movie and what that setup for a potential sequel. The first GI Joe movie was a surprisingly fun piece of popcorn action, and it’s not like it set the bar impossibly high for this one to follow, they just needed to make this an above average action movie to make it worthwhile, and unfortunately it’s not.

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Posted on March 30, 2013, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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