G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review

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Jon Chu‘s long-delayed G.I. Joe reboot/sequel titled G.I. Joe: Retaliation is finally here, kicking out Channing Tatum (mostly) in exchange for Dwayne Johnson and a much more serious plot. Retaliation isn’t even occasionally a remotely fun movie like its predecessor, but it is a bit funnier in some areas and it at least features one strong performance. Aside from that it’s rather small action film that tries to kick start the blockbuster season and fails, with barely any of the giant scale action registering as anything more than crappy effects sequences that look no better than the latest war game for the PS3 or 360.

The Joes have been wiped out for good and completely abandoned. The evil force known as Cobra has complete control over the White House and they are using their powers to slowly infect the entire world on a large scale. All that remains is Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and a few other soldiers (Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona and Bruce Willis) that must now come up with a new plan of attack to take back the country and re-establish the Joes as the good guys and not the bad guys.

This isn’t going to be easy though, with Cobra Commander not only having Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) in his corner, but also Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and a virtually unlimited supply of soldiers.

The Joes must round up everything they’ve got for one last attack to not only save America, but the entire world.

And never has a film felt so small. You’d think Jon Chu‘s high-stakes G.I. Joe film would at least feel like a scaled blockbuster. Everything about Retaliation feels puny and weak, from the opening credits attack to the ending shootout. I’m not sure where most of the budget went, because it sure as hell wasn’t spent on the special effects. Even things like the ninja stars appear looking faker than usual, while the explosion of an entire city looks passable at best.

Chu makes matters worse by filming the action too close, rarely allowing us to make out who is shooting at who. There are moments in Retaliation where you’ll have absolutely no idea if you’re watching Dwayne Johnson and the Joes or Ray Stevenson and the various Cobra soldiers. Chu’s lack of controlling the environment takes a toll on Retaliation early on and never lets up.

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The trailers advertised the snow mountain scene heavily, yet it unfolds quickly and without much adrenaline. The fighting on the side of the mountain is composed and actually not too hard to make out, but getting to that point (and everything following it) is a complete blur.

The film has bright spots though, like Dwayne Johnson. Seriously, his enthusiasm alone carries the film through its muddier moments and he even has some memorable lines with Channing Tatum, despite Tatum’s general lack of participation. I was worried when I heard about the re-shoots, but luckily they don’t hurt the film as much as one would have expected. Tatum and Johnson’s moments are brief, but mostly funny and reminiscent of the first film’s lighter tone, which never quite stuck, but still felt a heck of a lot more entertaining than Retaliation‘s constant struggle with maintaining a serious face while revealing all sorts of ninja-like warriors battling it out over a dozen different unbelievable situations.

My beef with Retaliation isn’t with its lack of seriousness, but more with its lack of either sticking serious or embracing the silly. Some scenes are full of over-emotional musical cues and a consistently gloomy outlook, while others are bursting with odd characters like RZA or even Bruce Willis to an extent, who has become a walking joke by the time this one ends.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels like a cheaply made rushed effort, yet it took this long to finally make it to the big screen. I’m puzzled as to why Paramount even bothered continuing this franchise, aside from the overseas cash that it will most likely make.

There’s nothing here that feels new or even remotely fresh. I applaud Universal for being able to breathe new air into the Fast & Furious franchise with a complete change in approach (see Fast Five) and I even give props to Paramount for understanding how to make a solid fourth entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise, but G.I. Joe: Retaliation barely registers as a film, let alone a sequel or reboot.

It’s just a bad movie that will quickly exit your mind as the flashback closing credits start to roll.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – 5.5/10

*I didn’t bother seeing the film in 3D, because I’ve heard from many that the post-conversation is garbage. I noticed lots of zoomed in quick cuts throughout the film, which usually spell disaster for 3D due to motion sickness becoming a problem, so I’d suggest staying away from the 3D presentation if rapid movements make you dizzy. There were no shots that stood out to me as ones that would feel enhanced with the added dimension.*

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