Mania Grade: C+
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- Rated: PG-13
- Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum
- Written By: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
- Directed By: Jon M. Chu
- Original Year of Release: 2013
- Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
- Special Features: See Below
G.I. Joe Retaliation Blu-Ray Review
Not great but better than the original
By Tim Janson
August 13, 2013
The central problem facing the G.I. Joe franchise is that while it is based on a toyline, comic book, and cartoon, it doesn’t quite have enough fantastic elements to be viewed as a comic book film. Yet at the same time it has too many fantastic elements to be considered a gritty, terrorist war type of film. Incredibly G.I. Joe Retaliation is even more over-the-top than the Expendables films, and that’s quite an achievement. Not that the film is bad…it is significantly better than its predecessor, in fact.
The Joe Team is called in to recover some nuclear warheads stolen by terrorists in Pakistan. The team led by Duke (Tatum) is successful in their mission but while awaiting their extraction they are ambushed in military air strike, ordered by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who is impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) using nano technology. Most of the unit is wiped out including Duke with Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) the only survivors.
Zartan as President announces an agreement with Cobra to replace the Joes as Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and ex-Joe Firefly (Ray Stevenson) rescue Cobra Commander from an underground maximum-security prison in Germany. The surviving Joes return to the U.S. and seek the aid of General Colton (Willis), the man who formed the Joes. Meanwhile Snake Eyes (Ray Park) is sent by the head of the Arashikage clan to capture Storm Shadow who is accused of killing the clan’s leader known as the “Hard Master”. With the Zartan soon ready to meet with the other world’s super powers, the Joe team has to stop his plans before Cobra can gain control of the entire world’s nuclear arsenal.
Ok, so the plot is a grand pile of hokum and nothing but an excuse for a couple of hours of mayhem, but G.I. Joe Retaliation is still a lot of fun. G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra made the mistake of trying to include far too many characters of the Joe mythos and while trying to throw all of these characters onscreen it lost its story in the process. Retaliation streamlines the cast focusing primarily on Roadblock, Flint, Lady Jaye, and Snake Eyes. Director Jon Chu seems to recognize this when Storm Shadow and Firely rescue Cobra Commander but leave Destro behind.
The film features several dazzling set pieces and action sequences. The highlight is no doubt the battle between Snake Eyes and Jinx and the Red ninjas while attached to grappling lines along the side of a cliff. It’s a marvelous sequence that steps out of the usual martial arts type of fights for something that is fresh and inventive. Roadblock and Firefly also square off in a couple of good, old fashioned brawls. Ray Stevenson steals the show from the Cobra side of things as the ruthless villain with a penchant for pyrotechnics. Since Storm Shadow basically jumps ship, Zartan is disguised as the President and Cobra Commander is, well, boring, it is Stevenson who gives Cobra its edge and identity.
Tatum and Johnson have a great rapport and some fun scenes but unfortunately Tatum’s character gets killed off far too soon leaving The Rock to have to carry the action for the rest of his uninteresting co-stars. Even worse is adding Bruce Willis to the mix. Willis no longer plays characters but simply plays Bruce Willis, smirking his way through every scene. I wonder if he was getting a million dollars a day for this film. Add to that we have some of the worst depicted “world leaders” ever and this isn’t an experience driving by performances.
In the end, however, G.I. Joe Retaliation is harmless fun that made me long for the days of my G.I. Joes with the fuzzy heads and Kung-Fu grip.
Commentary with Director Jon M. Chu
Deleted Scenes: (4:00) – Three short deleted scenes
G.J. Joe Declassified (1:13:00) – This is an 8 part documentary covering all aspects of the film’s production including the military training with former Navy SEAL Harry Humphries; the building of the set pieces including the dojo and monastery; a look at filming the desert attack ambush on the Joe Team; a look at the Cobra characters and the prison sequence; and the battle in the mountains between Snake Eyes, Jinx, and the Red Ninjas. Features interviews with cast members.