G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
**1/2 (out of 5)
March 28, 2013
Dwayne Johnson as ROADBLOCK
Bruce Willis as GENERAL COLTON
D.J. Cotrona as FLINT
Lee Byung-hun as STORM SHADOW
Adrianne Palicki as LADY JAYE
Ray Park as SNAKE EYES
Jonathan Pryce as THE PRESIDENT
Ray Stevenson as FIREFLY
Channing Tatum as DUKE
Arnold Vosloo as ZARTAN
Directed by: John M. Chu
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Three and a half years ago when “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” came out in theaters, it was raked over the critical coals. And while it didn’t do poorly with a $300 million global box office, it wasn’t exactly measured as a hit the way “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” was earlier that year. However, in spite of the inherent silliness of the film, video game style and often cheesy deliver, I enjoyed the film. Call me a Steven Sommers apologist, but I enjoy his fast food style of filmmaking.
The sequel, revamped and mostly recast, was supposed to come out last summer under the name “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” However, at the eleventh hour, the studio pulled it from release, ostensibly to post-convert the movie to 3D and free up their already crowded summer.
People in the know about how the industry works realized that these were excuses rather than reasons. From a marketing perspective, it allowed the filmmakers to shoot additional scenes with Channing Tatum (who is killed in the first 30 seconds of the trailer, by the way) to capitalize on his box office prowess from “The Vow” and “21 Jump Street” (not to mention the pre-buzz on “Magic Mike,” which would have been released by a rival studio several months later).
But the real reason for shifting a big summer tent-pole release to the following spring was probably because the studio had little faith in the movie. After seeing it, I am pretty certain this was the driving force behind the delay.
In this revamp sequel, the G.I. Joe team is almost completely wiped out by an attack from within the government. Under leadership of Cobra Commander, Zartan (Andrew Vosloo) has made himself a near-perfect double of the President. After blowing up team Joe, Zartan uses his political position to threaten nuclear war on the world and test a new weapon that allows for global domination.
If you look for cohesive plot and characters from a movie that’s based on a toy, you’re going to be disappointed. However, I expect a minimum level of coherency for even a film like this. The problem is that the story is all over the map. Tatum is beefed up with throwaway scenes in the beginning, and then he is no more. Allegedly, there’s a relationship brewing between Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona), but there’s only brief hints of this characterization wedged in among action sequences.
Add to this the escape of Cobra Commander, a weird flashback redemption of Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and the general cheesy villain goofiness of the President, and you’ve got one hell of a confusing film. No one is the star, no matter what the movie poster might lead on. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” plays out more like an integrated anthology movie than just a single story with subplots.
Sure, there’s action, but it’s not as crisp and clean as the previous film. With the exception of one or two action set pieces, these scenes seem more about shaking things up to distract the viewer from the overly convoluted, disjointed and nonsensical plot.
Ludicrous and often intelligence-insulting, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” loses what little focus the first film did. It’s definitely gone louder and darker this time, but that’s not always a good thing.