G.I. Joe: Retaliation brings the military action figures back to the big screen in a smaller scoped and less silly affair that lacks many standout moments; outside “Ninja Mountain.”
I am one of those people that openly admits to enjoying the first G.I. Joe film, even if it has a couple of warts, as some of the big action set pieces were pretty damn well executed. Global and big was theme of that film and this sequel/reboot of the franchise is quite the opposite. Cobra Commander has plans for world domination, of course, but the scope of the action and the fights are significantly scaled back and more grounded. The story is also really straight forward and simple as a group of surviving Joes are forced to uncover the plot that attempted to have them wiped out and save the world in the process. The group moves piece by piece with not many big reveals along the way and there is an odd side story around Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow dealing with their ninja roots; that may or may not be a continuation from the first film.
The action in the picture is solid, but it is a bit few and far between, saving up for another solid action scene for the finale that still feels a bit too contained. The stand out scene of the picture, and worth the price of admission to action fans, is the aforementioned ninja battle on the cliffs of Cobra’s secret healing getaway. The effects are top notch, the choreography superb and even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense physics wise it will have the crowd buzzing. The rest of the action is adequate, but I would be lying if there wasn’t a bit more to it. Dwayne Johnson and Adrianne Palicki both make solid soldiers, but neither of them, along with anyone else, is given a whole lot to do. Unsurprisingly, Snake Eyes is once again the standout character, but even he is short changed.
Channing Tatum’s Duke, Jonathan Pryce’s President and Byung-hun Lee’s Storm Shadow are the only speaking carry overs from the last film and they are all welcome. Tatum has grown a lot since the last time out and he isn’t in the film nearly enough. Pryce gets to have a lot of fun with the duality of his role and he actually might get the most screen time out of anyone in the cast. Lee is forced into this weird ninja redemption story, but the script and he make it go by as painless as possible. Dwayne Johnson and Adrianne Palicki are the best new members to the cast and if the franchise moves forward I would welcome them being at the head of it. Palicki brings not just her sex appeal but a tough female action heroine that proves she is a movie star. Johnson is Johnson, which is always a good thing, and they can continue to throw him in as many franchises as they like. Willis seems to be running through the motions and Ray Stevenson seems to be having a lot of fun, but nobody else new really stands out.
Jon M. Chu makes the transition from dance director to action director well enough, but I would like to see him get a bit more to play with next time out. Paramount seemed to play it safe here, test the waters and see how the series does, and what they got was a solid enough and safe picture. They needed to strike a balance between these first two Joe films, which I would rank rather equally based on different strengths, only then might this franchise take the next step. They have laid a solid enough groundwork, let’s see if they can get it all there in the trilogy finale. G.I. Joe fans will enjoy the picture, but I don’t know if anyone else needs to rush out to see this one.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a C