In G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the science-fiction action sequel, none of the characters of Team Alpha return except for Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Duke (Channing Tatum), who gets killed off 15 minutes into the film.
Comprising this Team Alpha are Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Jinx (Elodie Yung), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Joe Colton, the original G.I.J. general (Bruce Willis).
The new team has been marked for death and somehow manages to escape assassination, leaving them to save America for another sequel. The usual suspect villains are back: Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) playing both sides, and Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) still impersonating POTUS, a.k.a. the president of the United States (Jonathan Pryce).
Oh, those Joes. The men and women who make up these commandos and their enemies are pretty much Hasbro toys come to life for the big screen. These Joes should be a dream come true for kids and kids at heart. Sadly, there isn’t enough bang or storyline to save the Joes.
In Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script, the G.I.s are a threat to the Cobra Commander’s operation and his plans to use the newly minted Zeus to bomb all of the major nations. It’s not clear why the Cobra Commander has seen fit to wreak such havoc, but he does. In true G.I. Joe fashion, London implodes. Unfortunately for unsuspecting — OK, bored — audience members, Reese and Wernick fail to create a real villain.
SERIOUSLY, OR NOT
In an era where the Joker and Bane are the worst kinds of villains (existential bad guys who aren’t about money), it’s hard to gather up enough fright for the Cobra Commander, who’s only missing a mustache that he can twirl old-school style. The Cobra Commander isn’t scary, because he doesn’t have a clear focus of what’s driving him to be the way he is. Yes, he’s supposed to be super smart, but he fails at being a villain. Worse, so does the film.
Director Jon M. Chu must have an awesome sense of humor, because his take on this sequel is laughable. It’s especially hard to take this film seriously when one factors in that the Rza gets to play the Blind Master, a martial arts master. Just seeing the Rza onscreen causes the film to lose what little credibility it had. Its mountain action sequence scene is the only good thing about this film, though the trailers hyped it for more than it is.
The real victims of G.I. Joe: Retaliation — other than the audience members who paid hard earned money to watch this laughable attempt at a sequel — are its great action stars who can’t seem to pick the right roles.
The Rock has a great physique, with the kind of personality and sense of humor that humanizes his characters and makes people gravitate to him. Plus he’s tall and big, which makes him someone you don’t want to mess with. All these things make a great action hero.
Canceling all of that is terrible choices in movie roles. So far this year, Johnson is 0 for 2 in the good films department, having starred in this film and Snitch. With Pain & Gain and Fast and Furious 6 on the horizon, there’s major hope he can really shine in a good movie this year.
Willis too is 0 for 2 with Retaliation and A Good Day to Die Hard (a horrible title). Willis is America’s favorite aging action hero because he’s down-to-earth, he’s old school in using his senses instead of computer generated imagery, and many people have grown up watching him on the screen. Here’s hoping that Red 2 will erase the stain that is Retaliation.
If Chu, Reese and Wernick set out to punish audiences with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a film that elicits more eye-rolling than awe, they have succeeded. Now, filmmakers, please stop making these G.I. Joe movies.