Stars: Channing Tatum, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo, Byung-hun Lee, RZA, D.J. Cotrona, Joseph Mazzello, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Walton Goggins, Elodie Yung | Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick | Directed by Jon M. Chu
G.I. Joe: Retaliation has been in UK cinemas for a little over week now and I’m only just getting round to my review. Why? Well I wanted to see the film a few times before putting anything down on (virtual) paper, as I wanted to make sure my first instincts were right. And they were… I’m disappointed.
I was expecting great things from G.I. Joe: Retaliation and maybe that’s the problem. As a huge fan of the original movie (I can safely say that amongst the movie bloggers I read and am acquainted with I am seriously in the minority when I say that) I was looking forward to what looked to be, and was often billed as, a more faithful take on the G.I. Joe mythos, restoring the series to something more akin to the original cartoon and comics. And to that extent the film is a success – Cobra Commander looks like Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow has the villain to hero transition (and the appearance of the Blind Master) which was so popular in Larry Hama’s Marvel Comics run, and we have more of the iconic G.I. Joe characters in Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Flint. So what’s my problem? I just didn’t enjoy this film as much as the first!
This sequel picks up where the first film left off: Cobra Commander and Destro are captured, Zartan is in the White House and in disguise as the President of the United States and the Joes, in particular Duke (Tatum) are relishing in their victory over Cobra. However things change as Zartan declares G.I. Joe an enemy of the United States and wipes out all, well almost all, the Joes in a desert attack. With only a handful of Joes left alive after the attack, Roadblock, Flint, Snake Eyes, Jinx and Lady Jaye must find a way to expose Cobra’s nefarious plans and restore the Joes good name.
Whilst I may not have enjoyed the film as much as the first, it’s hard to deny that G.I. Joe: Retaliation features some stunning set pieces – none moreso than the awesome (literally) clifftop battle between Snake Eyes, Jinx and a whole heap of Cobra Red Ninjas. There’s also plenty of things happening throughout the movie, which might be part of the problem – there’s just too much going on! Jumping back and forward from set-up to set-up, location to location leaves the film feeling disjointed. There’s enough plot here for two movies, never mind one. And although the film features characters from the cartoon and comic, there is still a problem with the characterisation. Many decried Tatum’s portrayal of Duke in the original movie, yet I’ve heard no complaints about D.J. Corona’s portayal of Flint – who is even less like his cartoon counterpart than Tatum’s. Corona’s Flint is wild card who turns wimp when the Joes are wiped out – which as a long term G.I. Joe fan seems the antithesis of Flint of the cartoon and comics.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation does have a decent pedigree: writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick penned the fantastic zombedy Zombieland and Jon M. Chu directed one of my favourite guilty pleasures in Step Up 2, and of course as I’ve already stated, the film is truer to the original source material. Yet whilst the movie is packed with action, explosions and awesome ninja-badassery, it’s missing that one key ingredient of big summer blockbusters. Balls to the wall fun.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is in cinemas everywhere now.