Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, D.J. Cotrona
Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese
It's rare that a film sequel is actually better than its predecessor, but that's the case with G.I. Joe - Retaliation, which follows up 2009's massively dumbed down G.I. Joe - The Rise of Cobra. While it wasn't particularly surprising that The Rise of Cobra became a box-office hit given American moviegoing tastes, it's rather refreshing that Paramount Picture and Hasbro have worked together and managed amp up the action while actually adding just a touch more in the way of compelling characters and the sort of dry wit/humor that seems to come these days with the most popular action flicks.
There's so much action, in fact, that those who tend to need a breather between major action sequences may be exhausted by the end of this nearly two hour flick with very little in the way of a break between action sequences other than, perhaps, a tad more humor than was in the original film and fleeting moments where, unlike the original film, we actually get to know these guys just a bit.
The biggest reason that I find myself compelled to give G.I. Joe - Retaliation a recommendation is that, quite simply, I believe the film has turned out exactly the way that director Jon Chu intended it to be. While the film may not appeal to the same crowd that embraces year-end Oscar winners, I have a pretty strong feeling that if you like your action films to be simple, straightforward and sort of "balls to the walls" then this is a film that's going to please you quite a bit.
Even among those who enjoyed the original film, you'd be hard-pressed to not find folks who weren't at least somewhat dismayed by its lack of faithfulness to the spirit and mythology of G.I. Joe. Taking the place of director Stephen Sommers, Jon Chu fits the bill as someone who both knows his way around an action flick and has a healthy respect for the source material. This isn't necessarily a Twilight type adaptation (Thank you!), but there's a reverence and respect for the source material that should delight those familiar with the history of G.I. Joe.
G.I. Joe - Retaliation is by no means a masterpiece, but fans of mindless action will have much to enjoy in what adds up to Spring 2013's most entertaining popcorn flick so far. The story is relatively simple - the G.I. Joes this time around are not only dealing with Cobra, but they've found themselves betrayed by the American government and their very existence is threatened.
The result of this threat? Action. Action. Action. It all kicks off with the G.I. Joes retrieving nuclear warheads from a group of foreign types with bad intentions. Duke (Channing Tatum), Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) are back at their base camp celebrating their big win when the entire team is bombed by a helicopter detail. The bombing leaves only three alive - Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye. The three become determined to find out exactly why the President (Jonathan Pryce) would have ordered such an attack, a search that leads to a surprising, or at least surprising in a G.I. Joe kind of way, revelation.
G.I. Joe has really always been meant to represent the all-American hero, at least in a militaristic sort of way. As Roadblock, it's Dwayne Johnson who manages to sell this sort of rah-rah affection most effectively as Chu utilizes his likable persona and full-on action star ability to full effect. The surviving trio ends up in a rendezvous with Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) before Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), the original G.I. Joe shows up as one of the few available people who can be trusted until everything gets all figured out.
Rest assured that everything does get all figured out. It may not actually be logical, but we all know that the G.I. Joes will right the wrongs and justice will be served.
While Willis is mostly wasted here and easily saddled with the worst of the film's one-liners, Dwayne Johnson is definitely used to good effect and Adrianne Palicki does a terrific job of breaking out of the action flick stereotypical fem role. Palicki's Lady Jaye is decidedly less tomboyish than in the annals of G.I. Joe, but Chu's approach works within the context of the film and Palicki pulls it off nicely.
G.I. Joe - Retaliation got some negative buzz when the film was delayed from Summer 2012 to this Spring, but the delay appears to have done the film some good as Chu added some extra time with Tatum's Duke to take advantage of his growing popularity and the film should benefit from being a key option in early Spring for action fans.
While the action sequences are relentless, perhaps too relentless, there's also some creativity to them and several of the sequences were rather eye-popping in a more old school way. While there's no question that Chu fully utilizes special effects and technology available these days, the film still maintains a bit of a retro vibe that works in a way that's both action-packed and fun. There were times I found myself a bit numbed out, however, by the relentless action and too lengthy gaps in the whole "fun" factor.
Fans of the original film will likely enjoy this film even more, while those who couldn't stand the original but still love action flicks will likely find more to enjoy with G.I. Joe - Retaliation. This is no masterpiece, but it's not trying to be. It's a good ole' popcorn flick filled with lots of action, a decent amount of humor, a little heart and enough of a good time to make it worth checking out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic