‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Review: Yo Joe!
A critically unwelcome entry into the G.I. Joe franchise and sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, G.I. Joe Retaliation follows the special forces team of Joes as they find themselves lost without friends or a government to back them. Against both Cobra and the free world, the Joes must use their skills, training and never-ending supply of movie bullets to save the world.
Let’s be honest, the G.I. Joe franchise, be it in toy, television or movie format, has never been one for complex moral choices or innovative story telling. In all its years of existence and across countless incarnations, it’s simply been a story of good versus evil. The Joes versus Cobra. Freedom versus Tyranny. It’s as formulaic and uninspired as you’d expect, except for one thing – the characters.
G.I. Joe has always had the best archetypes and a colorful cast of military experts. From martial arts master Snake Eyes to marine boy scout Duke, there’s never been a lack of variety. You’ve got ninjas, marines and tech nerds galore. One of the best parts is how multicultural the team has always been, recruiting exceptional soldier from across the world, there are Americans, French, British, and countless other soldiers from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Better yet, G.I. Joe has always had some of the best villains. Cobra Commander, Destro, Baroness, Storm Shadow, Mindbender; and let’s not forget their army of anthropomorphic animal-human hybrids. Growing up and watching shows like Sigma Six and the direct-to-video movies chronicling the Joes adventures left quite an impression on me. Despite all the constant military “hoo-ah” and U.S propaganda, it remains one of the cornerstones of children’s TV.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I watched The Rise of Cobra. Though it included many of the characters listed above, it perverted their origin stories and drew unnecessary ties between some (Duke and Baroness, really?). Though it tried to stay true to the ridiculousness of the original franchise (i.e. crazy tech gadgets and ridiculous weaponry) it tried to also remain grounded in military realism – a recipe for disaster. In the end, it was just a cobbled together mess of a film with redundant sub plots, genre cliché and generic Michael Bay-esque action. The few positives of the film including its signature G.I. Joe comedic levity and characters. Sure, they’re under developed and forced into awkward relationships but they were faithful – albeit shallow – depictions of their beloved cartoon and comic book counters. Essentially things that could be fixed in the sequel, appropriately so considering The Rise of Cobra is a prequel to the real story.
Again, imagine my disappointment when I was watching Retaliation and found out they, without cause or explanation, did away with all the old characters aside from Duke (Channing Tatum). Instead, they introduced a new cast of shallow characters drawn from the original stories yet once again stripped of any development. Sure, like the original cast they had colorful personalities and were overall very likeable, but, like the original cast they too were given no real attention except for some out of place “women don’t belong in the army” moral conflict involving Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and the original Joe (Bruce Willis), an exceptionally unexceptional character who served no real purpose whatsoever.
However, despite is deplorable premise, questionable character choices and little return value, Retaliation was a pretty fun time. The script was witty, the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock brought some much-needed heart to the film and despite his uselessness, Willis as Joe Colton had some great chemistry with Palicki’s Lady Jaye. In addition, despite involving RZA (who should never come near the silver screen again), the relationship between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-Hun) opened the door to further development in the series’ upcoming sequel and was a high point of the film. For the Daredevil fans out there, Elodie Yung (Elektra) stars in Retaliation as Jinx, Storm Shadow’s cousin and pupil of Snake Eyes.
For all its cinematic sins and source material injustice, the G.I. Joe things never get too caught up in things that aren’t Joe related and faithfully keep the action going. The martial arts choreography and mountainside fight scene is reason enough to watch this film. Though terrible in many painful, excruciating ways, Retaliation was miles better than its predecessor and did the franchise’s extravagance justice. If you’re ever in the mood for some excellent on-screen action and seeing characters like Flint, Roadblock and Jinx on the big screen, look no further than G.I. Joe Retaliation.