G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Review by Stu Coote

My first exposure to G.I. Joe came in the form of the 80s animated film and an action figure my grandmother bought me. Many a weekend morning my sister and I would sit down and watch the cartoon over and over again. I admire the simplicity of G.I. Joe which is good (G.I. Joe) vs. evil (Cobra) with massive guns and cool vehicles. I never saw the 2009 G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, however I went into this film with expectations set to sceptical. Much to my surprise I was met by an entertaining film with never took itself seriously and delivered exactly what I needed from the franchise.

G.I. JOE: Retaliation sees the Joes being sent into Pakistan to capture nuclear weapons. At the completion of their mission they are double crossed and left for dead, losing several high profile team members. The remaining Joes are forced into hiding, where they must clear their names and save the day. So basically following the plot of every G.I Joe episode ever made. Like the A-Team or James Bond films there is an instantaneous familiarity which just makes it so damn watchable. By no means is it pretending to be complicated or high art and it would be foolish of me to walk in expecting the same. This is guys with big muscles chasing ludicrous villains across the globe and I’m definitely cool with that. 
The biggest strengths of the film are the cast and the writing. Channing Tatum reprises his role as team leader Duke, and yet again I was impressed by his comedic timing and screen presence. Ray Park (X-Men and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) proves he can still pull off the martial arts moves he’s renowned for as Snake Eyes. Whilst Jonathon Pryce was easily the pick of the villains playing Zartan, a master of disguise capable of infiltrating the upper echelons of the government. The addition of Dwayne ‘Don’t call me the Rock’ Johnson as Road Block is a master stroke considering how good he was in the film. He oozes charisma and damn well looks like an action figurine. I’ve always loved his action films like Welcome to the Jungle and Walk Tall and I’m quite relieved that he has been freed from whatever multiple picture contract he obviously had at Disney, hopefully we won’t witness The Tooth Fairy 2. Even Bruce Willis brought his A game to this party, with his portrayal as the Original Joe. Of late Mr Willis has been guilty of taking every performance way too seriously, I mean just look at what has become of the Die Hard franchise! I always prefer him when he plays cheekier roles where is allowed to shoot the odd wink at the audience.  The writing credits were shared by Paul Wernick (Zombieland) and Rhett Reese (Monsters Inc). I found it to be a very witty script with plenty of visual gags, most notably a character playing angry birds whilst the world is on the brink of nuclear holocaust. Films like this should have moments of comedy, it adds to the big dumb fun of it all.

Whilst the script was good it wasn’t quite good enough to defuse the controversy surrounding the film. In a nutshell the film was scheduled to be released ten months ago, however it was pulled from distribution a mere five weeks before its premier. The official reason given was that the film needed more special effects, although it has now been conceded by the studio that the reason was in fact to shoot more footage of Channing Tatum since test audiences reacted to his limited appearance. Unfortunately the opening 15 minutes of the film feels very much like they’ve been reverse engineered to create a relationship between the Duke and Road Block. Whilst it’s not the most subtle of efforts, I guess I should be happy that even in a blockbuster they are trying to inject character development. Sadly it smells likes like creation by committee. 

The action set pieces are fanciful and outrageously over-the top as they well should be. The highlight of which being an aerial sword fight as Snake Eyes and Jinx are escaping a mountain top Cobra base via a zip line whilst several ninjas are in pursuit. The sequence looks purpose built for 3D with numerous bodies and objects being thrown towards the screen, sadly the poor quality of the special effects meant the 3D elements detracted from the overall spectacle.

Call me a cynic but I know that every character, weapon and vehicle  will soon be available in a nearby Toy R Us for all the kiddies to enjoy, that being said I loved the design of the vehicles. They reminded me of the original cartoon and had a look that was both practical and fun. 

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a two hours of disposable inoffensive fun that reminds me that there is still a place for the big dumb action genre.


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