REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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Having helped revive the Fast & Furious franchise, WWE Champion The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) has been injected in to the GI Joe franchise. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was pretty darn bad, incredibly dumb, shoddy effects, and deviated too far from my understanding of the “source material” (I mostly played with Star Wars toys). You can’t polish a turd, but can chucking Rocky glitter over one work?

gi_joe_retaliation_posters_cobra_2Director – Jon M. Chu
Writers – Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Roadblock – Dwayne Johnson
President – Jonathan Pryce
Storm Shadow – Byung-hun Lee
Firefly – Ray Stevenson
Duke – Channing Tatum
Snake Eyes – Ray Park
Zartan – Arnold Vosloo
Blind Master – RZA
Jaye – Adrianne Palicki

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZEAvgvjbDM

The plot for this movie is incredibly straightforward: A fake American President, planted and manipulated by the Vader-lite Cobra Commander, destroys the GI Joe unit, then threatens to blow up the world, and only the three surviving Joes can stop them. That’s it. And you know what…it’s just about enough, because you’re not coming in t this movie for the writing. You’re here for the action, and the action is rather brilliant.

AWESOME ACTION

There are several great action set-pieces: be it the opening nuke retrieval the prison break, or the climactic battle; be it large-scale action, or hand-to-hand ninja combat, and the all rock. These Joes are simply awesome at everything. Everything! They are like a team of Batmen, all kick ass with brilliant gadgets, and The Rock’s Roadblock is the awesomest of them all. The action highlight for me, is the whole mountain top sequence. It begins with Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes ninja-ing all over each other, and ends in a mountain side battle with some of the most inventive wire work I’ve seen in ages. This whole sequence also showcases the 3D very effectively, which is actually pretty cool throughout the movie.

Most of the action is genuinely very inventive, be it the aforementioned mountain sequence, or the gun/fist fight between Firefly and Roadblock, and it is this innovative action that keeps the whole movie from falling below the tolerable level of badness.

CONSIDERABLE FAILINGS

The failings of this movie come in the shape of writing and directing, two areas you don’t want to fail in. The director is best known for two Step-Up movies, and the Justin Bieber movie! And while the writers did bring us Zombieland, they don’t bring any of that spark to this movie. There are several incredibly forced character moments, and they all fall rather flat. The story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is the best character stuff in the movie, as it was in the first Joe flick, and one of those characters is mute.

There are two lines that surmise the writing, and intention of this movie. The President says “I get to blow stuff up”, and Roadblock says “Boots to asses”. These quotes effectively encapsulate the themes, and quality of writing in this movie.

THE POWER OF ROCK

While the action is, as I mentioned, pretty darn impressive, just about all the other direction is mostly directionless  The acting is, for the most part, pretty much what you’d expect, or worse. The Rock is quite awesome though, as usual. He is a charisma factory, and carries the movie on his ample shoulders. He is also undeniably huge and tough; totally at home kicking ass and blowing crap up. All that being said, he is far from being on top form, and somehow feels under used. Plus, I noticed that his laugh is quite incredibly fake sounding.

Channing Tatum and The Rock are both charming as hell, and have pretty good chemistry. Their candle shoot out is a nice character moment, probably the only one in the movie. However, some of Tatum’s scenes feel like they were tacked on, particularly the Call Of Duty scene, to take advantage of his current popularity.

The supporting cast support adequately: Willis, who is better than he was in Die Hard 5, though not as good as in Looper, gives yer generic Bruce Willis geri-action star performance; Ray Stevenson is cool, even if his accent is really ridiculous, and his gun/fist fight with The Rock is really cool; Adrianne Palicki is hot, but forgettable; RZA is terrible, just shockingly bad; meanwhile Jonathan Pryce is clearly having a lot of fun, and undoubtedly gives the best performance of the movie.

THE BOTTOM LINE: GREAT ACTION, DUMB EVERYTHING ELSE

So…This movie is better than the first one, but that isn’t saying much. The writing and directing are sub-par. However, the action is all quite remarkable. And the presence of The Rock makes it even better. But make no mistakes, this is a dumb dumb action movie, and while it is fun, it is ultimately quite forgettable.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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