GI Joe: Retaliation is in theaters now, after a delay of almost a year. The first film was either loved or hated, and this sequel promised to get back to the roots of the franchise, and be an all around better flick. So how did it do? Did it hold up to that promise, or should it have been listed KIA? You want to know, and knowing is half the battle.
So I was in the camp that didn’t really hate the first film. I thought it was a big dumb action flick, but it was easy to watch, and had some pretty awesome set pieces. Some of the acting was pretty bad, but since it was being brought to us by the same people responsible for Transformers and Battleship, no one’s expectations should have been that high. I thought it did what it set out to do, and did so fairly well. With all the promotional material flying around for this film, I couldn’t help but be a little excited. H.I.S.S. tanks driving around, COBRA banners unfurling from the front of the White House, and a Cobra Commander that actually looked like a Cobra Commander? Who wouldn’t get excited for it? And you know what? It honestly lived up to every expectation I had.
Maybe it was because my expectations were pretty low to begin with, but this film was great. The plot is pretty stripped down, and easy to follow. Following the events of the first film, Zartan is now the president of the United States. Following a well orchestrated series of events the Joes are marked traitors and a strike is mounted against them, taking most of them out. The rest of the movie follows the survivors on a mission to uncover Cobra Commander’s plans and save the world. It’s pretty straight forward, honestly. For a bit of the flick they switch between the core group of the Joes in the US, and Snake Eyes and Jinx trying to get to Storm Shadow. Even though its a pretty easy to follow story, it’s still exciting. The new roster of Joes they focus on are pretty well done. Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock is the standout of the group, as usual. My only complaint with the cast is that it doesn’t feel like a unit of America’s best fighting force. The team just doesn’t feel like they’re Joes until Snake Eyes gets back into the fold, and even then just barely. Granted, they’re coming back from almost getting exterminated, probably don’t have access to all their gear, and have to make due with whats around them, but still. They could have easily been confused with just normal above average soldiers.
The real meat of a flick like this is the action. And this one does a pretty good job of providing it. There’s awesome mountainside ninja fights, there’s a super high tech prison escape, and a finale involving hovercrafts, HISS tanks, and tons of other vehicles. While it’s well done, it’s not totally over the top. It’s just crazy enough to work. There’s no super over the top armor chases through Paris, or just ridiculous fight scenes on a rooftop. The scenes always serve a good purpose, and are for the most part, really well done. While it’s not as ridiculous as the first, there are a good handful of awesome gadgets and interesting high tech goodies throughout the film. When they pop out, it reminds you that you’re watching a GI Joe flick again.
Now, here’s the downfalls. A short running time is usually a good thing, but honestly? They should have thrown another 15 minutes into this. The finale feels rushed, and the last act is a paltry 25 minutes, in which a lot happens. I would have loved to see just a little bit more fighting around the end, and more stuff blowing up. But, it still manages to hold it together. And even though the first film felt goofy most of the time, it also felt a little more like a GI Joe film. This one is seriously lacking the feel sometimes. There just isn’t as much cool stuff, as weird as that sounds. There’s no super crazy jets, there’s no huge underwater cities, there’s no crazy bombs that eat metal. I know thats what a lot of people gave flack for in the first film, but it made it feel like a Joe film. The Tatum scenes are pointless. Enough said about that. All the other stuff is just minor, and it feels nit-picky to complain about the small things when they got so much right. It’s not a perfect GI Joe film, but at least they’ve gotten the property closer than the other Hasbro films.
All in all, it’s a great mindless action flick. If you’re a fan of the Joes, you’ll find tons to love about it. If you love cheesy action flicks, you’ll find a lot to love. If you’re a jaded fun hating scrooge, you’ll hate it. The Rock gives a solid performance, there’s tons of gunplay and explosions, there’s some crazy stuff, and a great looking Cobra Commander.
3.5 out of 5