Title: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Director(s): Jon M. Chu
Release Year: 2013
Testosterone levels were through the roof as the first several minutes of G.I. Joe: Retaliation began, and people, who felt a lot more like action figures, were being propelled by explosions and spitting the lame one-liners that my 8-year-old self would have been in stitches from. Unfortunately for this action-packed film, the action all feels very generic (except for scenes with ninjas slicing at bullets) and acts as the main support for the movie, trying to make up for the simplest of stories and most abhorrent of dialogue. As Dwayne Johnson parades his musclebound body through explosion after explosion, the repetition of it all quickly sinks in, and the mildly enjoyable first act of the film gives way to the incoherent 3D action scenes, bare bones of a script, and overall mindless “fun” that is expected from an adaptation of an 80’s toy franchise.
Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and what’s left of the GI Joes after a missile strike wipes out almost their entire team, try to recuperate and put an end to Zartan’s plan to take over the world. With the help of Joe (Bruce Willis), Snake Eyes (Ray Park, who never removes his mask), Jinx (Elodie Yung) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun), Roadblock and his team work together to save the president of the United States and thwart the powers of evil. If this doesn’t sound like a fun time to you, this movie really isn’t for you. However, if this sounds like your idea of a fun time, then strap in for 110 minutes of explosions, sword fighting, and RZA as an old, blind master of ninjas. Logic is completely thrown out the window, but the film still intends to make us care for relationships and the livelihood of our protagonists, despite their apparent immortality.
If there is any consolation to G.I. Joe: Retaliation‘s disregard for logic, it’s that they get to use some neat little gadgets and have firefights that are entertaining for the most part. That is, until projectiles begin coming out of the screen and assaulting the senses because of the post-conversion to 3D. The biggest gripe I have about 3D is the fact that it is almost always unnecessary, and so because of that, there’s an insistence on making as much debris and projectiles as possible fly towards the audience to let them know that this format is the only way to experience this feeling. Well, that and actually being shot at. Which begs the question, why do I want to be flinching every moment I’m trying to enjoy a film? Why can’t I just sit there and have bullets go past me as opposed to at me? This film is the most prominent example of action that is ruined by the fact that I’m blinking every second because my brain thinks it is being attacked. If it was just this I’d probably give the 3D a pass, but there’s also a lot of blocking issues with objects being in the foreground that prevent the audience from seeing important details in the background.
The film does have some fun action sequences, but you’ll have to watch it in 2D to really get behind them. So while aesthetically the film was hurt by the choice to convert to 3D, there are some redeeming features from the film. Though Channing Tatum is barely in it, and his relationship with Johnson’s character is obviously played up a lot more for the sake of emotional impact, there are plenty of other actors to steal the spotlight, though probably not for the reasons they want to be acknowledged. RZA’s appearance made me laugh, as did the use of Walton Goggins as the warden of the prison holding Cobra Commander and Destro from the first film. Those two characters return in this film, but are not played by their counterparts from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And of course, as the trailers have referenced several times, the resident go-to action star, Bruce Willis shows up over halfway into the film as the original G.I. Joe, and once again feeling like he’s just there for the paycheque. Everyone else is about as effective as you’d expect, with Johnson being the standout only because he’s the most musclebound and prominent of all the characters.
Obviously, all of these redeeming features are not redeeming in the sense that they are good, but that they make the film more enjoyable. That’s what a film about action figures from the 80’s should be focused on, not trying to make me care about characters or having me shake in my boots as I see if Zartan is really going to destroy the entire world. Character’s names are too ridiculous for their to be any impact from one character double-crossing another. And when you try to shoehorn in witty one-liners every now and then, you’ve cut your ties with serious films. The writing and 3D are really the pitfalls of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. If the movie chose to adhere to some set of rules or logic, it might have been okay, but instead cities are obliterated while no one seems to care, and tanks move freely through the world with no one taking notice.
I’m not complaining because the film is too ridiculous or too serious; in fact, it is quite the opposite. If you’re going to go in one direction, go there, and don’t worry about meeting halfway. The set pieces are there for an exciting 90 minute action film complete with massive explosions and ridiculous deaths. Instead, the film is 110 minutes of massive explosions, horrendous dialogue, placeholder characters, an absence of logic, distorted action sequences, and an overall failure to entertain with what should be an extremely entertaining film. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not the worst film out there, but for an action film, it is a fairly middling effort that doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting, when it has the potential to be a very fun movie.