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GI_Joe _Retaliation

Several years ago, I reviewed GI Joe: Rise of Cobra on this site and was one of the few people who actually said I enjoyed the movie. I went in with a willingness to let a lot of things slide and as such, I was able to enjoy it. Now, finally, the sequel is out and after watching it this past weekend I can officially say it’s a worse movie than the first one.

Rise of Cobra wasn’t going to win any Oscars, but it had some fun mindless action and a hi-tech, fast paced storyline that was focused but flawed. Retaliation is a movie that spent an extra 6 months getting retooled after executives saw the first cut and freaked out. Unfortunately despite their attempt to make something decent out of this, it still feels like a bunch of segments that were randomly shot with very little plot to string them all together. Director Jon Chu is most famous for making a Justin Bieber movie, so perhaps GI Joe: Retaliation would be better if it was a music video.

The first movie very much felt like a cartoon or comic book world and intentionally set that pace early on so you could believe some of the more fantastical elements. This movie tries to be gritty and “real” by having the characters all dress very boring and say stuff like “hoo-rah” so we think they’re real soldiers. Unfortunately, none of this works. You certainly COULD do a realistic GI Joe movie, but this isn’t it. The implausible elements in this film aren’t science fiction, they’re just mind numbingly stupid.

While the first movie had it’s own style, that wasn’t necessarily true to iconic GI Joe, it at least had a voice. Here we get a film that seems like director Jon Chu just flipped through a bunch of classic GI Joe comics and said “put this scene in, this one too, oh yeah and this one” without any real rhyme or reason. Cobra Commander wears a costume that’s “sort of” like his classic costume, yet the rest of Cobra all wear basic military fatigues. It’s very confusing to even know who’s a Cobra or a Joe in some of the large scale fight scenes because they’re all just regular guys in army outfits.

As stiff as Channing Tatum was in the first GI Joe movie, he’s fantastic in this film, showing more character and personality than any of the other Joes in this film or the entire first film. So naturally he dies 5 minutes in. Yeah, spoiler I guess, but let’s be honest, you all already knew that anyway. You’d think that scene would be sort of a big deal, but it’s not. The Joe team is reduced to 3 people in the first few minutes and aside from a passing line here or there, it’s no biggie dawg.

Everyone is dead, except for Snake Eyes, oh and Jinx, who just joined the team but isn’t on the team but everybody knows, oh and Joe Colton, who nobody knows except for everybody, plus a whole cavalry of other people who don’t get much screen time or names. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. People show up in one scene and then everyone acts like they know them the next. The movie also makes mention that this is only like 6 months since the last movie, which makes all of the plot holes even worse. If you accept that as fact, it turns everything on it’s ear even further. This movie should have been set several years later, not months.

The movie constantly rewrites the rules as if the previous segment didn’t connect to the one before it. Yet the whole film is spent trying to tie up loose ends from the first movie. I’ve heard a lot of people dump on Retaliation by saying the weak parts are the portions of the movie that deal with Rise of Cobra, but I completely disagree. The only parts of Retaliation that make ANY sense are the spots where they try finish the Rise of Cobra story.

Snake Eyes wasn’t the best character in the first movie, but he’s entirely neutered in this film. His costume looks even clunkier in this film somehow, so now he moves like Robocop. He has some odd story with Storm Shadow including some ridiculous fight scenes that make no sense and have no purpose other than someone wanted to have a bunch of ninjas hopping around. Worst of all, RZA (I have no idea who that is) plays some sort of ninja master who butchers his dialogue so bad that even if all the Wayans were in the first movie it wouldn’t have been as bad. Storm Shadow is pretty terrible too, as his storyline is so poorly executed that I just wanted someone to kill him. There’s some confusing scenes where he’s hanging out with Cobra, even after he’s turned to the Joes. It sort of seems like they just crammed that story in at the last minute, continuity be damned.

Chu lacks a deft hand with his concepts as well, going so far as to completely destroy the ENTIRE country of England (or at least all of London) without anyone even blinking. Millions of people just died, but nobody even reacts like it’s a big deal. Everyone in the world launches all their nuclear weapons at once and then they all just stand around as if it’s not important that they’re about to eradicate all life as we know it on the planet. Then they all destroy their nuclear weapons in a deus ex machina sequence that defies all logic. It’s like a fourth grader wrote most of these sequences. People complained about the robot suits in the first movie, but they were certainly more plausible than the nonsense that happens in the climax of this film.

The entire film is a vehicle for the Rock, which wouldn’t be bad if the ROCK COULD ACT… But apparently he’s been injecting so many steroids in the last couple of years that he lost whatever marginal talent he had in his earlier films. Rock’s performance is so wooden that Roadblock might as well been named 2×4. He has almost no emotion except for when he cracks the occasional out of place joke.

There’s only a few bright spots in this movie and none of them are from the places you’d expect. Walton Goggins (of Justified) shows up as a random warden and STEALS THE SHOW and immediately made me wish he had a larger role in the film. He just oozes awesome and is completely wasted here. The guy who plays Zartan is equally fantastic and finally, Firefly is alright, albeit underdeveloped. Unfortunately anyone who’s remotely interesting has to die in this movie, because Jon Chu is a moron.

This movie is just a mess, plain and simple. I did not love the first movie, but it was a decent popcorn flick where you could turn your mind off and watch it. GI Joe: Retaliation requires far too much mind removal to be enjoyed. I just kept waiting for something decent to happen or for it to be over. It’s not even a two hour movie, but it feels like an eternity. I know a lot of people “liked” this movie, but I have to wonder how much of it is because people just wanted to like it because they “hated” the first one. Aside from hamfistedly shoving in nods and winks to fans with no context, rhyme or reason, there’s nothing from the storytelling aspect that’s better than the first film here.

Lastly, lest you waste your time, there is nothing in the post credit sequence, but they do show a bunch of extra footage that’s not in the movie. You can just tell that there was mounds of stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor for no reason other than it didn’t tie into the movie as a whole. That’s the general problem with this entire film and I can’t in good faith recommend you watch it. Perhaps when they make the third movie, it’ll be better.

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17 Responses to GI Joe Retaliation Movie Review

  • clark says:

    I do not hate the first movie, but I hate things about it. Actually, I hate a lot of things about the first movie. It is a stupid, silly action film, that can be enjoyable but it is not really G.I. Joe to me. I definitely enjoyed this movie, but I can also say I went in with incredibly low expectations. For me, this film had just as much stuff that didn’t make sense as the first, but I enjoyed that this one played out much like a comic book, and it felt more like G.I. Joe. There are some jarring transitions from scene to scene, specifically ninja-stuff to soldier-stuff; and it is weird that they don’t explain all the changes from the first movie; but even with those things I thought this story still made more sense than ROC.

    Although I can’t dispute any of your criticisms, because they are certainly valid, but those things just did not bother me. Ultimately I cautiously recommended this to a few people, and told most others not to spend money on it.

    • Newton says:

      I had pretty low expectations for this one (and the first one) but for whatever reason, this one fell short of even my lowered expectations. Perhaps because I thought they were going to do so much more with it.

  • Greg Bundy says:

    Glad to hear someone else thought this movie sucked. There was just too much crap for me to swallow. That scene wit the ninjas on the mountain was okay, but it made no real sense. Why did Storm Shadow have to go there? How did his body in that bag manage to repel down the line that a bunch of other ninjas couldn’t do? Hell, why did Snake Eyes just sit there and watch Storm Shadow break Cobra Commander free? I was sitting there during that whole sequence wondering who edited this stuff.

    • Newton says:

      I didn’t get why Storm Shadow had to go to magic ninja mountain either. Especially when the lady healing him was apparently using hi-tech stuff, not ninja magic. And the body bag sequence was definitely absurd. While there were some cool visuals, I too found the fact that Storm Shadow’s bag somehow made all those jumps, but the ninjas couldn’t just sloppy editing.

      Frankly, I think that whole sequence would have been a million times better if they’d just been repelling down the mountain trying to fight off ninjas. That would have made sense. Instead, they just do a ton of nonsensical flips and jumps around the mountain. That’s one of those segments where Chu needed to show some restraint. Especially if a plot point is that they have human cargo in a bag that’s also being flipped all around.

      Maybe Storm Shadow’s bag is a better zip liner than the ninja clan he works for… Or at least, I assume he works for, we never got any information on that. In the comics he has his own ninjas, but they didn’t spell that out here. Hard to say if he was the boss or the lady… Or if they’re even affiliated with Cobra.

      • clark says:

        There were two big things that stood out to me as stupid (a lot of things did, but these are the 2 worst one). First is what you’ve been mentioning, how did Storm Shadow’s zipper bag make it to its destination without jumping from zipline to zipline. The second was what happens when the rest of the Zeus rods fall to earth? Since they just blew up the satellites that were already in a low orbit, wouldn’t all of these devastating rods just fall to the ground now wreaking havoc?
        Also, ok three things now, how can they destroy London and not take time to reflect on what that actually means or the lives lost?

        • I can tell you that any space program on Earth would be completely defunct by all the space junk from the Zeus now in orbit. Kessler Syndrome would definitely make it so Cobra’s gonna have to stick to just world conquest instead of “worlds”.

  • Notorious Merv says:

    This movie was an abomination lol. Tatum has come into his own as an actor and its a shame he’s done with the franchise.

    • Newton says:

      They kind of got handed a gift in Tatum becoming a big star. But then they pissed it away. I would have kept him around for that reason alone. Plus the first movie put the seeds for a big showdown between Duke and the Commander (his brother or friend as I recall) but then that never gets to happen because Duke is dead. Oh well.

      • Bigbot says:

        I thought one of the reasons for the year long delay was to undo his death and re-shoot some scenes with him in them. It sounds like the delay really was just for the addition of 3D.

        Now I want to see it just to see Goggins. I love seeing him in anything.

        • Newton says:

          They did add a couple scenes (mostly one) so I imagine the first cut must have been really bad as it related to Duke.

          • clark says:

            The scene with Roadblock and Duke shooting at a cupcake was very obviously added in after the fact. It is a scene that only showed up in the commercials after the delay, and after the scene is over all the Joes are back in their combat uniforms covered in sweat and dirt. Maybe the scene with them playing games is new, too, but not sure.

  • ero says:

    Thanks for this. I don’t feel as strongly against it as you do, but you did articulate a lot of problems I had with the movie that I couldn’t be bothered — or care to — suss out.

    I do think Storm Shadow was awesome in this, though. The actor talked about the character’s rage in the interview circuit leading up to the film, and I think he was right. It was great. And like you, I agree that the connections to RoC made it very enjoyable. I was THRILLED to see as much of the “Doctor” under the mask as we did. I did not expect it at all. I love the prison escape scene.

    I had kind of a rekindling of interest to RoC in the months leading up to Retaliation (part of it was recently deciding to just enjoy the different canon in GI Joe). Before, everyone was coming off the 25th line and we all had ARAH on our minds, so RoC was doomed from the start. Now with some distance, I was able to go into this with an open mind and hope for a continuation of what was cool about RoC. I do think it was poorly edited (or tightly edited to make up for Chu, but who knows), but either way, I’m glad it’s doing well, even if it’s not great. I’m in it for the promise of more ARAH toy updates, and the movies are key.

    • Newton says:

      No problem, I appreciate the response.

      I hate to come off as the “angry internet nerd” but it’s certainly not because they ruined my childhood or whatever it usually is. I just thought so much of this was sloppy. I am happy it’s doing good, though. It’s a shame this film didn’t get the rollout that the first movie did, but perhaps now that this one is more of a success, the third one will have more of Hasbro’s support at retail and maybe a better plot.

      I think part of the reason this movie is doing better is that it has big names attached. When Channing Tatum did the first movie, he was practically unknown, but he was the “anchor” star. This time around, Tatum is featured in the advertising, whilst the movie is being billed as a Rock and Bruce Willis movie. Which is sort of misleading, obviously, but a lot of the hype makes it like Willis is the star. Basically, they’re getting people in on the names.

      Storm Shadow didn’t work for me, but a lot of that is because it led to some bad sequences and I’m just not a fan of good guy Storm Shadow. The prison break sequence was great though. Actually, the whole prison sequence was probably the best part of the movie, IMO.

      • As someone who comes off as “angry internet nerd” all the time, I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much from RETALIATION and felt like I got less. Parts of it were passable, but the whole Arashikage Clan/Jinx/Ninja Mountain Retreat stuff was just a mess; Jinx had nothing to do at all and was just there so that scenes with Snake-Eyes didn’t have to be either pure exposition or completely silent. If SE doesn’t trust her because of her blood relation to Storm Shadow, shouldn’t he distrust like 70% of the people in the Arashikage temple?

        I did like Storm Shadow though. I wish they hadn’t half-and-halfed him doing a heel face turn and just had him become a straight anti-hero or whatever, but it worked better than a lot of other stuff in the movie. Example: why was Cobra Commander even in the movie other than that people expect a G.I. Joe movie to have him in it? He took such a passive role in what was going on and I’m not sure why Zartan felt the need to break him out when it was pretty obvious things were working fine with him running the show. Did CC need to sign Zartan’s paycheck still or something?

        The prison break was the highlight of the movie, and, as goofy as his exploding bugs were, I liked Firefly. Revealing that Snake-Eyes had just been sitting there the whole time did kind of diffuse the scene’s impact though. Maybe he’s addicted to combat and let them get away so he’d have something to do?

        • Newton says:

          I like how Snake Eyes watched the whole thing, then took two steps forward like he might try to do something, but then didn’t. It was like a half hearted moment in a tag team match when someone doesn’t break up the pin on their partner, even though there’s no reason for them not to.

          Honestly, I thought Jinx was there so that it wouldn’t be so apparent that Snake Eyes can barely move in all that armor they put on him.

          And I completely agree about CC. He did NOTHING. I would have marked out if he would have yelled “RETREAT, RETREAT” at the end, but instead he casually strolls to a helicopter and we never even see if he gets away.

          The whole Zartan thing didn’t make much sense to me anyway. Like, Zartan unveils his taking over the world plot with CC and then Hiss Tanks just roll up out of nowhere and they drop Cobra flags on the White House. But then, Roadblock destroys like 2 Hiss Tanks and that’s it. Cobra is defeated. Like what about all the Hiss tanks outside the White House or whatever? It was just more sloppy editing and storytelling. They didn’t need the Hiss tanks or any of that in there.

  • Mark says:

    Suddenly I’m glad I watched The Croods. Great movie by the way, I’d definitely recommend it.

  • PresidentJuggernaut says:

    I was a bit more forgiving of Retaliation than you Newt, but I also absolutely hated the first movie. Pretty much anything would have been an improvement for me. The first was this random CGI wonderland that had just a tenuous connection to the GI Joe story. This one felt like they tried to get the military element right, and just fell short. Perhaps the budget was too low, and what was left went to stunt casting. Retaliation was so rushed and jumbled, there might be a decent movie in there if it could breath a bit. Cobra takes over the world and loses it in about ten minutes? The Joe team was basically the Rock and two people so bland that I can barely remember which Joe names were slapped on them. Look at that poster. Giant Dwayne Johnson, okay… and giant Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum, they must have huge roles right?

    Right?

    But I still might rewatch this for the highlights like the fun mountain swordfight and prison escape, as opposed to the first movie, which is too annoying for me to watch a single scene from.

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