G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)


Channing Tatum as Duke
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock
DJ Cotrona as Flint
Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye
Elodie Yung as Jinx
Jonathan Pryce as President
Ray Park as Snake Eyes
Luke Bracey as Cobra Commander
Arnold Vosloo as Zartan
Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow

Directed by
Jon M Chu

Running Time:
USA: 110 min








Review and Summary

This is not the G.I. Joe that you’re looking for. At least it’s not the one I expected after 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (TRC). Let me explain more.. oh and beware there are spoilers below….

So the movie opens with the Joe’s now being led by Duke (Tatum). They are on a mission into North Korean to extract a defector. It gives us a chance to get introduced to the NEW Joe’s (pun intended). During this simple mission we get a taste of the chemistry between Duke and Roadblock (Johnson), and it works really well. We also meet Flint, Lady Jaye, and mouse, the designated young and eager redshirt of the movie. They make it out, of course, and as a calling card Flint leaves the North Koreans a memento.

From here we get a quick overview of what G.I. Joe is now. It’s an all American operation now, long gone is the multinational force from 2009. We don’t quite get any sort of timeline between stories, or why things have changed, but suffice it to say G.I. Joe is a household name, so much for secrecy.

In TRC, Zartan is given nanites, and is changed into the President, and through sleight of hand, is able to trade places with the real President, who is captured and held. So we can assume that Retaliation is within 6 or 8 years of TRC. From then to now, Cobra Commander and Destro are on ice in an underground super secure facility cooling their heels. Now we are up to date and ready to roll.

Pakistan is destabilized with the assassination of its president, and its nuclear weapons are feared to be captured by terrorists. The military urges the President to act, while his advisors encourage a wait and see attitude. Zartan seizes the moment, like it wasn’t planned to send in the Joe’s and be the hero.

A mission is planned and set forward, the goal capture the Pakistani nukes, disable them, and then take them back to the states to be secured. Simple enough right. Well it goes as planned, with some Hero solo’s thrown in. But honestly, there are some glaring holes here folks. First off they come blazing in, and drop from what look like modified Osprey’s. They are noisy as all hell, yet they act like they did it stealthily. Next, if you’re going to go in on a Special Forces type mission, you are going to put face camo on, way too many bright faced targets are all over the place now. The terrorists are the stereotypical sort with Keffiyeh on, not really well done, and it seems really under thought. Another thing missing is all the whiz bang toys that we were shown in TRC, we get a few trinkets here and there, but for the most part they must have saved up the SFX budget for something else. We end with the nukes being collected and defused, on to the LZ to be picked up.

Funny thing here is that once they get to the LZ, its treated more like a safe place to setup target practice areas and other sorts of amenities. Not quite sure about this, but it gives some more time to get that chemistry between Duke and Roadblock going. Overall I really liked this, way more than Norris and his buddy in The Delta Force (1986), which this sort of reminded me of. But this was the beginning of the end for that chemistry. As the LZ is attacked, Duke makes a heroic dash to save a dazed Flint, only to buy it when the HumVee he is next too is blown to bits.
Pet peeve time, how do you kill off one of your main characters only ~20mins into the movie?? Seriously, Channing Tatum is a solid star, and he with Johnson is a good vehicle. But obvisouly someone else thought different. We also lose our designated young redshirt, Mouse, in a slow-mo battle seen. Roadblock, Lady Jaye, and Flint escape death by jumping into a nearby well and hiding to fight another day. However, the other 40 or so Joe’s with them are not so lucky, and now we know why it’s Retaliation!!

As our survivors climb on out of the well and try to get home, the President (Zartan) holds a press conference and announces that he has terminated all of G.I. Joe because it went rogue after the nukes. He also announces a new force used to do this. I didn’t quite completely catch the name, but it goes by the acronym COBRA, very interesting how that works.

This to me was a wide open plot issue, way too many people knew about the Joe’s mission, but I will go with the flow.

Throughout all this, Snake Eyes is missing. We finally see him as a prisoner of the government following the above announcement. He is being taken to the super-secret prison that holds Cobra Commander and Destro. The same one that Zartan is looking for as he tortures the captive president for its location.

Walton Goggins plays the prisons demented warden. As he and the guards transport Snake Eyes into the depths of the prison we get a fairly well done narrative from him on the prison and its security. He tells how these criminals are in an artificial REM state and contained in what look like used Bacta Tanks from Empire Strikes back. As they prepare Snake Eyes for his entry into one, they remove his mask only to reveal it is Storm Shadow. Ok hold the presses. How can this be Storm Shadow when we same him fall into the frigid artic waters in TRC after being slashed by Snake Eyes. No clues are verbally offered, but we do get a physical act that might. Watch how he escapes and you can see it too.

Goggins Warden comes across as a cleaner version of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. It would have been interesting if they had used him more, but it just serves to help along the plot. Storm Shadow now on the inside, and Firefly on the outside gives them the opportunity to free Cobra Commander. It was a short seen with some neat toys being used overall, but also only serves to extend the plot and give reason for Storm Shadow to be put into a situation where he will be exposed later. The real Snake Eyes catches up to the escapees as they fly away, but is too late to do anything about it.

By the way, I was somewhat looking forward to Destro joining in on this sequel. However, Christopher Eccelston only does a cameo, and the Commander deals him out of the band, leaving him to his cell in the prison. Et tu Destro, Et tu.

Meanwhile, Roadblock, Lady Jaye, and Flint have made it back to the US and no less than Washington DC, where we find Roadblock is from. He gets the team a safe house after calling in some favors. Once secured, they start digging into the president as he would be the only one who could have ordered their attack.

Flash to Japan, and Snake Eyes is with the Blind Master. He is enlisting their help to locate and capture Storm Shadow so as to determine what Cobra’s plans are. Jinx becomes his side kick, funny enough she is also Storm Shadow’s cousin. The plot thickens, or so you would think, but all the delightful possibilities are never even touched.

In his escape from the prison, Storm Shadow is severely burned and goes to some high mountain retreat where they completely heal him. Of course the only way to get there requires some massive feats of climbing, and then lets it wide open for a 10min action sequence zip lining and swinging around the mountain’s as they escape with him.  This whole thing made me think more of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) than it did of traditional G.I. Joe action. It was fun, but I would have preferred something else.

Now with Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes and Jinx return to the blind master for a sort of trial. To sum it up, it turns out Storm Shadow didn’t kill their master as was thought. But it was staged by Zartan to push the young boy into becoming Storm Shadow. Simple right? I have to give them credit, it all was believable, and it now makes it possible for Storm and Snake to fight side by side. At least while he is working on killing Zartan, after that he goes back to normal.

While this was all going on, Roadblock and the gang, figure out that the President is an imposter of some kind. They engage the name sake of the Joes, General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). He tells them for him to assist they need to get some more solid evidence. I mean he is a general, and it would be treason. I don’t blame the guy.

They capture the evidence in a neat way. Lady Jaye is able to get into a Presidential party. Posing as a Fox News journalist, she is able to get a strand of the presidents’ hair for analysis. Adrianne Palicki is simply breath taking as a redhead. Every guy in the audience can feel for Flint who can clearly be seen as falling for her.

Any who, with their handy-dandy-handheld DNA analyzer, they determine that the President is really Zartan. With this evidence in hand they head off to get the troops together and make the final assault.

Snake Eyes, Jinx, and Storm Shadow join up with Roadblock and company, and head to General Joe to plan this out. In a traveling music collage we get to see that the General has planned for the long awaited Gun Control Movement, as his entire house serves to be a hideout for all sorts of armaments. Some would call it a hobby of collecting guns, but when you get to the vehicle he has in the garage, you know he may just be 1 step short of postal at some point, and you don’t want to be the annoying teenagers on his block.

The final action takes place at what the President has organized for a Nuclear Arms talk. Everyone including Kim Jong Un shows up. Now I give them lots of credit as between all the current saber rattling that good old Kim has done recently in real life, they play it up with his character here.

In an act of sheer crazy, the President launches US Missiles against all of the other 8 countries here for the meeting. This forces them to launch theirs in retaliation. Zartan then closes the trap by destroying the US missiles and all of the other countries follow suit. North Korea of course is noted to be last as he had bet.

Now that he has succeeded in disarming all of them, Cobra Commander comes in and fulfills the process by showing them that they have no choice to surrender or face destruction at the hands of the Zeus system. A kinetic energy weapon used to level London as an example to the rest. Poor London, between Retaliation and the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, it gets leveled a lot this summer.

With the Commander and President exposed, the team now snaps into action. General Joe and Lady Jaye go to free the real President. The rest of the team attacks the meeting to free the leaders as well as capture the bad guys.
While all the action is going on the race is on to disarm the oncoming attack from the Zeus system against the other nation’s capitals.

We get a short and restrained collaborative fight with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. I really think this could have been done better. In fact their fight against each other in TRC was far better. Storm Shadow follows and faces Zartan. Rather than a drawn out fight, we get a quick semi Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) shopping bizarre sword and gun fight type conclusion. Not very satisfying at all.

Roadblock faces off against Fire Fly who has the needed control case to disable the Zeus system. Its long and drawn out, and not very well done. Lots of shots fired to come out of the screen at you, but I have seen better Arnold Schwarzenegger fights, Commando (1985) and Predator (1987) come to mind. The only good part of this is the use of Fire Fly’s name sake to end it. I really think the director and producers missed what could have been a great hero fight for the Rock to get Retaliation for the loss of his friend.

Needless to say Cobra Commander escapes. But what is left for the next installment. Destro is the only one left. Will Storm Shadow be accepted back since he ruined the plot for the Commander and killed off Zartan??
Overall, this was entertaining for all 110 mins. I put aside the glaring holes in some of the plot, and my disappointment at not having some of the previous films characters and actors not return. I really think that the director, writers, and producers had some kind of wish to take this in a different direction than that of Rise of Cobra. Im sorry they did that, because I really feel that they drove away in a direction that the fans of G.I. Joe aren’t going to follow for long.

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