G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review 
Posted by Nolan Woodford on 03.31.2013
If nothing else, the total lack of Dennis Quaid guarantees it's at least a little better than the last one...
Roadblock: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Duke: Channing Tatum Lady Jaye: Adrianne Palicki Flint: D.J. Cotrona President: Jonathan Pryce Gen. Joe Colton: Bruce Willis Storm Shadow: Lee Byung-hun Firefly: Ray Stevenson Snake Eyes: Ray Park Jinx: Elodie Yung Cobra Commander: Luke Bracey Zartan: Arnold Vosloo Blind Master: RZA
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Based off the toy line created by Hasbro. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes Release Date: March 28, 2013
On the surface, it's easy to compare the G.I. Joe franchise with Michael Bay's horrendous Transformers series. They both attempt to turn popular toys and 80's cartoons into nine-figure budgeted popcorn movies with ambitions of blowing up landmarks, entire cities, and really whatever else they feel like at the drop of a hat. It's probably not the most promising comparison coming from someone who called Revenge of the Fallen the single worst motion picture ever made. But, I can assure you that G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn't that bad.
Not that it's something you could really classify as good.
2009's Rise of the Cobra wasn't THAT bad either, but it was pretty wretched. The minds behind the franchise must not have loved it either, because Retaliation is almost as much of a reboot as it is a sequel. Despite having a reported budget of $40 million less than its predecessor, the special effects are far more convincing. So are the actors. Expecting Marlon Wayans and Dennis Quaid to help save the world is about as convincing as Shia LaBeouf doing the same, so bringing in bona fide action stars like Bruce Willis - albeit for a glorified cameo - and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a decision even the most cynical of moviegoers should be able to agree with.
As Retaliation opens, the team of Joes lead by Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock (Johnson) waste little time laying waste to whatever bad guys are in their path, despite the horribly unbelievable premise that Tatum - 8 years Johnson's junior - would outrank his fellow hero. But problems are afoot in Washington, as the President (Pryce) - has there ever been another movie where they didn't bother to name the President? - doesn't quite seem to be himself and has orchestrated a plan to wipe the Joes out. Once the formerly imprisoned Cobra Commander (Bracey) enters the picture, a plan to use a mega-weapon "Zeus" to either take over the world or destroy it trying is hatched, giving the surviving Joes very little time to stop them.
That seems like enough for a full-length motion picture, but the film's creamy middle includes a lengthy subplot involving Snake Eyes (Park) and Jinx (Yung) traveling to the mountains halfway around the world to fight an army of ninjas led by the menacing Storm Shadow (Byung-hun). Things may be different for those heavily invested in the G.I. Joe universe, but this second story bogs down the film and should leave the rest of the audience wondering what happened to the team we spent the first act being introduced to. It all eventually ties together - once everyone has traveled the world to get to Washington without any attempt to explain how - but by then, various ninjas have flown around the mountains on zip lines, people have survived being burned alive and stolen others identities with no other reason but "Technology!" and the storyline would be better off taking a back seat to the action.
Overall, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is pretty dumb, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But it doesn't need to be "Ho hum, a major city just got wiped off the map. When's lunch?" dumb. I don't like to spoil too much - although the trailer includes plenty of moments from the Retaliation's third act - but there is a late scene in which Cobra Commander actually gives an instruction that beings with, "Not that it matters now, but...." Shockingly, this instruction ends up mattering. Who would have guessed?
The 411: G.I. Joe: Retaliation actually starts off with some promise, thanks to some entertaining action and exchanges with Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum. Once the film gets going, however, it flails around between unfathomable set pieces and needlessly long explanations that only the most ardent of G.I. Joe fans will be bothered to care about. Unlike what Michael Bay has done with the Transformers franchise, there are still glimmers of hope scattered throughout Retaliation, but nowhere near enough to warrant a recommendation.