G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Lee Byung-hun, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum
How long is G.I. Joe: Retaliation? 1108 minutes.
What is G.I. Joe: Retaliation rated? PG-13 for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language.
Taking Awful To a New Low
Stumbling out of the screening of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I felt like I had been underwater for two hours and was finally able to breathe. Instead of being drenched in water and gasping for air, I felt covered in a film of self-loathing and craving to reconnect with the real world where human interactions make sense. Unable to fathom who would actually enjoy a movie like that, I wondered how I was going to write a critical analysis of such a terrible piece of Hollywood junk.
So, for my review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I have invited a special guest to help me discuss the movie and break down what worked and what did not. Please help me in welcoming my 12-year-old self, Matt. Hi, Matt, thank you for helping me with this.
So, what did you think of G.I. Joe: Retaliation?
I thought it was so cool!
Really? You didn’t think it was intentionally obtuse and unnecessarily convoluted?
Sorry. You didn’t think it was dumb and more complicated than it needed to be?
No. It was really fun to watch. There were a lot of parts where things get blown up – especially at the end – and the 3D was cool.
We’ll talk about the 3D in a minute. First, what did you think about the plot, er, the story?
Well, I liked that Duke (Channing Tatum) was back, even though he’s not in the movie that much. His best friend, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) is kind of the main Joe in this one. The Rock is so awesome.
Johnson definitely has a natural charisma as an actor and, though his film choices are questionable, he’s usually very enjoyable to watch. But I felt like he was too intense in this movie, like he was trying too hard.
But he had to. The G.I. Joes are a super-unstoppable military team that can take down anyone, but they’re framed for killing a really important guy from another country so the president (Jonathan Pryce) says the Joes are the bad guys now even though they’re all dead. BUT, they’re not all dead. Roadblock, Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) survive the attack that is supposed to kill all the Joes. AND, the president isn’t the president. He’s a bad guy named Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) who works for Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) and can look like anyone he wants because of this really cool technology that changes what his face looks like.
But not his height, weight or body shape, right? And people still believe he’s the president?
Yeah. I mean, he probably just wore clothes like the president and his body was probably the same.
Well, that’s one of the least disconcerting plot holes in the movie. Moving on. Didn’t it bother you that Cobra Commander was able to escape so easily from the most secure, highly fortified prison in the world?
Well, he had help. Firefly (Ray Stevenson) came flying in and blew up the front of the prison first. Then, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), who was pretending to be one of the G.I. Joes named Snake Eyes, breaks out of his container and takes out like 15 guards.
I’m glad you brought up the containers. The idea of that maximum security prison was that each person confined there was given a sedative that essentially paralyzes them. You didn’t find it strange that Cobra Commander and Storm Shadow could not only walk, but run and fight so quickly after breaking out?
Well, they’re really strong.
Point taken. What did you think about the action sequences? I thought the set pieces were absurdly over-the-top and wasteful. I felt as if director Jon M. Chu gave no thought to how unhinged his cinematography appeared to the audience. There was no sense of perspective. He just put the camera wherever he could get the coolest shot.
I know! It was awesome. There’s one scene where the real Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) are fighting on the side of a huge mountain and they go swinging through the air on all these ropes. I didn’t see them tying the ropes to anything before the fight began, so I don’t know how they got there or why there are so many, but it was really neat. They would swing from one mountain to another even though it seemed like they were too far apart. Like no rope could reach between them.
I had a serious issue with that, as well. I’m glad you were able to pick out that flaw. What did you think about the acting? Aside from Johnson, who else did a good job?
Lee was really good as Storm Shadow. He wasn’t just a bad guy, you know?
You’re right. He was one of the few characters with some kind of backstory. However, I really didn’t care for the strange kung fu training sequences with Snake Eyes and Jinx. The scenes had the tone of Quentin Tarantino doing a really simplistic spoof of his own films. RZA as Blind Master was the only part of the movie that made me laugh and I don’t think it was supposed to.
Yeah, I didn’t like that. And Snake Eyes and Jinx don’t like each other at the beginning, but we never find out why. That was kind of confusing.
Exactly. You’re getting pretty good at viewing the movie with a critical eye. So, back to the 3D. What did you think? Did it add anything to the viewing experience?
Actually, it kind of made me sick. It looked cool, for a while. But everything swirling and rotating and I couldn’t really see anything clearly.
That’s called camera placement. Chu was clearly not concerned with it, nor was he concerned with the strobe light speed of his editing. Well, Matt, thank you again for helping me this.
Having you here made it a lot easier to explain why, unless you’re a 12-year-old boy, you should not see G.I. Joe Retaliation.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”