Okay, Oscars are over, let’s get back to the nitty gritty. This weekend, I saw G.I. Joe Retaliation, a movie that was DELAYED FOR ALMOST A YEAR! I’ve been waiting for this one a while, because it looked like they were going away from the Super suits, and hyper-crazy CGI effects, into something that would be a little less over-the-top (just a bit less, they still showed that weird “ninjas swinging on a mountain fight”, so yeah). And they were swapping out Marlon Wayans and Dennis Quaid for the much manlier duo of The Rock and Bruce Willis!
I wasn’t expecting much out of Hasbro, I mean, the Transformers movies were progressively less well-received, Battleship, which was a much better movie than everyone’s saying, tanked at the box office, and the first G.I. Joe was meh. But I was expecting the explosions, the blowing up of real things, to go up, to capitalize on your new leading men. Sadly, this movie still goes to show that great actors don’t necessarily make a great movie.
So what are we waiting for, let’s lace up and discuss G.I. Joe: Retaliation! Watch out, minor spoiler warning, though I’m not discussing anything outside of what you might have seen in the trailer.
+ Adrianne Palicki
We all know this movie is one of those cash-in flicks, it’s not gonna win any Oscars, but it would have to be jam-packed with action, explosions, and ladies. In this case, all they needed was one lady, Adrianne Palicki.
From the black and white films of Laurel and Hardy, or Gene Kelly and Donald O’ Connor in Singin’ in the Rain, or Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in Money Train/White Men Can’t Jump, bromancing has been a winning combination in a lot of films. And after I Love You, Man and How I Met Your Mother, we’ve become more conscious than ever of how fun these close bro relationships can be. Channing Tatum and The Rock had some genuine bro moments in this film, and honestly, the film could have had more of it. Even test audiences agreed that the film could have used more.
Remember when the trailer for GI Joe: Retaliation came out and it was slated for world-wide release in 2012? It then got pushed back A WHOLE YEAR, in order to add more “3-D effects”. In reality, people wanted to see more male bonding, so they spent the time re-shooting more scenes with Channing Tatum and The Rock. That’s why a couple of scenes early on in the film with the two bros seemed added on, and to tell you the truth, they were the best moments of the entire movie, because there was some genuine heart in them. The added parts, that had no place among the rest of the footage, were the best parts. Never a good sign.
+- Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis is in it! And he has a kick ass house! And that’s about it.
You have Bruce Friggin’ Willis! You could have had him do a bit more than shoot a gun from the back of a truck (which by the way is pretty much the high point of his action scenes.) His character, General Joe Colton, never felt like a real general. But you know what, all of it would have been forgiven if you had given him a decent action scene. He was fighting an evil force that employed ninjas! Could you not see the most glaringly awesome thing you could do with Bruce Willis fighting ninjas?!
In order to talk about how horrendous this film was in terms of plot, I’d like to dissect the plot into its basic parts, which you’d probably remember from grade school: Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution. I’m sure most of you know this already, if you don’t know even one of these things, congratulations, you must have been one of the makers of GI Joe: Retaliation.
This is where the audience is first introduced to everything about the film, it sets their expectations and shapes their suspension of disbelief. How do you screw this one up?
For one thing, the plot relied heavily on the fact that you watched the last movie. The villains and how they’re introduced is tied directly to how the last film ended, which is unexpected because practically none of the G.I. Joe‘s from the previous film came back. Why is the President fake? Why are the bad guys in a German subterranean prison, in tubes? Where’s Dennis Quaid as General Hawke, or Marlon Wayans as Rip Cord? Actually, nevermind about Marlon Wayans, don’t really need to know.
I mean, these are questions that you can answer if you watched the last movie. But a key to a good film is its self-contained nature. Yes, sequels can lead from one to another, but they should still be able to tell a full story on their own. Cliffhangers work, as endings, but you can’t expect to lead into a movie with a totally different cast of protagonists to lead off right from there. This movie made a really poor attempt at giving these people characters, which was a simple less-than-5-minute mission briefing.
This is when the heroes become embroiled in conflict, where they are tested and pushed into a place of legitimate struggle. I’ll admit, the film set this up nicely, ON PAPER, by putting the Joe‘s in a desperate situation. As you saw in the trailer, the Joe‘s are practically wiped out, and have to fight from scratch, with their enemy being the Head of State. The problem came in how they chose to tell the story.
In the beginning, things do look hopeless. The Joe‘s are betrayed, and almost dead. Through one line of dialogue, they figure out its the president who ordered it. Then on the other side of the plot, Snake Eyes, through no dialogue, and a random fight sequence, is able to, out of nowhere, figure out he has to go to these snow-covered mountains to get Storm Shadow. They come up with a very typical snatch and grab followed by a typical infiltration through hot girl in a red-dress mission, all of which I’ve seen a million times before. This film had a lot of potential at the start of the rising action, but it has to RISE, build up, grow, elevate suspense. It didn’t get a rise out of me though.
Admittedly, she did though. (Sorry, couldn’t resist posting her again)
This is it! The high point of the film! The part when the epic showdown goes down, where the Joe‘s face Cobra head on! And you know where it goes down?! The epic battle takes place in a generic riverbank, a sound stage made up as a very cheap looking conference room, and a garden. woohoo… yey… fun… oh man… this is too intense… no… stop…
Falling Action/ Resolution:
Typical ending, nothing great, but I expected it, so no complaints here.
The martial arts scenes looked like they were put together by an epileptic in the middle of a dance club. The movements were so chopped up that they left no impact on me what so ever. Who is fighting who? Why are they fighting? It’s never a good sign when you lose track of everything. Everything was so blurry, chopped up like garlic going into a broth. Its like playing football with binoculars. Fun when its a Japanese game show, not so when it’s an action movie.
The gun scenes were a little bit better, but you never get a feel for the space. How far are they from one another? Are they even in the same area? An establishing shot, to give us a sense of location would have been great. Also, a lot of the time, it felt like they were just trying to look good shooting guns versus trying to look like the best military unit in the world shooting guns. It lacked the umph that The Rock and Bruce Willis should have brought to this movie.
Man, where do I begin? Cobra Commander’s still pretty much a wuss (though to be fair, even in the cartoon he sounds like a whiny kid). He shows up a couple of times, and walks around. He never really gets a moment to bring out the evil. It would have been cool if someone important died by his hand, but the genocide of a whole city (which you can see in the trailer) felt strangely detached. In the first movie, Duke (Channing Tatum) and the then Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon Levitt) were best friends. This would have been a great relationship to revisit in the sequel, but no, they never even touch it. Cobra Commander became so generic he wasn’t even worth my time.
The other bad guy was the explosives expert named Firefly, played by Ray Stevenson. He’s the one with ALL the cool gadgets you see in the trailer. Electric insects packed with explosives, his. Motorcycle Missiles, his. He was one step ahead of the Joe’s most of the time, which is why I should have liked him. I love a good villain, yet something about him was weak. He would start off with explosive bugs, and be all, “Well crap, that didn’t work, I guess I should just try and beat up the Rock with my fists!” I mean, I guess they were trying to level the playing field, and have Roadblock (The Rock) and Firefly on the same level, but you do that by elevating the hero’s skills/heart, not by setting the difficulty down to easy! Coz that’s what it felt like! The bad guy is stronger, good. Make the Hero work for it, don’t make the bad guy weaker.
Jonathan Pryce put a lot of effort into his role, both as the President of the United States, and as his evil doppelganger, Zartan. Kudos for the guy who’s shooting for realism in a story about glorified action figures. Its really just a case of “he’s too good for this role.”
My Ten Cents: 3/10
If I could sum up this movie with one word, it would be “underwhelming”.
I mean, the first film was way over-the-top, with those accelerator suits, the green biochemical weapon, the underground G.I. Joe base and the underwater Cobra base, but this one had them going way under the bottom. If you’ve got The Rock and Bruce Willis, you make it BIG! In Live Free, or Die Hard, Bruce Willis goes up against a fighter jet, by himself! In Fast and Furious 6, Vin Diesel, The Rock, and everyone else are gonna face off vs a Tank on a Freeway! This stuff’s way bigger than blasting a couple of slow-moving turrets, and a ninja fight on the side of a mountain.
You could totally skip this film. But if you have to see it, you could wait for it on DVD, maybe it won’t seem so weak on the small screen.