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Friday, 5 October 2018

Movie Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

G.I. Joe Retaliation
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, Bruce Willis, Lee Byong-Yun, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo, RZA
Genre: Military Science Fiction 
Worldwide Gross: over $375 million

Plot: The Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy, Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from the government that jeopardise their very existence 

'Knowing Is Half The Battle, & Watching This Bland Offering Is The Other'

Whilst the first G.I. Joe film by The Mummy's Stephen Sommers was practically awful, its sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a film based on a 1980s cartoon series & toyline from Hasbro, is far too moody and takes itself way too seriously, so much so it takes away from some of the fun it is supposed to evoke. It is a tad better than its prequel, but that isn't saying much as it is devoid of personality and offers little substance beyond the 3D CGI effects and action sequences. 

I actually turned up at the London premiere for this film in Leicester Square, back in 2013 alongside many other fans and people waiting to see the likes of Bruce Willis and Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson. At the time, it came to my mind that what I had anticipated in G.I. Joe: Retaliation was of it being a fun popcorn action flick. When I eventually saw this in full, I was more than disappointed. I didn't enjoy Rise of Cobra and I had my hopes that this time around, I'd come away from a G.I Joe live-action film more than satisfied.

Lamentably, it just isn't to be. 

The plot, which resembles that of The A-Team and 2010's The Losers, sees the G.I. Joe team tackling a megalomaniac villain, who dreams of taking over the world named Zartan: an aide of Cobra Commander who kidnaps and turns into the U.S president, whilst also getting one of his henchmen to target and kill Duke (Channing Tatum), Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye, Flint and the other Joes. The film's subplot has Storm Shadow rescuing and freeing Cobra Commander from prison. 

The action scenes themselves are okay at best, but these are often way overblown and exaggerated, whilst the script is both amateurish and a total bore. As an action film, Retaliation could've struck a balance between gritty and tongue in cheek: something that James Cameron's True Lies managed to nail successfully and without alienating its source material and plot, based on the French original, 'La Totale'. Yet this film manages to do neither and Jon M. Chu, who has made waves with 2018's Crazy Rich Asians, financially that is, has always been a hack director, as he aims for style over substance in his movies. And for a man who helmed the Step Up movies & Justin Bieber documentary, G.I. Joe doesn't change the fact his behind-the-camera track record, is woeful and Chu has little ability to film action scenes, which lack potency and tension, let alone a decent action movie, which decent this ain't. Here, he tries to be all Michael Bay-like with the visuals and special effects. 3D CGI effects in films aren't always a terrible idea, providing it is implemented competently in the movie, with the 3D CGI effects, Retaliation relies way too much on them. 

Derivative and throwaway, rather than wiping the slate clean and going 2 or 3 steps ahead of the first movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation seems to take some of the worst aspects of the previous film, and make it even duller and repeating the same old beats of The Rise of Cobra. Although thankfully, they got rid of the terrible skin-tight leather outfits, which felt out of place for the G.I Joe franchise, the characters or be it the costumes resemble a lot like the ones worn in the animated show and this is only slightly better than that film. The Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes scenes, including one that takes place on a snowy mountain, could have easily been its own film. Additionally, it suffers from its lack of irony and becomes a typical run-of-the-mill fantasy action film. 

Only Dwayne Johnson comes out of this with his career left intact from this so-called reboot; even though his choice of films do not necessarily lend themselves well with the onscreen charm that he evokes as an actor. Johnson is okay, but the plot is wholly convoluted, the script material is just unfathomable and below mediocre and the surreal realistic- feel overwhelms G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Bruce Willis sleepwalks in his role, almost looking disinterested here and he pretty much plays the same character in every action movie has been in, Channing Tatum is killed off earlier on, whilst the remaining cast is largely forgettable who possess no characterisation. The villains are non-entities with the main bad guy, Cobra Commander lacking in true menace and evil. With more charismatic actors, it would have given the film a bit of an edge. 

Much like with the first film, or even less so, it fails to replicate some of the magic of the G.I Joe Saturday morning cartoons and Chu approaches its characters and story without a zip of energy and most of the action feels flat and has a 'seen-it-all & done-it-all-before' feel to it. 

G.I. Joe: Retaliation has its little light moments, but when it tries to become a serious fledgeling action film, in all honesty, it just doesn't feel right at home with me. If this had stuck with the 'campy- villains- who- ham- it- up' tone of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, as bad as that film was, this, along with the cast, would have made it a tad more enjoyable. 

But instead, this was just a nonchalant and soulless viewing, I zoned out during most of this film as I watched it. 

Final Verdict

I understand that with movies like G.I. Joe shouldn't be taken seriously, but also it has to be fun and extremely entertaining and satisfying as well. 

Given it had been postponed a few times and the various reshoots it has received, Retaliation is virtually neither of those.


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