G.I. Joe as a whole is pretty ridiculous. A group of good guys that consist of military personal and a ninja battle a group of baddies that consist of scientific mistakes and ninjas. If that isn’t silly enough, each character has a pro-wrestler name, a cool catch-phrase and a unique gift. It is the most basic of comic book entertainment.
The first G.I. Joe fully lapped this up, the action was big, the dialogue was bad, and the characters were wooden. I have no qualms in admitting I enjoyed it, but as a whole the film flopped and was destroyed by critics and consumers. Paramount took a risk and decided to push through with a sequel.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation continues the plot from the first film with the master of disguise Zartan in the Oval Office and impersonating the President. Cobra Commander has big plans for Zartan, but the only thing standing between him and world destruction is the G.I. Joes. Cobra Commander wipes out the G.I. Joes, leaving only 4 standing; now it is up to these 4 and an old friend to save the world.
A films plot is always important but when it comes to action films you can easily forgive any shortcomings because you are there for explosions, not drama. The writers of G.I. Joe: Retaliation don’t realize this, giving us a plot that seems simple on the surface but is really a convoluted mess full of plot holes and inconsistencies.
The heavy focus on plot results in a lack of action. The action centerpiece is spectacular. Involving dozens of ninjas and a mountain it is breathtaking to watch and like nothing you’ve seen before. But it is too little and features none of the action stars we are here to see. Bruce Willis gets at most 3 minutes screen time and fires a gun twice (the best of which was in full in the trailer). The Rock on the other hands gets his final smack down with Stevenson’s Firefly, but it is too short and is over before it starts. Aside from ninja mountain, the action is dropped in crumbs throughout the film; there are no epic set pieces.
The plot and action might stink, but surely the capable cast can save this? Sadly, no. Tatum and Willis amount to nothing more than cameos, between them they’d have about 10 minutes of screen time. The Rock is solid, but feels wasted. He gets enough screen time but doesn’t get any big action sequences. The supporting cast range from good (I love Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow) to downright awful (I’m looking at you, RZA). There are a lot of players here, but most of them look bored.
In the end G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a wasted opportunity to take this franchise to the next level. The fact that it takes a step back from the original is just embarrassing. Between this and A Good Day to Die Hard, it has been a disappointing start to the year for blockbuster fans looking for big budget action.
1.5 out of 5.0