Originally published 2013.04.02
As a child of the 80’s, I fondly remember G.I. Joe. I remember when my brother brought home the first wave of the 3 ¾” figures and let me play with them as well as watching the animated series. I remember watching it every afternoon right after Transformers, squeeing when it came on (yes, I squee’d when I was a kid too). G.I. Joe: Retaliation was a nostalgic romp of what made the franchise popular in the first place. It also almost completely eradicating the memory of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, like mowing down a whole battalion of Battle Android Troopers.
Directed by Jon M. Chu, who is known for the Step Up franchise as well as the League of Extraordinary Dancers shorts, Retaliation starts almost a year after The Rise of Cobra. Duke (Channing Tatum) leads an almost new team of Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and others on politically sensitive black-op missions all over the world. Meanwhile, the remaining at-large Cobra members plot their end game with Zartan as the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce/Arnold Vosloo) ordering the Joes termination while Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) stages a jailbreak of the incarcerated Cobra Commander with the help of Firefly (Ray Stevenson). Cobra’s success pushes the surviving Joe members to enlist the help of retired general Joe Coulton (Bruce Willis) while Snake Eyes goes Arashikage ninja hunting for Storm Shadow with the help of Jinx (Elodie Yung).
I will say this right at the start: This is a movie The Rise of Cobra should have been! Chu took the best parts of the franchise (comics, animated series and toys) and made it work. It was written like a super fantastical bad-ass episode of the show without the campy after taste. The material was expertly treated with care and had a good balance of assorted ass-kickery, humor and heart. The fight scenes, whether it being the silent ninja fight or the climactic battle, were plotted beautifully. Chu’s masterful eye for slick, kinetic action is on full display in this film, exactly as you’d expect from the director of LXD. Even the more ridiculous elements from the franchise (like the grandiose end game Cobra has or the gadgets used) were made believable enough to enjoy.
Another aspect that that is worth noting were the performances the actors gave. There were no Academy Award-winning performances, but you can tell the actors thoroughly enjoyed making this film which translated into likable characters. Tatum in The Rise of Cobra was so very stiff with no emotional depth or personality. In Retaliation, he seemed more comfortable in the role as the young leader spouting off cornball sayings like the animated version of Duke. The rest of the cast looked as if they were having fun and you enjoyed the movie more because of this. Yes, there was no intelligent or sophisticated writing in this, but it didn’t need any. Everything about this movie was treated like the fun time it was meant to be.
Retaliation is not without some flaws. Whether it being Cotronas’ slight overacting (which I attribute to trying too hard and won’t fault him for), a few minor plot holes (Why for you punk Destro??) or a lack of character development for a couple characters, you don’t really mind them in the grand scheme of the movie. The movie doesn’t treat itself any more seriously or ridiculously than it needs to be. I do urge you to see this in 2D, as some of the scenes are so kinetic you either miss things or the sequences begin to blur.
Overall, Retaliation is a fun ride through a franchise we have all grown to love throughout the years. It is definitely worth seeing, especially since a third movie has just been green-lit. I whole-heartedly recommend it to those who loved the G.I. Joe of the 80’s, as you too will want to cheer “Yo Joe!” at the end.
The Private gives G.I. Joe: Retaliation 4 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.