I don’t know about you, but I prefer my toy commercials to be 15 – 30 seconds long, rather than a 110 minute post-converted 3D headache inducing bore. Oh bugger, I’ve finished my review already. OK, here’s the long version.
As a child, I was a little too old to really get into G.I. Joe, but I liked the concept. My younger brother collected the action figures, and I enjoyed checking them out and reading the bios that came on the back of the packaging. He also had a G.I. Joe cartoon on VHS that featured the heroes outsmarting the evil Cobra organisation by diverting some biomonster thingy through an apple orchard. Apparently apple seeds contain a tiny amount of arsenic, which destroyed the creature. I will carry this knowledge with me to the grave, regardless of whether it has a factual basis or not.
Unfortunately, 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, directed by Steven Sommers (The Mummy), was a letdown for those of us old enough to carry fond memories of the toys. The storyline was as simple as the apple orchard scenario and despite the best efforts of a decent cast, including Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols, Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the movie was little more than a live action cartoon pitched at kids.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, directed by Jon M. Chu, attempts to right the wrongs of its predecessor by pressing the big red reset button. Much of the original cast and characters are jettisoned. Channing Tatum, now a major Hollywood player, makes a brief appearance to presumably meet contractual obligations. Of the lead cast members, only Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee return to reprise their roles as the President, ninja Snake Eyes and other ninja Storm Shadow, respectively. Strangely, Lee’s character was the only major character in the original to be killed off.
An attack which wipes out the Joes early on in the film allows a new set of lead characters to emerge in the form of Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrienne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona). Falsely accused of treason by the President (Pryce gives a masterclass in overacting), the new lineup are forced to turn to the original “Joe”, General Joe Colton, played by a bored looking Bruce Willis on autopilot.
What happens next is an overcomplicated plot with lots of explosions. Chu has succeeded in pitching the movie at a more mature audience, however, the story is too messy for there to be genuine stakes, and plot holes abound. For instance, London is obliterated by Cobra’s new weapon with absolutely no repercussions on the storyline or reactions from the characters.
Originally slated for release last June, G.I. Joe: Retaliation was pushed back almost a year to allow for post-conversion into 3D. The end result is a typically unremarkable 3D experience, with the standard complaint of being too dark to follow the action. A box office haul of over $272 million so far, however, suggests that the delay was worth it and that a third instalment is inevitable.
Chu is best known for directing two entries in the Step Up series and the Justin Bieber “documentary” Never Say Never, and proves that he knows his way around an action sequence. A ninja battle on a cliff face is breathtaking. Unfortunately, it has little to do with anything else happening in the film.
“The Rock” has developed a reputation in Hollywood as a franchise saver. His charisma alone is possibly the only, not very compelling, reason to sit through this film.