Note: I am experimenting with a slight twist on my usual format today. This twist includes separating the review into four different sections with scores out of 10 for each. These four sections are The Plot (story, pace, originality), The Writing (character development, dialogue, depth) The Acting (the contributions of the actors themselves rather than the writing) and one genre-specific category (The action, the scares, the comedy, etc.) Each category will be weighted differently based on the movie at hand, resulting in the same cumulative score in “The Verdict” as I have been doing since the beginning. We’ll see how this new system works out as time goes on. In any case, here goes with my review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Before I start this review, I’d like to back up and remind everyone that this movie is not based on a book, or a play, or real life events; it’s based on a TOY. I realize that fact doesn’t equal a complete pass for any and all lack of substance in a movie like this, but it’s important to remember that this kind of movie has extremely basic intentions with an extremely basic execution. It promises dumb entertainment, and it lives up to both sides of that promises. Of course, that isn’t to say all dumb entertainment is created equally. The first G.I. Joe and last year’s Battleship were both exceedingly dumb but not exceedingly entertaining. What ends up separating decent popcorn flicks from Michael Bay wannabes is that the former embraces its stupidity. G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t quite able to get away with nearly as much silliness as it thinks it is, but it’s at least aware of it’s own ridiculous nature enough to set it firmly above its predecessor.
The Plot: 5/10
There is absolutely nothing special about the story. The revenge elements, the changes of loyalties, and every other element of the plot boil down to the primary, simple set-up of “Cobra Commander tries to take over the world, the Joes try to stop him”. We’ve seen it a million times before with different players, and we will probably see it a million times again. It makes me a bit disappointed that nobody seems to be exerting much effort in changing this formula up, but the silver lining of formulaic plots is consistency. We know what’s going on so we can focus our attention exclusively on what’s really important in life; Ninja Fights and Bruce Willis.
The Writing: 6.5/10
The writing is simultaneously the funnest and most frustrating aspect of the movie. On the one hand, the light tone and fairly amusing dialogue between the main characters (especially Tatum and Johnson) give entertainment value to many of the scenes that blockbusters normally treat as filling time between explosions. On the other hand, these moments are pretty exclusive to certain characters and are not nearly plentiful enough to give the writers a full pardon. For every funny bit of banter there is an equally unfunny bit of villainous monologue from President Zartan. All in all though, the biggest thing I did appreciate about the writing is that gave the movie a much different tone than the Rise of Cobra. Whereas Rise of Cobra felt like a cheap Michael Bay ripoff, Retaliation feels much more like a live-action big-budget episode of the 80’s animated TV series many of us grew up with.
The Acting: 4.5/10
Once again, wasn’t expecting much here and wasn’t surprised. While I did like The Rock in this, his macho-man/family-man performance isn’t anything new for the man. Channing Tatum is still proving that he can make me like him despite my best efforts to resist, though again Duke is little more than a military savvy version of his character in 21 Jump Street.
As far as the other Joes go, there really isn’t much to write home about. Adrianne Palicki is extremely effective eye candy (Suck it, Sienna Miller) but a pretty mediocre actress. DJ Controna has some pretty badass free-running fight scenes as Flint but gets absolutely zero character development beyond that. Bruce Willis redeems himself a little bit from last month’s desecration of the Die Hard series, but aside from a few decent one-liners and an impressive home-armory he isn’t given much to do.
On the villain’s side, Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is perfectly evil enough to balance out the story. From an acting standpoint, he’s definitely on the cheesy side but it fits in with the saturday morning cartoon feel of the film. Byung-hun Lee is all abs and no personality as Storm Shadow, but I suppose it’s only fair to give the wives and girlfriends a bit of eye candy to work with as well. Ray Stevenson is unfortunately pretty underused as Firefly, the new addition to Cobra who’s accent changes about as frequently as Palicki’s hair color. I think they were going for Australian but all I heard was the dialect of poor directing.
As a last comment, RZA is absolutely TERRIBLE as Blind Master. Even the mere inclusion of his name in an “Acting ” section seems unfitting, but it had to be said.
The Action: 7.5/10
If this is what you came for (which it probably is), you will not be disappointed. Between incredibly cool gadgetry and an ample level of Sword Play, the movie provides more than enough action to keep your brain from dwelling on the plot. To be fair, it’s all pretty standard in terms of cinematography and choreography, but a few choice scenes like the highly promoted Himalayan Ninja Battle are pretty memorable.
I would like to comment on the fact that we know from the beginning that the stakes are high here as the trailers themselves show London being entirely demolished by Cobra’s orbiting Tungsten-Dropper. You’d think this would be a pretty big deal, right? Wrong!!! When this happens near the end of the movie, the biggest reaction we get is a face of shock from a few world leaders followed by absolutely no mention at all of one of the destruction of one of the most prominent cities in the world. They don’t even show the British Prime Minister’s reaction to his capitol city being destroyed, Royal Family and all. After The Joes save the day, we get a general “Now we can start rebuilding” without even so much as an “Oh, by the way, London’s gone”.
The Verdict: 6.5/10 – Perfectly Adequate
+ All of the one-liner-punctuated action you probably came for
+ Some fairly decent dialogue that embraces the movie’s silly nature
– The acting is passable at best
– The story makes absolutely no effort at originality aside from the revenge angle
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
The Bishop Review: 3.5/5
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 6.5/10
Devils Advocates: 3/5
Tim’s Film Reviews: 52%
Black Sheep Reviews: 2.5/5
KCG Reviews: 2.5/5
Keith and the Movies: 2.5/5
The Focused Filmographer: 1.5/5