So, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra made a lot of money, but was hated by almost everyone. So for the sequel, Paramount pulled a Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and started making a “it’s kind of a sequel but not really” movie wherein a majority of the nonsense of the first film was dropped, in favor of just making a second G.I. Joe flick.
Just about all that’s carried over here is the presence of the evil Zartan in the White House, posing as the President, and Duke is a character. That’s it. Duke, of course, is killed off in the first half hour. If there is a female version of “that just killed my boner,” this is it. Sorry ladies, but Channing Tatum gets his taters mashed in the movie’s second action scene, along with 99% of the Joes. This, of course, gives Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) an excuse to take the last two surviving members of the team to go kill the imposter President with the help of the original G.I. Joe (Bruce Willis, better in ten minutes than he was in the 90 minutes of A Good Day to Die Hard). Meanwhile, Walton Goggins is the warden of a prison where Cobra Commander is kept, though is quickly busted out by Firefly (Ray Stevenson, existing solely to fight Dwayne Johnson) and Storm Shadow, inexplicably resurrected after kicking the bucket in the first film. Yes, it’s all still very stupid. Also, the Rza plays a blind sensei. No, his acting has not improved.
What did you expect?
The action here is really terrific. The standout action scene is a massive fight with Snake Eyes, Jade, and an army of Cobra ninjas across a cliff face. The ninjas rappel and glide across the cliff, slicing at each other in one of the most slickly-filmed action sequences since the rooftop fight in Skyfall. Most of action is great, in fact; the movie culminates in a final showdown between Roadblock and Firefly that is highly reminiscent of the ending mano-a-mano in Equilibrium. It was an exciting, well-choreographed duel that nicely bookended the movie. The rest of the flick is wall-to-wall shootouts, martial arts duels, and explosions.
This is the movie version of 52 Card Pickup when it comes to plot. By that I mean it throws 52 plot threads into the air, and leaves most of them on the floor, with the bulk of them towards the end of the film. Remember that awesome London destruction scene in the trailer? That is literally never mentioned again in the film. Also untouched is how exactly Storm Shadow is back, having died at the end of The Rise of Cobra. One could assume that perhaps Storm Shadow got resurrected with the aid of nanomites, but I don’t watch a movie called G.I. Joe: Retaliation to make assumptions. I also shouldn’t be thinking at all, so…touché.
The script is extremely stupid, but intentionally so; it seems to have been written with the sole intention of raising eyebrows end eliciting laughs with a number of bizarre lines. While Jonathan Pryce hams it up as the villainous imposter President and throwing out lines like “They call it a waterboard, but I never got bored!”, everyone else delivers their lines with a completely straight face, with one of the best being “I’ll cyberblast an encoded beacon every six minutes.”
This beer is a bit of an odd one, because it’s kind of counterintuitive. I have a special place in my heart for the extraordinarily shitty G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, because that movie was the equivalent of a homeless person squatting down in front of me, taking a dump, and then pointing and laughing at me. It embraced its lunacy, and pushed the limits of absurdity with a huge grin. Retaliation is similar, though at time is a bit more measured and tongue-in-cheek with its stupidity. It was still a blast, but I missed the gleeful idiocy of the original. Cobra Commander was noticeably devoid of any great one-liners or cackling, though body actor Luke Bracey seemed to understand that Cobra Commander is supposed to do a lot of absurd striding around. The novelty of Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the villain is lacking, however.
It hurt so good.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is loud, stupid, and completely unconcerned by both. Best of all, it’s finally a G.I. Joe movie that is, at several points, something that we can reasonably call “awesome” without having to say anything else. This is, at its core, a solid action movie. When bullets and fists aren’t flying and things aren’t blowing up with unnecessarily large explosions, the script is indulging in countless hilarious zany lines. Yes, it’s still a pretty bad movie. But it’s that special kind of manufactured bad, and takes some of itself just seriously enough that it manages to work. The Rise of Cobra makes you shake your head; Retaliation may just make you pump your fist.
Take a Drink: for every slow-mo shot.
Take a Drink: for each unresolved plot thread.
Do a Shot: for every groaner.
Take a Drink: whenever Dwayne Johnson says or does something badass.
Chug Your Beer: when the President of the United States starts playing Angry Birds during imminent nuclear annihilation.