G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Posted March 30, 2013 by Daniel Hodgson in
G.I. Joe 2 is a retaliation against the audience, a relentless assault of dull action scenes and poor direction.
Chaos ensues when the Pakistani president is assassinated, and nuclear warheads go missing amidst the country’s turmoil. The U.S. president (Vincent Pryce) sends the elite soldiers of G.I.Joe to Pakistan to recover the missing nuclear warheads. However, the Joes are ambushed and killed, including their leader, Duke (Channing Tatum). Only Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) survive, while Snake-Eyes (Ray Park) is captured and imprisoned for the assassination.
Roadblock and the Joes hide out, and determine that Cobra mercenary Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is impersonating the president, while the real commander-in-chief is held captive by Cobra’s forces. Zartan interrogates the president to find out where the Cobra Commander is being held. Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), Cobra’s ninja warrior, rescues the Cobra Commander, who controls a satellite weapon system called Zeus, which is capable of destroying entire cities. Snake-Eyes, who was framed for the assassination of the Pakistani president, pursues his old rival Storm Shadow, while Roadblock and the remaining Joes put together a plan to stop Cobra from global domination.
I screened Retaliation in 2D, knowing that the 3D version is the product of post-production conversion. I can tell you without even having seen the 3D version that the surcharge is not worth it; it’s a rip-off, in fact. Retaliation was originally shot as a 2D film, but Paramount shelved the film for months for the conversion (among other alleged reasons), despite the fact that it was not intended for a 3D release. Retaliation relies heavily on close-ups and tight framing, which is fine for a 2D film, but death to a 3D one. Compositions are flat and close, when they need to be deep and wide for the 3D format. The 2D screening was fairly packed, suggesting that perhaps audiences are getting wise to fake 3D.
Like many my age, I grew up with the G.I. Joe cartoon in the 80’s. I don’t begrudge the studio’s attempt to go for a broad audience, targeting adults looking for a nostalgia fix, while exposing a new, younger generation to the Joes, but Retaliation guts the essential parts of what I grew up with. Destro is briefly shown before the Cobra Commander declares he has no further use for him; the Baroness is absent, as is Scarlett, among others. These are characters who played a central part not just in the cartoon, but in the original G.I. Joe movie, which Retaliation is a direct sequel to. What if Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 had been scrapped in The Empire Strikes Back? It would have been a film bearing little resemblance to the original. I’m not saying a sequel should be identical to the original—far from it—but it should at least bear a resemblance.
Worse yet, Duke dies early on. The Rise of Cobra was largely about Duke’s efforts to join the Joes; an entire montage was dedicated to testing his skills. Going in to Retaliation, there is an expectation of so he’s in the Joes now, now what? Retaliation denies us that satisfaction. Imagine if George Lucas had decided to kill off Luke Skywalker in the first ten minutes of The Empire Strikes Back. What would be the point of setting Luke on the path of becoming a Jedi, only to kill him off in the sequel? It negates the original film, and the film that follows.
Retaliation is poor storytelling and poor filmmaking. In a prolonged action scene, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow duel, while Snake-Eye’s apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung) fights with an opponent. One moment, Jinx is mid-battle, the next she appears inexplicably in Snake-Eye’s fight scene assisting her master; the cutting is so rushed, you wouldn’t notice that Jinx defeated her foe unless watching it more intensely than it deserves. A car abduction is also messily cut together, making little sense as to how it happened. Consider that Retaliation is director Jon M. Chu’s first action film, and it shows.
Say what you will about its predecessor, but at least it had ambition. Rise of Cobra had invisibility suits, an Arctic base, and the exciting Accelerator Suits, which were used in the Paris Chase sequence. For my money, the Paris chase sequence was one of the most exciting chase scenes I’ve seen. It was wild, imaginative, and over-the-top. The entire film, while nothing great, was worth it for that sequence alone. There’s nothing like that here, nothing worth seeing, and very little new. The action is sanitized for the kiddies, and there’s no showmanship to the martial arts fights. The lengthy mountain-side sword battle has been done before, and Roadblock’s close-counters gun-fight with Firefly (Ray Stevenson) is stolen from Equilibrium.
I don’t know what crime audiences have committed, but G.I. Joe 2 is a retaliation against them, a relentless assault of dull, seen-it-before action scenes and poor direction.