The Reel: ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ a forgettable nostalgia-trip


Ben Conniff

As one of the most beloved symbols of young male childhood, Paramount Pictures and Hasbro have faced a daunting task trying to do justice to fans with its recent, big screen incarnations of the popular G.I. Joe action figures.

2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” was packed with campy action and colorful characters, but overall the experience felt like the bloated sugar rush you get from one too many Saturday morning bowls of Frosted Flakes.

So the studio decided to try again with “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”
 While maintaining a genuine sense of humor and humanity — the lack of which doomed its predecessor — “Retaliation” still offers little more than early Summer fluff.

In a story that sees our “Real American Heroes” lose everything at the hands of an impostor, “Zombieland” scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick manage to inject a fresh sense of humor that’s actually funny, something that “The Rise of Cobra” failed to establish in 2009.

When you have larger-than-life heroes such as Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), and “I-still-got-it” General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), it’s important to not take yourself too seriously.

With a “G.I. Joe” picture, you expect some pretty spectacular action, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the stunts in “Retaliation.”

Most of the fights recycle the same tactics we’ve seen before in better Kung Fu movies. Heck, even if you remember the stunts from “The Rise of Cobra,” you might still be underwhelmed because honestly, it doesn’t get much more over-the-top than “The Rise of Cobra.” (Thoughts of a decimated Paris come to mind…)

But I will say, “Retaliation” boasts a jaw-dropping fight that takes place entirely on the face of a cliff.

With two “Step Up” movies under his belt, director Jon M. Chu’s influence is most apparent here. Like so many of his dance routines, Chu’s cliff scene is stunningly choreographed and ends up being the film’s most well-made and thrilling sequence.
 But the bland action isn’t the worst aspect of this movie. That distinction goes to hip-hopper RZA with his awful performance as the Blind Master.

In the role, RZA overdoes it to a point where he’s darn near unwatchable. Thank goodness his screen time is brief.
 Additionally, there are some glaring plot holes regarding the villainous Cobra Commander that I didn’t appreciate. Like, who leaves Destro, one of the biggest villains of the G.I. Joe-Cobra lore, out to dry halfway through the movie without a word?

And when the Joes inevitably finish their duty, where is Cobra Commander to swear his revenge? If there’s one thing “The Rise of Cobra” has on “Retaliation,” it’s a stronger sequel setup.

This feels much more like a genuine action picture than its cartoonish predecessor, but “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” still offers the same candy-coated payoff.

There’s fun to be had, and for a moment, you may once again feel that sense of awe you had when you were 8 years old watching your favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

But when it’s over, you’ll probably just let it go — much like those old action figures left buried in the basement.