Mark Reviews Movies

G.I. Joe: Retaliation


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-hun Lee, Ray Park, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Luke Bracey, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Arnold Vosloo

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and lanuage)

Running Time: 1:50

Release Date: 3/28/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 28, 2013

This is not the first time we have seen a movie based on a collection of toys, but it's probably the first time the characters of such a movie have had the personality of their plastic counterparts. Like its predecessor, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is inspired by action figures made popular in the 1980s, but unlike its predecessor, this entry attempts to place those characters in something resembling the real world. Whereas the first movie was more concerned with the internal politics and varying conflicts within its own fictional universe, the sequel is set on the world stage, where the assassination of the President of Pakistan and a summit on nuclear disarmament are plot points.

As for that plot, well, the opening sequence makes the most sense, and it neither has anything to do with the actual story nor makes much sense in the first place (It begins with the rescue of a defector from a North Korean prison and ends with the raising of the hero military unit's flag at the prison, which leads one character to look shocked for some unknown reason). The real plot features the familiar points. The heroes are betrayed and forced to uncover a massive conspiracy of global domination with only their wits (and a handy arsenal of military weapons they are somehow able to procure while maintaining the appearance that they're dead).

Can we talk about that plan to take over the world? It must be in the running for one of the most ineptly convoluted schemes ever imagined. You see, the G.I. Joes, led by their stalwart captain Duke (Channing Tatum), are called to a mission in Pakistan to retrieve a nuclear warhead that's about to be captured by a rogue force. They succeed but are later wiped out by a strike ordered by the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). Only Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) survive the attack and are determined to avenge their fallen comrades.

This is simple enough. The surviving Joes figure out that there's something wrong with the President's actions as of late. He's an imposter—an operative of the assumed-to-be-defeated Cobra Command named Zartan (Arnold Vosloo). His plan is to use Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), the conflicted ninja member of Cobra, to disguise himself as the Joe's silent ninja member Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and assassinate the Pakistani president in order for Storm Shadow to become imprisoned in the top-secret prison where Cobra's leader, the appropriately named Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), is being held so that he can free their leader.

This part of the plan alone raises far too many questions. Why is no one in the prison curious that a member of Cobra has disguised himself as a Joe or suspect the obvious frame job? Why does Zartan bother with this part of the plan when he, as President, could just order Cobra Commander's release? Questions like these are simply destined to confound us, and director Jon M. Chu's chaotic assembly ensures that we're kept at a distance from the movie's various action sequences, leaving us plenty of opportunities to question the logic of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's screenplay (the less said of the dialogue, the better).

To take a brief pause from Cobra's scheme (Yes, there is more to it, and it only gets more baffling), those action sequences are assaults not only on aesthetics but also on basic logistics. A few consist of people running around generic locales with no specific layout and shooting as bad guys fall amid sparks, but there's one sequence in particular that could only be accomplished in a dimension where the rules of time and space as we know them do not hold sway. It's a complicated plan (There really are no simple ones here) in which Snake Eyes (Missing is the scene where Snake Eyes—we can only assume—employs charades to coordinate his strategy) and his partner Jinx (Elodie Yung) try to capture Storm Shadow, and it involves a lot of repetitive rappelling down and swinging across mountainsides on lines that appear out of nowhere and change places on a whim (For that matter, how does the bag containing Storm Shadow's body manage to get on the zip-line after the heroes throw it off a bridge?).

The climax of G.I. Joe: Retaliation is either an inspired satirical take on the absurdity of mutually assured destruction or just the absurd end of a plan so elaborate that a team of less than 10 people can stop it with little preparation or effort. One does have to wonder why the heroes, by then knowing every detail of Cobra's plot, allow London to be turned to rubble.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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