Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a huge G.I. Joe fan. I loved the toys and the cartoon and the animated movie. My favorite incarnation, however, has to be the 2009 animated serial G.I. Joe Resolute. It was adult, serious, and had probably the best interpretation of Cobra Commander I have ever seen. That same year, a live action movie came out, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. I was super excited to see all of my favorite characters on screen, especially Cobra Commander.
It flat out sucked, there is no questioning it. They cast Channing “No Personality” Tatum as Duke and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Cobra Commander. It was poorly acted, had a terrible story, made terrible jokes and strayed so far from the source material that it might as well have been called Generic Action Movie Number 538. So you can guess that I wasn’t very thrilled when they announced a sequel was being made. However, I watched the trailer and it looked like a step up from the first one. Cobra Commander looked better, it looked like Tatum was barely in the movie and I found out the writers of Zombieland wrote this one.
Was this movie better than the first one though? Well…yes, it was much much better, but to be honest, that isn’t saying much. The story revolves around the only four active Joes who are still alive after they are wiped out by a military strike ordered by a Cobra Operative masquerading as the president, played by Jonathan Pryce. Guess who didn’t survive? That’s right, mister block of wood himself, thank God. Those left alive are Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Flint and Roadblock, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I suspect this was a clever way to get rid of the actors who didn’t want to come back considering Channing Tatum is the only actor from the first movie who reprises his role. So they go on a journey to avenge their fallen brothers. Snake Eyes, on the other hand, is on a mission to find Storm Shadow to bring him to justice for killing their mentor, the Hard Master. They also have a run in with Cobra’s expert saboteur, Firefly, played by Ray Stevenson.
After reviewing a lot of the president’s mannerisms, Lady Jaye comes to the conclusion that he is actually an imposter. Although, the way she does this seems very odd, and kind of convoluted. But at least the other characters point out how weird her tactics are. So, in order to take down this imposter of a president, they go to the man who the GI Joes are named after: General Joseph Colton, played by Bruce Willis. He is basically your stereotypical “this man’s army, hoo-ah” American soldier. They devise a plan to infiltrate Washington DC and the nuclear summit in Fort Sumper, South Carolina. That’s where I have another problem with the story. We never actually know what Cobra’s endgame is until late into the film. They take over Washington DC and then are thwarted 10 minutes later. It would have been far more interesting if they had had Cobra take over in the very beginning. Ultimately, Zartan, disguised as the president. coerces all of the world leaders to disarm all of their nuclear devices so they can put Project Zeus into effect, which will help them rule the world. The Joes come in, explosions happen, and the day is saved.
Okay, let’s be honest, we aren’t going to The Dark Knight level quality film making with a G.I. Joe movie, and we shouldn’t expect that. This is just supposed to be a dumb fun action flick. The problem is that the story crams as much as it can into an hour and a half that it feels bloated. It also feels like a significant amount of scenes were cut out of this film. The editing is very choppy and plot threads get wrapped up too quickly. Like Storm Shadow being brought before Blind Master, played by RZA and revealing it was Zartan who killed Hard Master. By the way, RZA really needs to just stick to rapping and making terrible Kung Fu films because he is a terrible actor. I think a lot of the movie was cut out so that they could add in new scenes with Channing Tatum before he dies. Woo.
I will say this much, this felt a lot more like a G.I. Joe movie and less like a generic action flick. Jon Chu, despite his body of work, really seems like a big fan of the source material. As much as I love Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, this was not their best work, and it felt a lot more like the studio wrote more of the script than they did. I have a sinking feeling that if there is a sequel to this film that it will be the best of the three films. Why? Because this one had all the potential to be a great GI Joe film, but due to some lackluster performances and terrible editing issues it was only mediocre.
While not a perfect film my any means, it is much better than its predecessor. It had more fun moments and less cringe worthy dialogue. Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Ray Stevenson seems to be having the most fun in this movie, everyone else is just phoning it in, especially Tatum and Willis. The writing is not that great, but it isn’t terrible either. The action scenes are fun and will leave you on the edge of your seat, without being too stupid. For what it is, it does its job. We give G.I. Joe: Retaliation 7 nanites out 10.