[Review] G.I.Joe: Retaliation (2013)
We’ve seen a lot of disastrous action films as we are in an era where incorporating high amount of special effects in your movie generates more viewers. When it comes to this matter, consider Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich as the Edison and Bell of the trend. No one cares about the plot stupidity or the wooden acting when one of them is credited as a director.
Let’s just say the live-action version of GI JOE was the spiritual son of Michael Bay-ism. You can see the similarity between G.I.Joe: Rise of the Cobra (2009) and Bay’s Transformers trilogies, both adapted from long-established comicbook franchise. Both contained high-profile explosions of either a vehicle or a building every 10 minutes, fast-paced action in which no one can define who’s shooting at who, and actors who are casted not based on their acting capability but more on their six-pack abs. As a result, the 2009 G.I. Joe movie was critically panned, but nevertheless a sequel is prepared based on the ‘success’ of its predecessor.
Let’s just say this time they try hard to redeem themselves. Channing Tatum as the original film’s main character was reduced to secondary character and spoiler incoming- he got killed off in the first 20 minutes, which is basically good for business. So instead of Tatum, we now have Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock, Adrianne Palicki as the female’s lead Lady Jaye, and D.J. Cotrona as parkour master Flint. The original cast returning are Jay Park as Snake Eyes and Byung-Hun Lee as Storm Shadow, which are rivals. The plot was simple to describe to painful to go through: Cobra Commander with the help of his loyal follower Zartan (which took a disguise of the US President, played brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) was freed from the prison he was put into at the end of the first film, and successfully hijacked the US government, which all led to the purge of the JOEs and lived up to the word ‘Retaliation’. The last remaining 3 Joes are attempting a counterattack, ultimately to prevent the Cobra from ruling the world (yeah, right, in 2013..) and to save it one more time from the threat of a nuclear missile launch.
I got to say, the sequel was a hell lot better than the original. Story-wise, there’s little difference. Both has the story of a 12-year-old child who apparently reads more newspaper than he could handle, as the nation-versus-nation subplot was so cheesy and predictable: top country leaders are invited to US, bringing with them their own nuclear missile launch button stored inside a briefcase, with their respective flag on the casing. It’s more silly than intriguing, but well.. This is a Hasbro movie. What more do you expect? But the action was actually better than the original. You got some intense sword-fight between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow with less slow-mo effect, and close hand-to-hand combat between Johnson and Stevenson. The Himalayan cliff battle with ninjas swinging back and forth are the film’s greatest feat, it’s a visual we seldom gets and that was an achievement for director Jon M. Chu.
For achievement in acting, as I said above, Jonathan Pryce did an excellent job playing the good, weak side of Mr. President and the bad, humorous side of Zartan’s disguise. The lack of Tatum clearly steers the movie in a better direction, Johnson is clearly a much better actor than Tatum, and one may be surprised of how Byung-Hun Lee managed to put his character into recognition given his very limited screen time. Stevenson as Firefly looked formidable and gave away that retired US army-turned bad guy vibe which very much opposed Johnson’s all-American character. Oh, haven’t I told you Bruce Wilis had a huge part in this film as the original Joe? Let’s just say his Joe is indeed John McClane from start to finish.
Nevertheless, the film suffers from the lack of single main protagonist. For better or for worst, the original film had Duke as its main protagonist, while in the sequel, audience may find a hard time deciding who’s in charge. As a result, all the Joes feel more like cardboard characters whom the audience never feel the connection to begin with. While for the antagonist, Cobra Commander in a new black helmet was much menacing, especially with that hoarse, artificial voice of his, kinda reminds me of a legendary villain with the iconic breathing sound and all-black attires.
Let’s just say G.I.Joe: Retaliation was a worthy sequel and overally a worthy film to see, especially if you’re an action junkie or a Dwayne Johnson fan. If you enjoyed Transformers 2 and 3, this is a film not be missed.