Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

It’s not every day that you get such a perfect example of sequelitis.

While G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra wasn’t a particularly stellar film in its own right, at the very least it managed to be a pretty solid action movie and had enough big scenes to at least distract you for its two hour running time.

Whatever The Rise of Cobra had, Retaliation didn’t.

Personally, I liked a lot of the protagonists in the first movie. For whatever reason, they only managed to get Duke and Snake-Eyes back, although they (spoiler) managed to kill off the first (/spoiler) and the second is just a man in a suit. Without dialog and without the all-consuming rivalry with Storm Shadow, there just isn’t much to him… On the villain’s side, they did keep Cobra Commander (although they swapped out the actor…) and Jonathan Pryce did a good enough job as the President (real and fake; although the scenes with both just felt weird). Still, when you can’t / don’t get back a large majority of the original cast for a sequel–and don’t even both to answer why in canon–that’s never a good sign.

Then there was the split plotline. Throughout most of the movie, there are parallel plot-lines following Roadblock and the few remaining Joes (Didn’t it seem suspiciously easy to kill them this time around? What happened to that huge underground base?) in one case and Snake Eyes and Jinx in the other. Jinx really highlighted the other side of the problem with an all new cast. I could barely figure out who each of the new characters was supposed to be. They felt more like a transparent shout out to characters from the old days of G.I. Joe, but for someone with only two movies as a guide–I just didn’t care.

Also, it seems like not only did Storm Shadow not die in the previous film, but they’ve rewritten his backstory. (spoiler) One would think that if Storm Shadow hadn’t actually killed their master they might have at least hinted at it before now… (/spoiler) Really, it just seems like they had bits and pieces of two films, but not enough for either to stand on its own, so they sort of shoved them together.

Finally, there were the action scenes themselves. Perhaps memory is granting The Rise of Cobra the benefit of the doubt, but I remember it as a sequence of big battles in exciting locations with lots of collateral damage. They had a massive undersea battles and blew up an ice sheet ((Although the ice sinking doesn’t make the least bit of sense…)) in the finale for crying out loud! In Retaliation, everything just seems smaller and more personal. Except that’s just not what I’m looking for in a film like this. It’s the same problem I had with the new new James Bond–if I wanted a smaller, more personal movie, I wouldn’t be looking for an action film.

Overall, I wanted to like this movie. I just didn’t. Really, I can’t name a single film that I’ve seen this year yet that I liked less. I guess it’s not terrible, given what else is in theaters right now, but there are still better options. Jack the Giant Slayer even–and I wouldn’t have believed that two weeks ago… So it goes. Someone has to be on the bottom.