For many, making a G.I. Joe movie is treading on holy ground. The property is such an important part of many people’s lives that countless fans condemn any film that carries the title, fearing that it will soil the good name of the Joes. For many, 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra confirmed this fear. Despite this, the studio moved forward with a sequel. Thankfully, that sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, delivers plenty of Grade A butt-kicking and tons of explosions, as well as fun characters and a personality that its predecessor lacked.
After a fatal airstrike, three Joes remain. Together with the elusive Snake Eyes and his companion, Jinx, they must thwart a plot that not only threatens to topple the U.S, government, but also puts the entire planet at stake.
Dwayne Johnson leads a cast that includes Bruce Willis as Joe Colton, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, and other notables. For the most part, the cast accomplishes what they were brought on screen to do: beat the hell out of bad guys, blow stuff up, and that’s about it. The only stand-out is Lee Byung-hun, who portrays the lethal warrior Storm Shadow. Not only are we treated to some truly incredible fight scenes featuring the character, but we also get an explanation for why he is who he is. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting any kind of character development, so when the filmmakers spent more time on Storm Shadow, I was beyond pleased. It added another three feet to this kiddie pool of a movie, making it more fun and easier to connect with a character I despised in the first film.
The film’s strongest aspect is its playful personality. The hilarious exchanges between Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock(Johnson) and one of the Joes discovering a grenade hidden in a basket of limes are just two examples of how the film has its fun. That’s the beauty of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It knows what it is and has fun with it, never making an attempt to be more or less than what it is.
The film’s action sequences are spectacular, with one in particular standing out above all the others. The scenes involving Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes alone are worth the price of admission, adding tension to a movie lacking in the emotion and character departments.
On the flip side, it suffers from erratic pacing and a rushed climax that might leave viewers underwhelmed and slightly cheated. There is literally no build-up to the film’s final act, so as I was watching what appeared to be a filler fight scene I realized with a jolt that it was the climax. This flaw isn’t too glaring, but it might distract the pickier and more observant moviegoers who want an ending that leaves them winded and wanting more.
In the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is an action movie that manages to stand out above many others that essentially do the same thing. It injects personality and fun into an otherwise hollow film, all while keeping the explosions and sword fights intact. Bring on part three.