Following the overwhelming financial success of 2009’s GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a sequel was inevitable. Skip forward four years, and the second film in a newly formed franchise (a third is in production) is now a reality.
Picking up almost instantly from the end of the 2009 picture, Retaliation sees the White House being run by a presidential ‘clone’, of sorts. The real president is tied up in a bunker, while the imposter, a member of the villainous Cobra, wreaks havoc with the power. His main goal is to frame the Joes eliminate them from service. It’s up to Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and a small band of surviving members to clear their name and get to the truth.
If you’ve seen the first, I’d safely bet that you’ve forgotten about most of it. Director Jon Chu doesn’t care: he fails to recap information that may have been useful to know to understand what’s fully going on. It’s hardly rocket science to follow, but I spent quite a bit of time trying to remember who each character was in the first one. Sticking with the narrative, there’s something gloriously 80’s about it: in one particular sequence, the checkbox is fully ticked for a stereotype actioner for that time – good guys = American, bad guys = foreign, and it involves nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, it takes itself too seriously, and the explosions don’t let up to allow Dwayne & co to loosen up and have fun. There’s a few one-liners between Roadblock and Duke (Chaning Tatum, who makes an appearance after leading the last film), but Duke’s early exit signals the end of the humorous banter. A cameo by Bruce Willis is a missed opportunity for such dialogue, but nevertheless Willis suffices as the ‘original’ Joe.
The films outcome is never in question, but there’s some entertainment to be had in the journey. As previously mentioned, it’s a narrative you’ve seen many times before, but GI Joe: Retaliation goes one step further with the whole ‘super weapon’ scenario by actually firing one, and showing the resulting effects; in one of the most impressive visual scenes, London is absolutely decimated, much like the Eiffel Tower was in GI Joe. Another example of impressive effects is the mountainside assault – but these are the only two sequences that exhibit any real flare or imagination. As for the acting, Johnson certainly fits the role physically but he comes across as too serious for what the film requires. Furthermore, the focus is solely on him, and this makes the other Joes appear expendable.
Overall though, GI Joe: Retaliation is a perfectly acceptable slice of action cinema. It’s a cut above the film that preceded it, but unlike GI Joe, it takes itself too serious, and would have benefited from basking in its own silliness.