Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Movie Review--G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Finally got out to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation last week, and I gotta say that I liked it.  I don't know that it was necessarily more fun than the first movie was, but it certainly made more sense and was ten times more authentically military than was that first flick.  And considering that they dropped Rachel Nichols in favor of Adrianne Palicki... I mean, that was a tough sell in my book.  But Palicki definitely proved that she was the better action actress.

Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye.
As an aside, I feel bad for Nichols.  Rise of Cobra and Conan both failed back in 2011, and she's now stuck on the Syfy Original Series Continuum--where they have her cast as the lead/MILF--but hey, at least we still get to see her, right?  That something, anyway.

At any rate, Retaliation starts off nicely.  The Joes are America's elite special operations unit, complete with goofy codenames.  They're led by Duke (an Army Captain played by Channing Tatum), and if you ask me Tatum is very good.  He has a macho believability as the leader of the Joes, and he's got excellent comic timing with Dwayne Johnson, who's playing his First Sergeant, codename Roadblock.  By the end of the movie, Roadblock has somehow gotten a battlefield promotion to Sergeant Major, but whatever.  I mean, that's weird, but it's hardly the weirdest thing we're going to see here.

The movie really starts when Pakistan comes apart due to internal chaos, and the Joes are sent in to secure the country's nuclear weapons.  This actually turns out to be one single nuclear warhead, but that detail aside, the scene where the Joes secure the weapons facility and the warhead itself is definitely on of the two best scenes in the movie.  But then the Joes are ambushed, Duke is killed, and suddenly this is the story of that time that Roadblock became the leader of G.I. Joe.

So yeah, The Rock is your star.  Probably should've seen that one coming.

It's annoying, though, because as much as like Johnson, he was a better Roadblock when he had Tatum's Duke to use as a straight-man/expositional mouthpiece.  And there was no good reason to kill off Duke because the story is basically just a re-imagining of the new G.I. Joe cartoon series Renegades.  Which is to say that it has the same plot as the old A-Team TV series, i.e. the Joes are outlawed for a crime they didn't commit, but they are trying to save the world anyway.

Duke would've been fine as a part of that.  He certainly works as the leader of the team in Renegades.

But whatever.  You've got the Rock, you want to use him as the primary mover in your story; I guess I can live with it.  The problem, though, is that the Joe team basically breaks down two ways.  It's either Duke and Scarlett and a bunch of secondary cast members, or it's Flint and Lady Jaye and a different bunch of cast members.  So this story is gonna be a Flint/Lady Jaye joint, that's fine.  But then they should have cast the Rock as Flint.  I mean, yeah, the Rock is Samoan  and Flint is a regular white guy, but it doesn't change the fact that he spends the entire movie doing Flint's job, i.e. leading the team in Duke's absence.

From left to right: Duke, Snake Eyes, Roadblack, Scarlett, and Flint.
As it is, we have Roadblock, the First Sergeant, taking over for Duke when Lady Jaye and the actual Flint are both just standing there, and I found it weird.  I found it weird in a G.I. Joe sense, and I found it weird in a military sense because Lady Jaye is a Marine First Lieutenant in our story and was therefore the logical second-in-command.  Flint, meanwhile, is a total non-entity.  As a character in this particular story, he was fine.  But why call him Flint?

Does this look like Flint to you?  
The rest of the movie is kind of a mixed bag.  Ray Park (i.e. Darth Maul) plays Snake Eyes, and truly, I could watch that guy play a ninja every day of the week and twice on Saturdays.  The scene where he and Jinx are fighting either The Hand or the Foot Clan on the side of a mountain is the coolest thing I've seen in a movie in quite a while.  On the other hand, I thought the movie ended kind of abruptly, with the final fight scene seeming more than a little anti-climactic given what we'd seen earlier in the film.

So, bottom line, I liked G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Some of it was very cool, and all of it was entertaining.  I would personally liked to have seen some of the story rearranged a little bit, but I suppose you can't have everything.  And as it is, it at least seems likely that we'll get some more G.I. Joe movies in the future.  That's a good thing.

Final thought: if you're looking to read up on G.I. Joe, let me recommend the collections of the Marvel comics from the 1980s, currently available on Comixology from IDW.  They're $9.99 for ten issues.  That's more than 250 pages!  The newer stuff from IDW is also supposed to be good, too, but I haven't personally read any of that stuff yet.


  1. Oh man, Tony, I was trying to reply to your comment and I accidentally deleted it. Argh! If there's a way to get it back, I sure don't know what it is.

    Anyway, you're the second person today to recommend "GI Joe:Cobra" from IDW, so I'll definitely have to check that out.

    1. Tony Laplume originally said:

      "Read DDP's G.I. Joe: America's Elite, and then IDW's Cobra. That's good stuff. The DDP was a continuation of the old continuity before Larry Hama himself did that with IDW. The Cobra comics are awesome in their own right."

    2. And I see that you started reading. You should now be properly hooked...

    3. My favorite thing about the comics is the way they make Cobra this really scary, really high-tech group. They actually have BETTER tech than the Joes (and the US gov't), and it gives the series a kind of paranoia that I think has largely been lost since the end of the Cold War and the Soviet-era thrillers of yesteryear.