“We’re the Four fuckin’ Horsemen / Back for a second time.”
G.I. JOE: Retaliation (2013)
Directed by Jon M. Chu
I’m sorry if you saw the first movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). That lowly turd of a film is one that I own, but can only sit through by splitting it into two or more sittings. Never in one. I saw it this way recently, and I managed to make it through. The movie was crap, and so was the toyline that went with it. All garbage. I don’t care to review the movie again, so to quote from my own old Amazon 2/5 star writeup:
The acting here is bad bordering on terrible. This Channing Tatum guy can’t act at all. Dennis Quaid pours the cheeze-wiz on every line of dialogue that General Hawk delivers. Marlon Wayons (Rip Cord), Rachel Nichols (Scarlet), and Sienna Miller (Baroness) are passable. The heavies tend to get the best roles and the best actors: Arnold Vosloo (Zartan) steals every scene he is in, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is surprisingly serpentine as Cobra Commander. Christopher Eccleston is good as the Scottish arms dealer Destro, just menacing enough while also dignified and cool. Also, it’s nice to see Jonathan Pryce in anything…The direction by that hack Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) is gawd-awful.
Pryce was in the first movie far too briefly to be of any consequence to the finished product. That and many of the other weaknesses with the first film were dealt with here in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Most of the cast was jettisoned. Wisely, Ray Park and Lee Byung-hun were retained as the iconic ninjas Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. Cobra Commander was re-cast (Gordon-Levitt being unnecessary and expensive behind a silver mask). Otherwise only Pryce, Arnold Vosloo and Channing Tatum survive to the second film. Even though Dennis Quaid was contracted to do three movies, leadership has fallen to Tatum’s Duke. Newcomers include Duke’s buddy Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and new recruits Jady Jaye, Flint, and Jinx.
Another issue that I had with the first film was that I felt the tech was too sci-fi and outlandish. This is tamed down a tad in this movie, although everything is still futuristic enough. The bad guys don’t all have ray guns and anti-gravity jets and shit this time. They usually fire bullets and fly helicopters and jets and stuff. The characters and vehicles look more like the original toys did. There are things such as the HISS (High Speed Sentry) tanks that look like the toys you had. Roadblock looks like the figure you had, or wanted (in my case the latter). So does Cobra Commander, finally.
Anyway that’s all window dressing if there’s no story. The story is this: Master of disguise Zartan is still impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce, who is the real star of the movie). Cobra Commander and Destro are still imprisoned, but the Commander is freed by his ninja Storm Shadow. With the explosives expert Firefly (another toy you wanted), they engineer the betrayal and destruction of the entire G.I. Joe team. Only a handful survive. Then the President replaces them with the services of a new security contractor called Cobra.
There’s also a new Ultimate Weapon called Zeus which is pretty silly physics-wise, because in real life it wouldn’t work. (If a satellite merely “dropped”, ie: let go of, a rod of tungsten, the tungsten would simply settle into the same orbit as the satellite.) We’ll overlook this because BOOM! DADOOOM! KABLAAAMM! SLASH! SWISH! SWING! There’s action. There’s a frickin’ battle with ninjas hanging off the side of a mountain, people. It makes no sense in any sort of real physical way but it looks nifty and must have looked great in 3D in theaters. I found it odd that the G.I Joe team is the only military force in the world today operating without any sort of helmet or hat or head gear of any kind.
Back to the story, G.I. Joe has been wiped out. The Rock and his friends need help, so they go to the only man they know they can trust: Bruce Willis. In the original Marvel comics and Hasbro toyline (fuck Sunbow), Joe Colton was the original, retired G.I. Joe. In fact his code name was “G.I. Joe”. Willis is the perfect choice to play this hard-ass and I have to admit it’s big fun to see him and the Rock kicking ass in the same scenes.
As a self-proclaimed Marvel Comics Joe nerd, the original gospel of Larry Hama is all. I enjoyed that this movie tended to go back to the original source material for ideas more so than the original film did. I won’t get into specifics too much, except to say that certain things especially in relation to Snakes and Stormy reflect events that happened in the comics. Staying truer to the strong source material (Hama was no slouch) only helps the movie which otherwise is just a collage of BOOM!
As for the Blu-ray, I was pleased to hear a balanced 7.1 surround mix. I was a bit baffled to hear The Four Horsemen’s “Back In Business Again” in the movie soundtrack, but more power to ’em. I didn’t watch too many of the special features. I did watch both versions of the film (the “Extended Action Cut” is on the Blu and the theatrical on the DVD) but I don’t have any impressions of which is better. Most recently I watched the extended version and it was plenty cool.