G. I. Joe: Retaliation

wogma rating: Add to that never-watched 'To Watch' list (?) - Hardcore action buffs may want to give the big screen a shot

quick review:

Non-stop action, not particularly fun, dominates the latest G. I. Joe film, one that’s hard to take seriously. G. I. Joe: Retaliation offers nothing new, and can even get tiring because of its rapid pace that is an aural and visual assault on the viewer.

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Director: Jon M. Chu
Running time: 110 minutes
Genres: Action, Thriller
More Movie Info

The sequel to the 2009 film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, G. I. Joe: Retaliation pretty much picks up from where the previous film left off. This time though, a number of new characters join some of the old to continue the battle, not just against the Joes’ sworn enemy, the organization known as Cobra, but also a threat from within the US Government itself. A film that makes last week’s Olympus Has Fallen look like Citizen Kane, the film is not much more than a continuous series of implausible situations and action set pieces that will mostly numb you of your sensory abilities for some time, post the film.

Now, expecting logic in a G. I. Joe film is like expecting more than cow-dung from a Sajid Khan film, but what really makes it worse is that the one big draw the film had – the largest face on the posters of the film, that of Bruce Willis - is such a huge disappointment because he is hardly there in it. He breezily aces the scenes he’s in, no doubt, but it so leaves you wanting for more. The rest of the film is largely exhausting and quite predictable, both in terms of plot as well as execution.

When the President of the United States sends the G. I. Joe team on a tactical operation in Pakistan, things go awry, as the entire team is annihilated, save for Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye (none of whom appeared in the first film). What’s worse, the entire G. I. Joe outfit has been branded as traitors. It is up to the survivors to erase the blot on the name of their dead compatriots, and to hunt down the people responsible for the deception.

What I have always failed to understand with these big Hollywood action extravaganzas is how the writers and directors don’t seem to feel the need to pace the film right, to give it a graph that will draw the audience in and make them feel the rise and fall in emotions, even if it is purely exhilaration from action than any real feelings towards the characters. The film maintains a breathless pace throughout, rarely taking its foot off the action pedal. The result is a film that becomes repetitive and tiresome after a while.

Also, though this could be purely subjective because of a certain image in my mind, it seemed that director Jon M. Chu is not quite up to directing large-scale action films. (Jon M. Chu directed the last two Step Up films.) Even in a film whose very foundation is suspension of disbelief, action can only truly work if the viewer can make sense of it. Retaliation’s sequences are massively mounted and some of them are actually imaginative in vision, but shoddily executed, relying on fast-moving objects and rapid cuts that distract viewers rather than involve them.

It doesn’t help that they only seem to want to cast non-actors in G. I. Joe films. Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock has a likeable presence but that’s about it. No one else comes even close to making any sort of impact, unless one counts the scenes where Adrianne Palicki, who plays Lady Jaye, wears clothes meant to show off her, let’s say, feminine side. The big disappointment, one I still can’t get over considering how large his face was splashed in the promotions of the film, was the tiny role offered to Bruce Willis. Here’s a man who knows how to kick backsides on screen, so why not use it to the full?

The film does make slightly better use of 3D than most films have so far. Largely subtle, with the odd shots of shrapnel and even people flying directly at you, the 3D doesn’t jar as much as it usually tends to. Still, I think it is about time Hollywood figures out that 3D isn’t something that really excites viewers enough to want to pay a premium and then dim your vision for it.

Not as torturous as the last Die Hard film but still nowhere close to being an exciting action film, G. I. Joe: Retaliation is really only for hardcore and exclusive action film fans. But for those like me who’ve grown up with G. I. Joe action figures and WWE, each of us has made far better action films in our heads, starring our plastic playmates, and you’re always disappointed that Dwayne Johnson doesn’t go Rock Bottom-ing and People’s Elbow-ing the bad guys.

This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Non-stop action set pieces and gun battles
  • Language: Some expletives
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A couple of scenes with a skimpily clad woman
  • Concept: G. I. Joes face a new battle, against their own leader
  • General Look and Feel: Rugged feel

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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G. I. Joe: Retaliation - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
110 minutes

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