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G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Dishonorably discharged [REVIEW]

Posted by on March 28, 2013 – 12:01 am

G.I. Joe: RetaliationA note to G.I. Joe fans: Let me put a couple of things in perspective before I draw your ire and waterboard threats. I know very little about Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy characters, cartoons or comics. I had an old-school 12-inch astronaut G.I. Joe figure when I was a kid (complete with Apollo space capsule) and did serve twelve years in the actual military, but that was long before faceless ninjas became a part of the toy line. I respect and admire your love for this fantasy military franchise, but nevertheless this review is from the perspective of someone who just doesn’t get it.

We live in a world where toys, video games and even board games can serve as inspiration for books, comics and films – or maybe the inspiration is just to capitalize on every penny that can possibly be squeezed out of our childhood memories. Sometimes this type of nostalgic genre greediness works, (I loved last summer’s Battleship movie) and sometimes it fails miserably (see the Super Mario Bros. movie), but in the case of the new G.I. Joe: Retaliation film, the comic book style plot is just chaotic confusion for those not thoroughly versed in snake-eyed shadow warrior speak.

If the goal of screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (both of Zombieland fame) was to write a story from the perspective of couple of kids playing with their toys in the sandlot, then I think they succeeded marvelously; because this movie plays as if it was written by children who missed their daily dose of Ritalin.

Here’s the story in a nutshell as best I can decipher it. It begins with the G.I. Joe team rescuing a prisoner from some foreign military compound. Who the prisoner is or why the soldiers are concerned, I couldn’t tell you. Next the “Joes” are off to capture nuclear warheads from Pakistan before they fall into the wrong(er) hands. Again, what this has to do with the rest of the movie is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, the voiceless and faceless ninja Joe, Snake Eyes, is captured by some evil baddies for some nefarious purpose, but it turns out that the prisoner is not really Snake Eyes at all, but Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) – whom I’m not sure whether he is a bad guy or a good guy or just plays both ends against the middle.

G.I. Joe: RetaliationThe Joe team is then attacked while awaiting transport in the Pakistani desert and all the team members are killed except for Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona). (That’s right ladies [Spoiler Alert], Duke (Channing Tatum) doesn’t survive past the first 15 minutes of the movie.) The three survivors hoof it out of the desert and head for the only man they can trust, General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). But wait, wasn’t Snake Eyes (Ray Park) the only one they could trust? Who knows?

The President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) is actually the evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) in disguise who has an elaborate plan to trick all of the world’s leaders into blowing up their respective country’s nuclear arsenal so that the Cobra organization can take over the world — and it’s up to the handful of remaining Joes to stop them.

There are so many ninjas in this movie (including RZA as a blind karate master of some type) that I completely lost track of who was good and who was bad. One of the film’s only redeeming action sequences is an elaborate ninja battle on the side of cliff. It’s a very cool visual but in the 3D screening I attended the 3D effects were so bad it ruined all the fun. I don’t recommend this movie at all, but if you must see it I suggest skipping the 3D version as the three-dimensional visual effects are horrendous.

The convoluted plot of G.I. Joe: Retaliation is so crazy that at one point real-life democratic political analyst James Carville even appears in the movie as himself, as if that bit of absurdity would add some kind of weight to this ridiculous dud of a movie. And speaking of absurdity, hundreds of people are killed in this film but nary is a drop of blood ever spilt. I know the film is geared towards kids and a PG-13 rating, but the violence without the requisite blood just added to the bizarre tone of this movie.

G.I. Joe: RetaliationG.I. Joe: Retaliation was directed by Jon M. Chu, whose previous work includes Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and the Step Up dance movie sequels. How that previous experience qualified him to helm a big budget action flick is a mystery, but in the context of how ludicrous this movie is, I guess Paramount Pictures’ directorial choice makes perfect sense.

The ultimate sin in this film is that it completely left out the Glitch Mob remix of the White Stripes’ tune “Seven Nation Army” that was featured so prominently in its original trailer. With that gone the only redeeming thing left in this movie is that Adrianne Palicki (Lady Jaye) is very easy on the eyes; but even that is ruined in a scene where she describes how she longs to be respected as a woman in the military, at the same time that she is gratuitously disrobing. Nice writing, Zombieland guys.

I was really looking forward to this film and although it has been mired in some controversy, regarding being bumped from its original release date last summer for reshoots to include more footage of Channing Tatum (now that he’s a big star) and to change the film up to its now ultra-crappy 3D version, I had high hopes this would be a fun movie. Instead it’s one of the most tedious films I’ve sat through in a long time.

Photos © 2013 Paramount Pictures

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