G.I. Joe Retaliation 3D Review
A Real American Zero.
So walking into the film I chatted a bit with a theater manager I know from having seen pretty much every movie they have shown for the last two years and he said of G.I. Joe “Terrible. Almost so bad it’s good.” The tragic part was after I watched it I realized the operative part of that statement was the word almost. For a movie to be so bad it’s good (Plan 9, the Room, Battlefield Earth) there is a certain required amateur flavor to it. If a film is terrible but kind of looks like it was filmed on a cheap VHS, or the blood looks like Kool Aid, or the monster looks like John Travolta in a rubber suit part of the appeal is imagining that the film makers get it and are in on the joke. While this may or may not be true you really can’t appreciate the Rocky Horror Picture Show without thinking that you are on the inside of a big movie prank.
When a movie is highly polished with flawless camera work and CGI but is still terrible all you have left is the terrible. Good recent examples of this include Green Lantern and Jack and Jill and now, unfortunately, G.I. Joe Retaliation. Not that this movie is on that level of awful (i.e. so bad you wish the local sewer main would burst open and drop you into the fetid darkness rather than keep watching). Some of it is actually entertaining in the typical Hollywood-any-movie-with-enough-guns-and-bombs-in-it-doesn’t-need-a-story sort of way. It’s just that as bad as the film is it’s too polished to qualify in the so-bad-it’s-good category.
Another problem plaguing this film is it is the sequel to another less than stellar movie. The first G.I. Joe movie was lame and riddled with plot holes (for the record ice floats in water. It specifically does not sink to the bottom of the ocean and crush underwater Cobra bases). This film might have been a great chance to reinvent the franchise TWOK style but instead they just ran the concept through worn out gears of the Hollywood movie grinder and came out with this dross. I will say they managed to keep the feel of the actual cartoon slightly better for most of this movie, but I’d bet something like 80% of the cartoons had better, more original stories.
I would like to ask a question important to anyone who is interested in world domination (like me) and that is what kind of recruitment program does Cobra have? I was watching a fight scene with a bunch of red ninjas and dozens of them were throwing themselves off cliffs and into the swords of clearly superior adversaries in the advancement of the Cobra Commander agenda. What kind of incentive could Cobra have to get the kind of loyalty needed to convince guys to use swords when guns are literally all over the place and go suicide zip lining to the same death that just killed the last 10 guys who did it? A huge pot of gold? A piece of the true cross? Mila Kunis’ home phone number? Later on the Cobra tech crew is happily killing millions of innocent people as a demonstration of Cobra’s new weapon and I couldn’t help but think “Do none of these guys have families or a conscious?” They just nuked (sort of) the entire city of London and killed millions of civilians and not one of them thought to raise his hand and say “Have we really explored all non-mega-murder options in our pursuit of world domination?”
When you see a lot of movies you tend to notice stupid trends. As soon as you hear about a move about an asteroid destroying the planet you can count on four other films that will all have asteroids, dramatic climate changes, or just Mayan predictions destroying the world in the same six month time period. This is good evidence that most of Hollywood is comprised of cockroaches feeding on each others filth (at least as far as creativity goes) and G.I. Joe has fallen into that sinkhole. The story is about a terrorist organization taking over the White House and using the President to destroy nuclear weapons. Geez, didn’t we just see Olympus has Fallen? There’s some other White House related film coming out soon (White House Down, which is completely, totally a different title than Olympus has Fallen) so I’m giving this film a D- for originality. Also, given the amount of security surrounding the President and the known competence of the Secret Service the very idea of someone just “taking over” has to be extremely well portrayed or else the whole concept will be ludicrous.
Ludicrous is a good word to describe a lot of this movie. Do the writers really think that the leaders of the nuclear powers go to a summit and carry with them their launch briefcases, or that all the nuclear weapons the USA and all the rest of the countries have can be self destructed with the touch of a single button in the same exact briefcase? What if the President were suffering from a bad insulin reaction on launch day and just flipped the wrong switch? Also, science called and wanted me to tell you that while a tungsten rod shot from space would hit really hard it would have to be either freaking huge or going insanely fast to do the kind of damages shown. F=MA (Force, Mass, Acceleration) you hack writers.
Anyway, the story. Someone has assassinated the leader of Pakistan and it’s up to G.I. Joe to go in and capture nuclear weapons before they go rogue. While shooting a bunch of hapless Pakistanis it is established that the President (Jonathan Pryce-Brazil, Tomorrow Never Dies, Pirates of the Caribbean) has been replaced by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo-Blood Diamond, the Mummy, Chuck) who is using nanobot technology to change his appearance in a special effect so lifted from X-Men you can almost see the suture scars. There is some stuff beforehand establishing that shortest man character ever Duke (Channing Tatum-the Vow, Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson-Snitch, Journey 2: Mysterious Island, Fast Five) are like best friends. Zartan calls in an airstrike and kills all of the Joes except for Roadblock, Flint (D.J. Cotrona-Venom, Windfall, Dear John), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki-Red Dawn, Friday Night Lights, Legion).
The three make it back to the US somehow (I guess they found a plane or something?) and try to hook up with Snake Eyes, who is off doing his own sub plot with Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee-the Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil). Cobra Commander and Destro are in some kind of suspended animation prison so Storm Shadow pretends to be Snake Eyes, kills the Pakistani leader to get this thing going, and gets captured so he can find out where they are being held. They escape with the help of Firefly (Ray Stevenson-Book of Eli, Thor, Punisher War Zone) and some exploding-butt mechanical fire flies. For some reason Cobra Commander leaves Destro in the hoosegow. I guess they figured the movie was already too rich in excellent G.I. Joe characters.
The story kind of jumbles together. Somehow the Secret Service are again incompetent morons and all it takes to get next to the President is a single phone call from some drunk guy. The three Joe’s hook up with their former commander General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis-Die Hard, the Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction) and try to prove the President is an imposter. They discover his secret Cobra plot (destroy the worlds nuclear weapons then blackmail all the governments with a space based kinetic energy weapon). The Joe’s go against astronomical odds and kill a ton of Cobra guys. Stuff gets blown up, guys get killed (maybe), and other guys get beat up. The end.
For some inexplicable reason I like Dwayne Johnson. I guess I think he has a good sense of humor and is the kind of guy I could grab a beer with. One star. The movie stayed more true to the original cartoon and with the exception of the exploding butt flies and a couple other things didn’t stray too far into sci fi fantasy land like the last one did. One star. The girl was pretty easy on the eyes and managed to find an excuse to wear the most amazing hot pants in the history of shorts. One star. I keep saying this for bad action movies but if all you want is mindless violence this film has you covered. One star. Some of the action was pretty entertaining in a stupid way. One star. I can’t say the film was a total waste of time. One star. Total: six stars.
The black holes:
If you are a fan of good stories, plot twists, or the narrative process don’t watch this film with any sharp objects nearby. One black hole. Some pretty impressive plot holes, and that whole “how do you motivate guys to commit mass murder” question. One black hole. This might sound petty but as a fan of the cartoon I am really pissed they wrote Destro out of the movie. To me Cobra Commander was always more of a comic relief than anything else and Destro was the coolest Cobra (Cobra Commander image courtesy of the TV Show T Shirts). Could they not find a bald guy willing to wear silver spray paint? One black hole. Once again a movie showing the US Secret Service to be the short bus riders of protection. If you want to see a movie that shows them as cool and competent watch In the Line of Fire with Clint Eastwood. One black hole. What sci fi they added to the movie all kind of bugged me. Giant explosions from tiny little robots, motorcycles that break up into guided missiles, and the tungsten rail gun thing (if you can see the rod moving it’s not traveling fast enough to do a lot of damage). One black hole. I could literally see the PG-13 rating dragging the action down like an anchor, and a lot of it got super dumb. One black hole. The Bruce Willis character felt really forced in, like a fifth wisdom tooth you never had removed. One black hole. The whole Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes sub plot was out of place, and if you had not seen the first movie or were not a fan of the cartoon you would not have had any idea what the hell was going on. Plus a couple other sub plots that went nowhere and added nothing. One black hole. The real issue for me here is G.I. Joe was always about teamwork and in this movie they killed off most of the team and created four (five if you count Bruce Willis) individual action heroes. G.I. Joe was never about a single guy (or girl). One black hole. Total: nine black holes.
So a grand total of three black holes. Not great, but still entertaining if you go expecting the right things. What bugs me is as a fan of G.I. Joe it would not have taken a lot to make me happy. I honestly think it was a mistake to cast big names like Bruce or Dwayne. Oh, well. See it if you are a fan or just want to be entertained by guns and explosions. Date movie? Not at all. More girls have watched Star Trek in their lives than a G.I. Joe cartoon, and you will lose massive credibility. Bathroom break? The scene towards the end when they are planning the big attack on the peace summit (why does that sentence amuse me?) is a pretty good place. The film seems longer than it’s 110 minutes (I almost gave them a hole for bad pacing but it wasn’t horrible) so you will probably need it.
Thanks for reading. More to see this weekend including the Evil Dead. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Post comments on this movie or my review here. Off topic question or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get a chance check out Harbinger Wars, a comic by the people at a publishing company called Valiant. I met them at Wonder Con and they seemed cool. Talk to you soon.
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