Let’s Review GI Joe Retaliation!
As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.
Jeremiah White: Finally, after a 9-month delay and nearly 4 years since its predecessor, the second live action G.I. Joe movie has arrived. Was Retaliation worth the wait?
Jeff Hart: No, Joe! It’s terrible. It’s actually worse than Rise of Cobra.
Jeremiah White: That’s harsh, but not unwarranted. It’s a worse movie, but it’s a better G.I. Joe movie, mainly because there are vehicles that remind me of my childhood toys.
Jeff Hart: This is a movie franchise based on commercials for toys, so if Retaliation made you want to go out and buy a toy motorcycle that turns into little missiles, I guess it was somewhat successful.
Jeremiah White: I already own that. Duh.
Jeff Hart: Even by shameless cash-grab standards, Retaliation displays a brazen disregard for logic. The characters stumble from boring action sequence (explosions!) to derivative action sequence (gunkata!) while delivering some groan-worthy banter and occasionally slipping in a line of silly expository dialogue that includes phrases like ‘cyberblast.’ We’ve got to cyberblast our way out of this one, Joes! Every impediment set up for the characters is blasted through hastily, with little accord for reason, and zero stakes. The script fails on every level. Who wrote this thing?
Jeremiah White: The guys who wrote Zombieland actually.
Jeff Hart: You’re kidding!
Jeremiah White: Although in this case I’m choosing to think of them as the guy who wrote Cruel Intentions 3 and the guy who produced I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! so as to maintain my pristine opinion of Zombieland.
Jeff Hart: You’re gonna have to let go of that eventually. But it’s safe to say this script doesn’t get the same lift from its cast that Zombieland did. Hey Paramount! Next time – Woody Harrelson as Wild Bill, Emma Stone as Cover Girl and Jesse Eisenberg as Mainframe.
Jeremiah White: I’m chalking it up to studio meddling and writing by committee. There’s no way that script didn’t get overhauled multiple times. In fact, it seems like six different, lousy Joe scripts mashed up together.
Jeff Hart: It also seems like Channing Tatum is reprising his character from 21 Jump Street, so there’s that. Why is he so goofy?
Jeremiah White: I’m not sure. Was Duke like that four years ago? I can’t remember. Tatum’s bland lead performance really hurt the original. He’s improved a lot, in terms of acting and how much I like him, but he doesn’t have a large role here.
Jeff Hart: Lucky for Tatum, he gets out early! Smart move, cash that check. Picking on individual performances and character development seems almost silly with a movie this slapped together, but let’s do it anyway. How does Dwayne Johnson fair as the new lead Joe?
Jeremiah White: He’s obviously charismatic, but his catchphrase-laden performance is a very shaky foundation to build on.
Jeff Hart: Boots To Asses! TM!
Jeremiah White: Rounding out the main cast is Adrianne Palicki, whose “I want to be respected as a soldier” storyline is undercut by the frequent objectification of her body by other characters and the director. Plus her performance isn’t very good.
Jeff Hart: At least Jonathan Pryce gets to deliver some funny lines as our impostor president. And Walton Goggins gets a few scenes. He’s good in everything!
Jeremiah White: He’s a pretty crappy warden though. Which brings us to the one major element of Retaliation we haven’t talked about – ninjas! Much like its predecessor, Retaliation is totally comfortable putting the rest of the Joes back in the toy bin to explore the mythos surrounding Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. It’s disjointed, but these two give us the best action scenes, so why complain? The mountainside rappel fight is the only action scene that provides the over-the-top thrills I’d hope for from a movie based on a Saturday morning cartoon.
Jeff Hart: Why complain? I don’t know, maybe because someone thought it would be a good idea to shoe-horn in a fu manchu’d Rza as their sensei? Because, while the action sequences are alright, no one gives a shit about the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow drama? I sure haven’t been waiting four years for the payoff to this storyline. I forgot it even existed.
Jeremiah White: The Rza stunt-casting is a great example of the camp-levels GI Joe should aspire to. Like when our on-the-run Joes take up residence in an abandoned rec center. It’s totally something that would’ve happened on the cartoon!
Jeff Hart: Yeah, the campy parts sort of work and the parts “grounded in reality” (what up, North Korea!) flail more than anything else in this constantly collapsing script. Hopefully this mess flops and the franchise doesn’t receive a third chance to get it right.
Jeremiah White: C’mon! You don’t want to see Cobra Commander get more than four lines? We gotta bust that terrorist!
Jeff Hart: No thanks. Yo, Joe!
Jeremiah White: Sorry, we don’t say that anymore. We say HOOAH now.
Jeff Hart: Bleh.