Review: GI Joe: Retaliation

THE SETUP: Action figures from the 80s come to life to fight their arch-nemesis (or is this nemisi?), avenge their dead, clear their names, battle ninjas and fight the U.S. president. Hey, they aren’t called “action” figures for nothing.

THE THOUGHTS:  I need to get two things off my chest. 1) I grew up with GI Joe…the toys, the TV show and yes, even the animated movie with Don Johnson in it. I have a soft spot for the “Greatest American Heroes”. 2) I didn’t like the first movie GI Joe: Rise of Cobra. Sure there were moments but the Baroness/Duke/Cobra Commander storyline was brutally bad. Brutally. Add Marlon Wayans who was there to be comic relief (but wasn’t funny) and it was a pretty big waste of time. Thankfully they did get a few things right and the director brought those along for this sequel.

THE YAYS: I can’t believe I’m going to say this…the actors. The cast was great in their roles, completely understanding what this movie was and having a bit of fun doing it. Whether it was Jonathan Pryce gleefully playing an evil president, Dwayne Johnson bringing much needed seriousness and strength to the movie or Luke (don’t worry, you’ve never heard of him) Bracey playing a menacing Cobra Commander. The played it straight with very little “tongue in cheek” and one-liners. The movie benefited from it. Also, I want to give big points to casting for including Walter Goggins as a prison warden. I’m a bit of a fan of his work in Justified and he doesn’t disappoint here either. Now I want my Warden Nigel James movie.

If you see a movie about action figures, you’re going to want to see some action. And it does just fine here. There are ninja fights, very GI Joe-inspired military vehicles blowing stuff up, fun shoot-em ups and old-fashioned fistfights, all well executed. The mountainside sword ballet definitely comes to mind as a highlight. Wow, I’m making this sound like a pretty violent flick for a PG movie.

THE NAYS: Character develop-what-now? What you see is definitely what you get for a GI Joe movie. (But then what were you expecting?) The characters are the same from beginning to end, though we learn a little of their backgrounds, it doesn’t really show any deep emotional anything. It moved the story along but not the audience’s investment in the actual people.

And it brought nothing new to the action genre. After watching the movie, though I did enjoy it, I had a pretty firm “meh” feeling. I had seen all this before. Even the cool visuals were shown in the far crappier first movie so it didn’t have that going for it. Maybe I’m asking for too much.

2 stars – it’s a renter.
If you’re looking for a healthy dose of GI Joe nostalgia, then you’ll like this movie. If you’re just going for a good popcorn action flick, you could do a lot worse. And remember, Bruce Willis can be fun in small doses.  At least he is as the original Joe.

Random Recommendations
The Wedding Singer (1998) – Wow, bet you didn’t see that one coming? Well, when you think about movies based on 80s nostalgia, it might make sense (and believe me, I couldn’t find any good movies based on toys). The story of Robbie Hart and his pursuit of love while mixing it up with bright neons, Don Johnson references (wow, 2 of those in this blog) and Culture Club sing-alongs is a pretty great one. It’s not only a salute to the decade but a fun romantic comedy.

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