With Zartan posing at the President, G.I.Joe is wiped out down to a handful of four as Cobra Commander is rescued by Storm Shadow and given the power to destroy the world. It’s up to Roadblock, Lady Jaye, Flint and Snake Eyes to make things right.
G.I.Joe was my favorite cartoon as a kid, hell, I still watch the animated movie once a year and can recite every word. For this reason I find the JOE movies a little harder to review. I view the franchise in the same light I view the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE script I read a couple years back—that got shelved. There’s the way I want to see it hit the big screen, and then there’s the inevitable way it will hit the big screen. I used to think getting something was better than nothing in this regard, but then BATMAN FOREVER came out and I quickly ate those words. Now, I try to have fun and enjoy what I get (X-MEN ORIGINS WOLVERINE is a fine example of this). G.I.JOE RETALIATION has many issues, but as an action film based upon my favorite cartoon, I can’t really complain…much.
I found the story intriguing upon viewing the initial trailer—I mean damn, it’s awfully ballsy to kill off G.I.JOE down to a handful of soldiers. This works and it doesn’t work. The call itself makes sense as Zartan’s still rocking the President’s meat suit, but from it spawns a crap load of questions that never get answered. The initial strike force they dispatch is clad full of ‘henchmen type’ soldiers, rather than the named ones we meet in the first film, so where’d they all go? What happened to the JOE base in the dessert? They say Duke’s leading the Joes now, so what happened to General Hawk—and for that matter, I hated that they killed Duke off. It’s the equivalent to making Jim turn on his team in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. These are two things that just wouldn’t ever happen in these universes.
Okay, so let’s get past all that for a second and move on to Cobra. One of the best aspects of the film came from the always cool Walton Goggins as the smooth talking Warden of a secret prison facility (housing both Destro and Cobra Commander) that’s supposed to be impenetrable as well as inescapable…unless you’re Storm Shadow. I like the whole cryosleep pod deal, but why didn’t the process work on Storm Shadow? I get this jailbreak had to happen, but I wasn’t thrilled by their decision to just leave Destro behind—or for Cobra Commander to say, “Sorry Destro, you’re out of the band.” Ouch, and sadly, the rest of Cobra Commander’s limited dialogue suffers from the same level of cheese.
What does work is the addition of The Rock. The guy’s just awesome, pure and simple. He reinvigorated the FAST & FURIOUS franchise first, and now he’s rocked the JOE universe as well. I wish the same could be said about Bruce Willis, but it can’t. What a waste. D. J. Cotrona’s Flint was nothing like his cartoon counterpart, however his parkour tactics made the action sequences better so I can live with it. Adrianne Palicki’s Lady Jaye was also a welcome addition to the team and hot as hell to boot—two words: red dress. Ray Park’s Snake Eyes felt terribly underused, which is a shame seeing as how he’s probably the second most popular JOE next to Duke and Sgt. Slaughter. Why they even bothered to add Jinx to the mix is beyond me. She said maybe two words the entire film.
G.I.JOE RETALIATION is riddled with unexplained questions, catch 22s and a myriad of ridiculousness under the skin, but on the surface it’s a hell of a fun time at the movies. I know I seem like I’m coming down hard, but for anyone who isn’t a fan of the cartoon or bathed in nostalgia, these are issues that will clearly stand out. Don’t get me wrong, visually this was a feast, from the vehicles down to the fine details like fixing Snake Eye’s mask and getting Cobra Commander’s right. I loved seeing Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow team up—it would be like seeing Sub Zero team up with Scorpion—but the reasoning is unbelievably terrible. I loved the ninja scenes in the mountains (aside from the atrocious RZA), but the whole Zartan/Storm Shadow backstory makes absolutely no sense…much like the idea of putting a red button on the control console for your end game weapon that self-destructs set weapon by simply pressing it. No code entry sequence guys? It’d be quite a shame to press that button by mistake. At the end of the day I liked the movie, and I’d be interested in another. I just hope they put some more thought into the next one rather than just slapping a bunch of random stuff together and winging it.