Movie Review: "G.I. Joe: Retaliation"
Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of combat violence, martial arts action throughout, language, brief sexuality)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2012
Directed by: John M. Chu
Stars: 3 out of 5
In "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," released in 2009, the world was in danger because of a substance called nanomite that could be put on the head of nuclear warheads, allowing them to melt metal and cause more destruction. The plan to launch a set of nuclear warheads was thwarted, but apparently, not for good. In 2012's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," the nanomite-laced warheads are back. Only this time, the nefarious shadow group called Cobra plans to use a new program to induce global domination with the nukes. They don't care how many lives they have to take, and they blow up the entire city of London to prove that they mean business.
After Cobra's defeat in the first film, the villainous team regrouped to figure out how to eliminate the G.I. Joes, who are the only real threat to their plan. Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) has a somewhat creepy ability to impersonate another human, and he has turned himself into a passable doppelganger for the United States President (Jonathan Pryce). He concocts a plan to send the G.I. Joes on a military mission to the Middle East, where they will be ambushed and slaughtered. Meanwhile, Zartan will take over as the President, allowing him access to the entire U.S. military and nuclear arsenal. He succeeds wildly and eliminates most of the G.I. Joes, with the exception of Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson, "The Rock"), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona). When the trio realizes what has happened to them, they reach out to one of the original G.I. Joes, a legendary warrior named Colton (Bruce Willis), to help them stop Cobra, clear their names and save the world at the same time.
What follows is a whole lot of fighting, including both heavy weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. As the four G.I. Joes get closer to their ultimate goal, the plans they uncover reach far beyond what they initially thought, which makes their mission nearly impossible. Of course, if they quit because the goal is unattainable, they will be arrested for treason. They choose to fight on, knowing that the only two possible outcomes are exoneration or death. The action sequences are some of the most daring in recent memory, helping the audience to understand just how risky the entire operation is for the G.I. Joes.
The film was originally supposed be released in the summer of 2012. At that time, it would have faced off against box office heavyweights like "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," and "The Amazing Spider-Man." Though the characters in the G.I. Joe universe have a long history and plenty of heroes to go around, the film's release date was pulled, and some say this was done in order to avoid such stiff superhero competition. The studio insisted it was because they wanted to convert it to 3-D to take advantage of the rising popularity and higher ticket price that the conversion would warrant. It was rumored that writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, of "Zombieland" fame, wanted to rework the script in order to have more scenes for actor Channing Tatum, whose career had begun to skyrocket.
The film is now in three dimensions, though moviegoers can opt to see it in two dimensions as well. Also, Tatum does, indeed, seem to have a bigger role than he appeared to have in the initial cameo. These are both big improvements to the film, which proves that the producers were correct in postponing the film's release. Sure, it is highly unusual to pull such a stunt so close to the original release date, but if it manages to make the film better, then kudos to the executives for taking such a risk. Tatum's extended screen presence adds more weight to the film, especially in his scenes with Johnson, who seems to have the selfless hero role down pat. He also continues to have the ability to deliver a one-liner with a huge twinkle in his eye, turning on the charm for just a few minutes before returning to butt-kicking mode. He has become downright fun to watch.
Perhaps the best thing about "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is that director John M. Chu and the writers haven't forgotten about the fan base that will likely make up a huge part of its ticket-buying audience. People who grew up with G.I. Joe action figures or watching the cartoons on Saturday mornings want to see their favorite characters and maybe a few inside references to their backgrounds. They get plenty of that to go along with a shot of adrenaline and testosterone in this fun popcorn movie that is pure escapist entertainment.