Second G.I. Joe May Redeem the Franchise for Hardcore Fans
Numerous children of the 1980s looked forward to introducing their offspring to the awesomeness of G.I. Joe when a live-action movie was announced several years ago. "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" hit theaters in 2009 to mixed reviews; most called it a fun adventure that was great for a family-movie night, but hardcore fans were disappointed that the flick didn't live up to the original comic-book experience. Specifically, the questionable casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the character that became Cobra Commander and the changes in Cobra's development and the Joe's base of operations had fans shaking their heads. The franchise is back this year with a second movie but is under new management, and director Jon M. Chu seems to understand the heart of G. I. Joe's most loyal fans.
In addition to a new director, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" benefits from a new writing team and the addition of several iconic characters. For writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the first course of action seems to be an annihilation of as much of the first film as possible. To that end, they quickly kill off a number of Joe characters from the first movie. Luckily, the writers still had some strong personalities left in the G.I. Joe stable, so viewers are treated to a story involving Flint, Roadblock, and Lady Jaye.
Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) is a favorite among Joe fans because of his rock-like exterior and surprisingly deep interior. In the original comic, Roadblock aspired to be a chef before being recruited to the Army. As a soldier, he served double duty as a cook and a heavy machine gunner. Johnson is a genius casting decision for the character, because Roadblock is one of the biggest and strongest Joes. Despite a few stints in less-than-perfect family comedies, Johnson has shown his ability to be the tough hero in movies like "Walking Tall."
The next addition to the cast is Flint. Played by relative newcomer D. J. Cotrona ("Venom"), Flint is usually portrayed as being third in command within the Joe structure after General Hawk and Duke. Flint is highly educated and a bit of an A-personality; in various renditions of the Joe mythos, Flint holds honors from just about every organization available. Flint usually provides the tactical planning behind Joe missions. Casting Cotrona in this role is a good choice, as he can deliver enough muscle to become believable as a Joe without vying for the toughest-man prize with Johnson's character.
A Joe movie wouldn't be complete without an attractive and kick-butt female soldier. Since the first movie included Scarlett and Cover Girl, the logical choice for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" was Lady Jaye. Old school Joe fans will appreciate the fact that she is included in the movie with Flint, since the two had a romance in the 1980s animated Joe series. Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) is also a highly educated officer. She is an expert at numerous weapons, including the crossbow, and is the Joe covert-ops specialist. Palicki, who also starred in the 2012 remake of "Red Dawn" and played Wonder Woman in the 2011 made-for-television movie, is a great and believable choice for the powerhouse female soldier.
Other new characters or casting additions in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" include General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). For some action fans, this decision probably addresses a major oversight in the first movie, as many feel a blow-em-up flick cannot be made properly without Willis. Another interesting cast choice is Walter Goggins, who plays Warden Nigel James. Goggins, who is well known for his role in the television show "Justified," has turned in admirable roles in previous action movies. Channing Tatum and Ray Park reprise their roles as Duke and Snake Eyes from the first film.
One change that has many Joe fans buzzing is the role of Cobra Commander in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." Instead of bringing Joseph Gordon-Levitt back to continue the part, the filmmakers cast another relative newcomer, Luke Bracey. Although Gordon-Levitt is a phenomenal actor with an ever-growing resume and the ability to deliver on a variety of roles, he didn't quite have the right set of attributes to pull off the cherished villain. Bracey's deeper voice and less well-known appearance are actually more suited to Cobra Commander.
Overall, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is an improvement on the first Joe movie. It retains all of the fun of the first movie, includes some great banter between Johnson and Channing, and begins a rescue of the franchise for hardcore fans. Newer fans will appreciate the action-packed flick, while older fans can revel in the return of true Joe mentality.