G.I. Joe: Retaliation Movie Review
You know you're in trouble when the best line of dialogue in an entire movie is a Jay Z quote. Then again, I don't know if I was in trouble. The new G.I. Joe: Retaliation is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, with fast-paced action sequences and the charisma of The Rock pulsing through every scene, but it's also absurd, absurdly absurd and fucking ridiculously absurd. Whether that's good or bad... I just don't know.
Stephen Sommers directed the original G.I. Joe movie, which was so bad he allegedly got fired from the film sometime during post production. Thankfully, he was let nowhere near this movie (assuming his executive producer contract entailed a restraining order), and the fate of America (fuck yeah!) and mankind has been placed in the hands of a director best known for a 3D dance movie and a documentary about Justin Bieber.
And Republicans complain about gay marriage and Socialist Obama.
Jon M. Chu is no Michael Bay even if he wants to be, but he is definitely no Stephen Sommers, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation is by default a better, more entertaining movie as a result. The movie begins with a relatively down-to-earth assault sequence (complete with clunky dialogue that is only an indicator of the barely English that is to follow), and it is clear that this director at least has his act together. Sort of.
Channing Tatum is the only actor who has returned for this sequel-that-purposefully-pretends-it-is-not-a-sequel (at least as far as I can recall, and I try to recall very little about it), but the reins have been handed to The Rock, who has shown his mere presence can transform a mediocre franchise (Fast and Furious) into a winning one. Bruce Willis is in it, too, though I'm pretty sure he thought he was making RED 2 at the time.
Oh, Ray Park returns as Snake Eyes, but since he says nothing the entire movie, he doesn't count.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is fast paced and action packed, but the speed is used less to keep the audience engaged and more to gloss over the ridiculously absurd absurdity of it all. The first half of the movie is refreshingly grounded, but as the silly story progresses, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) lose their way some and never really recover. The third act is over-the-top stupid; much of it is intentional, but some elements - like the heads of every major nuclear power (oh, and North Korea) bringing single-button-push nuclear briefcases to their security meeting - are so out there they just don't work.
Furthermore, I was utterly confused by the Snake Eyes swaparoo early on in the film, and an entire subplot involving a dead kung fu master and mystical mutterings from a completely out-of-place RZA was more confounding than it was necessary. The audience was laughing, though, so that's something.
Unlike the original, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is watchable, entertaining and a silly good time. Does that make it a good movie? Not quite. The first half is better than the second as it gets too absurd for its own good, which detracts from the excitement factor. But as long as you're willing to switch off your brain for two hours, there are worse ways to spend your time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.