“G.I. Joe: Retaliation:” return of the Hasbro toys

Daniel Woodhouse

With films like G.I. Joe, Battleship, and the Transformers, Hollywood is really pushing the limits of the idea that ‘you can make a movie out of anything.’ Films based on toys and board games usually turn out to be silly or atrocious; G.I. Joe: Retaliation finds its place in the former category.

Picking up after G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the story begins with the killing of most of the G.I. Joes when they are attacked by Cobra after completing a mission. Only three of the Joes survive the assault and are forced to go underground when they are accused of attempting to steal nuclear weapons. Branded as traitors, the Joes must discover the truth behind the attack on their forces and uncover Cobra’s latest plans for world domination.

The story is simplistic. Given the material is based on a line of toys, there’s not much to work with, just a cliched plot: another sinister organization trying to control the globe, again. The only real purpose in creating the  G.I. Joe lore was to sell the respective Hasbro dolls — uhh, I mean, “manly action figures.”

Cobra’s only real objective has always been ruling the world, and the new film at least makes the effort to have the characters resemble the original looks of the toys. Cobra Commander sports his old silver mask and black and red outfit.

The characterization in Retailation is somewhat hit or miss this time around. Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and Channing Tatum as Duke are easily the most likeable characters on screen as they have a good buddy-buddy chemistry. It’s unfortunate that Duke gets blown up in the first 20 minutes as the rest of the cast is struggles to fill the void.

Movie Poster Courtesy of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" Facebook Page
Movie Poster Courtesy of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” Facebook Page

The characters of Jinx (Elodie Yung), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D. J. Cotrona) don’t seem to have personalities and at times operate as background characters. Bruce Willis gives an entertaining performance as General Joe.

There’s an attempt to make the Cobra character, or Storm Shadow, into an anti-hero, but it’s execution falls flat, partly due to the robotic like performance given by Lee Byung-hun. Cobra Commander (Robert Baker) doesn’t really do much besides stand around and occasionally give a menacing speech or two.

Ray Park is good as Snake Eyes, but since Snake never speaks, Park never has to do much besides occasionally nod his head.

Writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have created a script with the same tone as their previous flick Zombieland — cartoonish at heart, but grounded enough in reality as to not seem too absurd.

Director Jon M. Chu does a nice job of both setting up and pacing the action scenes; particularly the one where Snake Eyes and Jinx are scaling an icy mountain, while at the same time fighting ninjas on ziplines. Transition between the the ninjas jumping from cliff to cliff is smooth and seamless, and the camera slows down to give us a detailed look of each individual fight between Snake and the ninjas.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a corny action flick that does a good job of representing it’s franchise. While it’s nothing great, it has better writing than the first G.I. Joe and retains the appearance of the toys.

Director: Jon M. Chu

Writers: Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese