Action Movie Fanatix Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-hun Lee, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, Bruce Willis, Ray Park, D.J. Cotrona, Ray Stevenson, Elodie Yung, Arnold Vosloo, RZA

Director: Jon M. Chu

2013  |  110 Minutes  |  PG-13

“Drive it like you stole it!” – Duke
“As your good friend, you need a new catchphrase.” – Roadblock

I can’t even begin to tell you how obsessed with G.I. Joe I was when I was a kid.  I watched the cartoon shows, read the comic books and collected and played with the toys… oh, the toys.  I had a lot of them.  As an 8 year old G.I. Joe was better than Ninja Turtles and Transformers combined.  So, the idea that I could see G.I. Joe on the big screen some 20 years later was a dream.  Rise of Cobra left a bit to be desired but John Chu sounded like he was as big a fan as I was as a kid so G.I. Joe: Retaliation gave me new hope.

After the majority of the G.I. Joes are killed and the remaining team framed, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) enlist a few new members… and one old… to save the president and the world from Cobra Commander and his men.

The bro moments between Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum were fun.  That’s why it was such a shame to see Duke go.

A big part of the fun with G.I. Joe is the huge roster of Joes and Cobra agents allows for a revolving door of soldiers and personalities.  Unfortunately the movie begins with a good chunk of the G.I. Joe team being killed.  Meaning… they ain’t comin’ back (barring some crazy comic book style story telling).  Duke is one of the main characters in all of G.I. Joe lore.  I just don’t understand killing off a character like that permanently.  I kept expecting to see the characters come back from the dead and it just didn’t happen.

Ray Stevenson is always awesome so seeing him as Firefly made my day.  If I want to get really picky Firefly wasn’t portrayed as the ninja master that he should be.  He was also an explosives expert in the cartoon/comics and he most definitely blew a TON of stuff up in Retaliation.

After the atrocious look of Cobra Commander in Rise of Cobra, it was SO nice to have a proper evil-doer look.  He even hisses a little bit.  And somehow it never felt cheesy… just awesome!

Snake Eyes’ look was also perfected.  Gone were the rubber lips on the outside of his mask.  In its place is a sleek yet armored, militaristic look that felt oh, so right.

I’ve never had any attachment to Lady Jaye or Flint so their appearances in the movie, while good, just didn’t matter much to me.  Jinx was always a favorite action figure of mine growing up, so having her a part of the series made me a little giddy, I must admit.

Bruce Willis as the original G.I. Joe, General Joe Colton, was also a nice touch.  It feels a little like a passing of the torch.

And seeing a real live HISS tank… a true thing of beauty.

You didn’t think I was going to forget Dwayne Johnson, did you?  Well, he’s just as cool as he ever is.  I’m not sure there could have been any better choice (or any OTHER choice) for Roadblock.  He’s always been huge in the cartoon and Johnson seems to get bigger every time I see him.  And he has the personality to carry the movie in Channing Tatum’s absence.

Director Jon Chu managed to find the perfect tone for the G.I. Joe franchise.  Rise of Cobra, the first movie in the franchise, was a little too jokey and a little too immature feeling.  I fully realize and believe that it is unrealistic for those of us who grew up on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon series to expect the G.I. Joe franchise to have grown up with us.  G.I. Joe should always be a kids’ series.  It’s unrealistic to expect a hard R rated G.I. Joe movie.  That said, we also shouldn’t be getting childish drivel… and now we aren’t.

Retaliation manages to find the right balance between the fun comedic elements and the medium core PG-13 action.  The action is plenty hardcore and actually feels decently violent without spraying blood everywhere.

People went gaga over the ninja mountain scene… and it’s good, don’t get me wrong… but there are so many great action moments, I don’t know that I would have picked that one out as the best of the bunch.  There’s just too many of them.  This is just such a fun movie for a “grown up” G.I. Joe fan.

Aside from the kill ‘em all attitude to the G.I. Joes we saw in The Rise of Cobra, Retaliation is what I would consider a darn near perfect G.I. Joe movie.  Even the most uncreative writing could bring some Joes back from the dead – Cobra has them in prison, the government put them in a top secret cryo sleep, they all went into hiding around the world… that’s just off the top of my head.  So, I’m much less worried about that one small downfall of this movie and much MORE excited about the prospect of more G.I. Joe movies of this caliber to come.  That, my friends, is something to be excited about.

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