Joe goes well enough
If there's a better franchise out there to deliver mindless action than G.I. Joe than it's going to destroy the world. G.I. Joe was designed to sell toys to boys who like things that blow up, shoot and fight injustice the American way. That's basically the groundwork for all great action.
Despite this doubts arose that the first Joe film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, was going to be bad. Turned out it was surprisingly quality as far as big, dumb action movies go. Now, after delays to add more Channing Tatum and a conversion into 3D, we find out if Joe living up to its action potential was simply a fluke or the start of something gloriously wonderful in every way dumb action can be.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is really almost a relaunch of the series itself. After a four year absence and Channing Tatum seemingly wanting to leave the franchise almost none of the major stars return for this film aside from Ray Park as Snake Eyes and Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow. We're caught up to speed quickly as the film opens. The Joes have been fighting the remainder of Cobra around the world as Cobra Commander and Destro are trapped in a high security prison. But all that changes when the Joes are betrayed by the President (Jonathan Pryce), who actually isn't the President, but instead Zoltan. Thanks to this betrayal all the Joes wind up dead except for Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Controna), Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Jinx (Elodie Yung) and Snake Eyes. Also, Cobra Commander escapes and starts taking over the world.
It is the premise for a film so thin on plot that it actually tries to cram two plots into the film to make up for it. There's an entire Snake Eyes movie shoved into this film through impressively abrupt scenes of exposition. For the first half of the film it almost feels like you're watching two movies: one about the Joes and the other about Snake Eyes. Everything comes together in the end, but by shoving what could have easily been a separate Snake Eyes film into a sub-plot of this movie things get far to convoluted for a movie where you've shut your mind down by the time The Rock picks up the biggest gun he can find and then quotes Jay-Z.
Actually, aside from getting too confusing for its own good the screenplay is stupidly clever. Yes, that's an oxymoron, but there are just some awesomely dumb lines in this movie that click perfectly with the awesomely dumb action. If you discount the shoehorned narration that basically crams in everyone's needless back story you've got yourself a screenplay simply ripe for action, laughs and badass lines.
It helps that the cast is adept at delivering them. The extra scenes shot between Johnson and Tatum might only be a few chummy moments, but they actually do add a lot of character to the film and establish some of the dumb wit. Of course Johnson is a fantastic one-liner delivering machine and his charm once again dominates the faults in the story and dialog. Meanwhile, Pryce is his most insanely Machiavellian since playing a Bond villain. He clearly lavishes overplaying his lines and character. It's a delight to watch him be a villain and his bombast makes the even more over-the-top Cobra Commander and Firefly work.
It doesn't all work as well as it should, though. While scenes like the cliff ninja one present in the trailer (CLIFF NINJAS!) deliver some truly awesome action and are plentiful, Jon M. Chu (the man who made the Step Up films not suck) has got a bit more practice in store before he can be a great action director. He's definitely got the skill as he weaves some solid scenes together, but he often loses the flow of a scene, sometimes messing its pacing up by cutting to much or simply not piecing the parts together as well as they should have been. It's not a game breaker as plenty of the action is still fun to watch (Did I mention the cliff ninjas?), but it's tough when you know a lot of it could have worked better.
What G.I. Joe: Retaliation is is what you expect it to be, but it's not all that it could be. Despite that there is one thing that can be said for sure: now you know G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a fun movie, and knowing is half the battle.
One final note is that the 3D is useless. It won't make the film worse, but since it wasn't shot for it it doesn't make it any better.