by Michael Clancy
A surge in 80s and 90s nostalgia in the last six years has seen toy company Hasbro expanding into the film production business, with films based on its Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Battleship properties. Unfortunately, the quality of these films has been dismal. Being a film based on a 6’’ action figure, no one is expecting Oscar-winning levels of acting or script-writing; what we do expect are thrilling set-pieces and massive doses of camp fun, with the film-makers tongue placed firmly in cheek – the two hour cinematic equivalent of a junk food binge. All of the above mentioned films have failed because they took themselves too seriously. G.I. Joe: Retaliation succeeds in bucking this trend – for the most part.
Directed by John Chu (Step Up 3D) and written by Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Posing as the President of the U.S., super-villain Zartan frames the Joes for treason and breaks Cobra Commander out of prison. The remaining Joes, led by Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), then enlist the help of the original Joe (Bruce Willis) as they attempt to defeat Cobra Commander, who is holding the world to ransom with his doomsday weapon, Zeus.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation absolutely nails its super-villains and choreographed fight scenes. From Cobra Commander (finally sporting his iconic helmet), to master-of-disguise Zartan, and conflicted ninja Storm Shadow (who comes with his own sepia-toned origin flashback ripped straight from a 70s kung-fu film), the main antagonists are serving over-the-top, camp super-villain realness. The storyline is ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with satellite-mounted doomsday weapons, major landmark destruction, and a stunning action sequence involving ninja zip-lining around the Himalayas.
It’s the parts between this abundance of awesome which are the problem.
The dialogue is terrible, particularly in early exchanges between Johnson and Channing Tatum. While their buddy chemistry works, the quips are expected to be somewhat funny.
The Joes are boring and forgettable – with the exception of Johnson, who makes quite a likeable action hero. Bruce Willis’ appearance as the original Joe is a major selling point for this film, but he’s dreadfully under-used.
Some of the action sequences are choppily edited, and this, combined with a dodgy 3D conversion, leads to quite a few cross-eyed, headache-inducing moments.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a game of two halves. If the film-makers could have maintained the camp, cartoony tone throughout, it would have all the makings of a future cult classic.