In videogames, sequels are often used as an opportunity to improve upon the original. Sadly, the opposite is true for movies, where sequels are often pale imitations of the film that preceded it. But it seems that G.I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets) might be a bit of a gamer because his sequel improves upon the original Joe flick in so many ways. And while it’s far, far from perfect, it does have some spectacular action scenes and quip-filled dialog that made it big dumb fun.
As part of his plan to take over the world, Cobra Commander has replaced the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) with his pal, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who then sets in motion a plan that will make sure the Joes stay out of C.C.’s way. But after some of the Joes survive, they regroup and form a plan to stop Cobra, save the free world, and prove their innocence.
What follows is a bit convoluted at times—especially the scene when Snake Eyes gets Cobra Commander out of the fridge, I mean jail—and can also be as illogical as, well okay, any big action movie. But it is actually in the action that Retaliation redeems itself somewhat. All of the fight scenes involving Snake Eyes (Ray Park) are exhilaration, especially the one that starts off at a mountain retreat but ends up on the side of the mountain. There’s also a scene of mass destruction that is just visually spectacular (and also, if you’ve ever been to the place being destroyed, emotionally impactful as well).
The cast also does a good job, even when the situation gets a bit hokey. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is always personable and powerful, but as Roadblock he’s (sorry) really solid. He also has great chemistry with Channing Tatum, who plays Duke, and Adrianne Palicki (Red Dawn), who more than holds her own as Lady Jaye. Heck, even Bruce Willis, who plays the original Joe, displays the kind of fun, wink wink attitude he used to have in the Die Hard movies (though why no one commented on him having a firm handshake is beyond me).
The irony of the cast being strong is that the cast is where longtime fans of the G.I. Joe cartoon will be most disappointed. Not only are such iconic characters as The Baroness and Scarlett missing, but others—who shall remain nameless, lest we spoil anything—are given little to nothing to do in this film. As a result, the more you know about G.I. Joe, the less you’ll enjoy it (though you might appreciate that no one in the movies awkwardly says anything about knowing being half the battle).
Still, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not a movie worth thinking about much. It’s just a fun ride, one that has some spectacular moments, an over-the-top plot befitting the source material, some funny lines, and so much mojo from Dwayne Johnson that it apparently rubbed off on Bruce Willis.
And if it’s any indication, the third time will really be the charm.