Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: G.I. Joe Retaliation!

If you want the spoiler free version because you actually, sincerely want to see this thing then let me start with the short version. Director Jon M. Chu somehow manages to make a film that is dumber, smaller, cheaper, and far more morally bankrupt than the first one - which was a dumb, but fun sci-fi fantasy. This is more of a straight out, gun-boner, b-grade action flick that is sometimes so ridiculously inept that it’s entertaining - just not entertaining enough to pay full price for. Even shorter version: G.I. Joe Retaliation is balls. You were warned.

Now, if you don’t give a crap about spoilers and want to read a no-holds-barred, spoiler-filled rant about why this film is so terrible, then please won’t you join me... after the jump!

There are plenty of stupid things in G.I. Joe Retaliation. I’m just going to choose about ten of them. But rest assured there’s plenty more if you go looking for them. I’m going to start with the seriously offensive ones and then relax us all with some silly stuff.

But first the briefest synopsis. Duke and some other red shirts are blown up by Cobra so The Rock (Roadblock), Lady Jaye and Flint hide, then team up with ex JOE Bruce Willis and try to kill Cobra Commander who has taken over the White House via an imposter President. They solve this with guns. That’s pretty much it.


1. Gun violence fetishism.
The surviving JOES hook up with Bruce Willis who is a retired general living in the suburbs. In a montage scored with a song about “rock stars” Willis opens up a thousand hidden panels to reveal that he has a million assault rifles hidden in his suburban home. Then all the “heroes” basically jack off over all the guns and are excited about their killing potential. Later Bruce Willis performs a drive by shooting, appearing out of nowhere in the back of a car and spraying a group of guards with bullets and killing them. It’s a great scene because I was worried that America was getting soft after all their recent gun tragedies, so it’s good to see that Hollywood is inspiring gun violence again. I guess we reap what we sow.

Now look, I appreciate the difference between real life violence and movie violence. And I don’t have an issue with someone like Tarantino because he is actually a lot more focused on the human drama, and he shows some pretty terrible consequences of violence. But beyond all that he writes for thinking adults and his work is multilayered. G.I. Joe Retaliation, however, is not multi-layered and is far too dumb to be aimed at anyone above the age of fifteen. And the gun violence in G.I. Joe is completely without consequence. The “good” guys shoot and kill hundreds of faceless bad guys who drop bloodlessly to the ground and they all high five about it afterwards. Bruce Willis is not heroic in that scene. In fact it’s been shown that the fake President’s staff includes people who do not know that he is imposter. And yet Willis guns down a group of unsuspecting guards in cold blood. I accept that G.I. Joe is a juvenile power fantasy, but so is Batman, or Superman, or Star Wars, but those good guys don’t murder people in cold blood. Expect for Han Solo. But that was one green guy. And he had it coming.

And, furthermore, I’m amazed that the critical American reviews I have read do not mention this fact. It is completely naturalized which makes it far, far worse. America, you have earned your freedom to release movies aimed at children that feature rock songs while vengeful men jack off to guns. Just don’t come crying to us.

2. Lady Jaye’s Ass.
So Lady Jaye is objectified throughout this film, often wearing sexy outfits to go undercover and manipulate lusty men into slipping up. But she gets a single serious scene to redeem all this. Alone with Flint, post mission, she tells a story about how her father didn’t support her enlistment (“I don’t want my life in the hands of a woman”) and how this inspired her to climb the ranks so he would one day appreciate and salute her. Equality, right? Except she tells this story while getting changed out of her sexy red dress and Flint watches her strip to her underwear via a reflection she is unaware of. So while he sincerely nods and agrees with her, he (and the audience) is looking at her butt. And Flint is really thinking, “Man, I’d like to stick something in there.”

Now, if this scene was played for comedy, or irony, then maybe it would work? But it’s played completely straight like we’re supposed to care about what she’s saying, even though we’re all just looking at her arse. It’s almost like director Chu got BORED with what she was saying. He stages this scene in a way that makes me feel like he’d fail a high school literature class. I don’t think subtext is his thing.

3. Rec.
So you know how the first G.I. Joe has a whole team of heroes hanging out at a super secret mobile command base with Dennis Quaid and Brendan Fraser and they have high tech vehicles and suits and weapons? In Chu’s budget version we get three Joes hanging out at an abandoned recreation centre. In fact there are hardly any sets that look custom built at all. The whole thing looks like it was shot on locations that were within ten miles of the studio. We see scenes in some sand dunes. In a factory. In a rec centre. At a beach. At someone’s house. At another factory. Even a meeting of all the world’s leaders looks like it’s occurring in a tiny basement. No art direction here!

4. Wait. Why is That Scene There?
So the Rock is heading for aforementioned recreation centre and he runs into some ghetto thugs. Turns out he knows these thugs. That makes him relatable, right, because he grew up in the ghetto. So all the ghetto kids watching this film can relate to The Rock and be inspired by the way that he solves all his problems anonymously with guns. Anyway, The Rock cons chief thug/friend into lending his truck. The guys hands over the keys and The Rock walks off. Without the truck. And is never seen in the truck. And we never see those ghetto guys again. Wait. What? Why is that scene there? You’ll be asking that a lot.

So Snake Eyes is trained by the Blind Master who is played by RZA who is apparently a rapper?! If you don’t know that RZA is a rapper then you’re probably watching the scene and wondering, “Why is Snake Eyes being trained by the worst actor in the world?” He’s a black guy with big white spirit-gummed eyebrows, and contact lenses, and a latex scar, and it’s so dumb and he’s so terrible at speaking english that the film almost feels like a parody for a moment. You seriously won’t know what’s going on. And later they cut to close ups of Snake Eyes but RZA is talking. And you think that Snake Eyes is talking and explaining some stupid shit, and they keep cutting to Snake Eye “talking” and you’re utterly confused until FINALLY they cut and show it’s RZA trying to speak english. So you’re still confused. No!

6. Retcon.
So you might recall that in the first film it was revealed that Storm Shadow killed his sensei and became a bad guy and fought Snake Eyes. Now it’s all retconned and Storm Shadow was actually framed... by Zartan! WTF? So Zartan killed the sensei and Storm Shadow is actually a good guy even though we saw him act like a total evil prick in the first film. So now Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow team up and bro fist. Oh, but they don’t retcon/explain the fact that Storm Shadow was killed in the first film. By Snake Eyes. And Snake Eyes can’t ask him how he came back because he can’t talk.

7. Out of the Band.
So Cobra Commander and Destro have been kept in a secret prison underneath Germany in a state of suspended animation although they’re aware of everything. When Firefly and Storm Shadow break them free, Cobra Commander decides to leave Destro trapped and explains this by saying, “You’re out of the band.” No reason is given at all as to why Destro can’t come with them although we, of course, all know it’s because Christopher Eccleston isn’t in this film and doesn’t give a shit about it. It’s like kicking Paul McCartney out of Wings.

8. Cobra Commander is in this Movie?
The new Cobra Commander costume is badass and faithful. Shame he doesn’t have a single action scene. He walks into about three scenes and talks in a deep voice and then buggers off in a helicopter. In fact the most frequently shown bad guy is Zartan EXCEPT it’s not Arnold Vosloo (well it is for about ten seconds), instead it’s all the old president guy that Zartan is impersonating.

9. Bruce Willis is in this Movie?
Bruce Willis doesn’t do anything in this movie either. Except for aforementioned drive by. Have you seen the trailer? You’ve seen just about everything Willis has to offer.

10. Roll Eyes.
This script is nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is. There’s some new shoe-horned in scenes with Channing Tatum and The Rock which almost work except they serve no real purpose and they desperately want us approval. And it’s a shame because both Tatum and The Rock earnestly do their best with the scraps they are given. Both are likeable but you’ll end up feeling sorry for them because of the shit they’re forced to try to make work. The rest of the cast not so much. Flint could be replaced with a piece of driftwood and the only comforting thing about Bruce Willis’ performance is that he got paid for it. Awful.

And that’s a taste of G.I. Joe retaliation. You know what? The ninja battle on the cliff face is kind of cool. Kudos to the anonymous storyboarders, CGI artists and second unit directors who delivered that one. The rest is dumb. And we deserve better than that. Right? I wonder sometimes.


  1. in the very short list of positives in this film is a wet shirtless Storm Shadow. Yep, it was good.

    1. He's pretty sexy, but that also reminds of that hilarious scene where he's shirtless in the couple inches of water and the guy electrocutes him, but there's no electricity effects so he just mimes it like he's in the rehearsal room!

    2. shhh. we don't talk about that.

  2. Well...I guess it was a good thing that they delayed this movie from last summer so Battleship wouldn't look good by comparison?

    1. I think Battleship is probably better. Battleship kind of knows it's dumb. And although it's very jingoistic at least it directs that at an alien/fantasy threat. It feels worse to me when its humans just shooting at one another with absolutely zero plan/forethought/remorse. I think they moved this purely because every single other genre film that came out in the summer of 2012 was infinitely smarter and better and they knew it. And they dodged a bullet (pun semi intended) because they delayed it BEFORE two bouts of horrific real life gun violence. If this had coincided with the Batman shooting or Sandy Hook it would have been sickening.

  3. Superb action movie after long days with good screenplay & excellent Direction ! a lot of thrill too to enjoy the movie !

    1. I wish I could share that mindset. Then I could see a shit on the sidewalk and think it was exciting.

  4. Most of the stuff that happens in the movie isn't even interesting. You would think that it's somewhat entertaining, but the dialogue and the characters are just too dull to make any of these subplots work. Good review Luke.

  5. I liked your review Luke. It's made me commit to never seeing this film and therefore saved precious moments in my life.

  6. Greetings, I like your website. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a note to let you know, good job! Thanks