Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: "G.I. Joe: Retaliation"

When getting ready to watch a movie, there are few things worse to see in the opening credits than the following word: Hasbro. If a movie begins by announcing Hasbro as one of its production companies, that’s your hint to duck for cover. The Transformers Trilogy, Battleship and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra are prime examples of bad movies based on toy lines. The special effects might be there, but the writing of the characters and dialogue implies either a low perception or hatred of children and young adults (the target audience). I understand that not everyone can be like Pixar, but you don’t have to treat your viewers like morons.
And so, there I was, watching Hasbro flash across the screen. What fate would befall my viewing of G.I. Joe: Retaliation?
Actually, I left satisfied. Seriously.
Full disclosure - Sgt. Slaughter makes up all that I know about G.I. Joe. I never followed the cartoon series or comics, so I don’t know if this is a good adaptation. As a movie based on a silly cartoon, it really delivers.
Following the cliffhanger ending of the first movie, Retaliation sees Cobra Commanders’ plan come to fruition; an imposter President orders a strike on the Joes. With only a handful of members left, it’s up to RoadBlock (The Rock) to lead his team to set things straight and save the world. Basically, it’s the plot of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, turned up to 11.
Where the first movie went wrong, the sequel went right. For starters, this was much more grounded (or as grounded as it could be). The Joes are treated like Seal Team Six (the team that took down bin Laden), but with extravagant weapons technology. In the first one, they wore tight black leather outfits with robotic superman suits. Second, there is a grittier atmosphere going on. Soldiers die, punches are louder and bullets hit harder. Essentially, superheroics are toned down, while the danger is amped up.
Third, the sillines is much easier to absorb. The image of Snake Eyes appearing on C-Span made me laugh, but in a good way. It was charming and innocent to see that, as well as Bruce Willis throwing out a one liner about cholesterol. The villains are villainous, the heroes are heroic, and everybody has their moment to shine and have fun. It was almost a revelation to watch.
Now, this wasn’t as deeply joyous as Marvel’s The Avengers was, but it came as close as it could. A Hasbro movie that doesn’t insult its audience? A Hasbro movie that embraces its cartoonish nature without flipping off kids? Indeed, they finally made a good one.
But, with Transformers 4 and Stretch Armstrong down the line, will they start a trend? The opening credit will still give me a shiver, but Retaliation relaxes me a bit.
3/5 *s


  1. The movie also suffers from being a really choppy mess that loses its sense of direction as far as actually being able to tell a story. It's one of those movies where there's so much going on in the movie, that is starts to become too much. Thankfully, the action is there to save some of the day. Nice review Bill.

  2. I thought it was pretty consistent throughout, actually. Transitions, editing and direction were fairly smooth. And I never felt it was too plotty (some would argue that it has the opposite problem). Indeed, the action covers up any imperfections. Thanks for reading!


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