Friday, April 5, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Title: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Ray Park, Byung Hung Lee, RZA


G.I. Joe Retaliation is a film I watched with some trepidation because of how the studio got cold feet last summer and took the film off their summer roster. That’s right, Paramount Pictures and MGM spent a couple of millions promoting this sequel as a summer 2012 release then felt unsure about the film, yanked it out of its release date and shifted it to May 2013, almost a whole year after it was made; their reasons? Supposedly they wanted to amp up the effects and convert the thing to 3D. Me? I think they were fixing a couple of things here and there that they didn’t like about the film. Maybe they felt they had a lackluster film and decided to add a scene or two, just to make things flow a little better? Studios do these re-shoots all the time; they are fine by me as long as the end result is worth it. So, was the whole damn thing worth it? Did the studios course of action with this film work?

G.I. Joe Retaliation is about Cobra Commander breaking out of a super high tech underground prison and attempting, yet again, to “rule the world”. How does he plan to achieve this? By kidnapping the president and placing one of his loyal servants known as ‘Zartan’ (master of disguise) in his place. You see, Zartan can morph and look exactly like the president, so without America knowing it, they have a member of Cobra ruling the nation. And soon, at the right time, Cobra will take over! But how will he hold the world at ransom? And how can a disbanded G.I. Joe team stop him from achieving his world dominating goals?

So yeah, I wasn’t all that excited for this movie, in fact, I wasn’t planning on seeing it in theaters, because in my book, when a studio gets cold feet with a movie the way they did with this one, it raises a red flag for me immediately. It means the studio didn’t have faith in their product and thought it would fail if released. But then something happened. The film was released and it shot straight to the first spot at the box office! Reviews were saying “it wasn’t all that bad” and that it surpassed the first one, which wasn’t all that difficult considering how lackluster the first one was; making a better film wasn't a tough task. The real task was giving this one that G.I. Joe feel, something that I felt the original lacked, yet this one has in spades. The term used to describe a film like this one amongst film reviewers is “fluff”, which basically means it’s not an important film, it’s the kind of film you watch, are entertained by and then quickly forget because it doesn’t make a lasting impression on you. I personally think this is exactly the kind of film Retaliation is; pure and simple fluff, but that isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you know you’re going to see.  I knew this was what I was in for, so I just went with the flow. Did I end up having a good time?  Hells yeah. I mean, as everyone is saying, it is way better then the first. It isn’t as jokey, it’s tone is slightly more realistic, but I stress the “slightly”; the film is still very much a comic book film.

First the good points: this film feels like G.I. Joe movie, the vehicles they use in the film were apparently really based on the toys because I recognized a lot of them from my pre-teen years, back when I collected G.I. Joe toys with a vengeance. I was one of these kids who had a bunch of jets and tanks and Joes, and placed them in a bunch of positions, by the end of the day I’d have this big ass war going on, ha, the memories. But yeah, this movie will have you getting a couple of flashbacks if you were a hardcore Joe fan. Coolest part about the whole movie is that Cobra finally looks like freaking Cobra! I loved that about it. Cobra Commander looked so freaking cool with his mirror surface helmet. The voice, the wardrobe all screamed classic Cobra Commander. There are moments where Cobra is looking over his empire  that are too cool for school. On the downside, we didn’t get enough of Cobra; I wanted more of the guy! Instead we get Jonathan Pryce playing Zartan; he’s the villain for most of the picture, I wanted more Cobra!  

How cool does Cobra look?

Also on the downside of things, they treated so many characters like crap. I mean, all the Joes from the first film simply disappear or die, and we’re left with a rag tag bunch of Joes. I loved the addition of Dwayne Johnson into the whole G.I. Joe universe, but I hated the fact that for example they disposed so easily of ‘Destro’ one of the coolest villains that the Cobra’s count with. And where the hell was The Baroness? She was never even spoken of! But whatever, this is a comic book movie and things like this are bound to happen. I’m sure what happened was that the actors simply didn’t want to return to a movie they thought would end up being crap, I bet they all wish they had returned now! I’m sure they will return for a third entry, especially when we take in consideration how successful this film has turned out to be; nobody likes to say no to a blockbuster. Dwayne Johnson fits perfectly in this film, but they also decided to add Bruce Willis as ‘the original Joe’ but he ends up doing the same thing he’s being doing in most movies he is in now, smirking, shooting machine guns and saying one liners.

I enjoyed the fact that thematically speaking the film isn’t entirely hollow, actually, the story touches upon old fears that have, in an interesting turn of events, suddenly re-emerged in the world. I’m talking about nuclear paranoia; memories of the Cold War flashing on everbodies minds, countries threatening to blow each other away. Suddenly we got North Korea threatening to blow the world to smithereens with its nuclear weapons, and the whole world seems to be entering into some sort of cold war yet again. I guess governments want to amp up that all important fear factor in the world, some world leaders like to get cocky and show they are the biggest and baddest. So anyhow, there’s a cool moment in the film where many of the world’s rulers meet in one room to discuss the fate of the world and for a moment it seems like the world will be blown to shreds. I liked that contemporary theme, it rang true. Actually, those scenes had some people giggling in the theater, myself included, the whole idea of these crazy dudes shooting nuclear weapons at each other is so contemporary, so right of the moment. It brought to mind Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb (1964). The film points out, in the midst of all its comic book hijinks that the fate of the world lies in the hands of a couple of power hungry nutcases, it’s kind of scary when you think about it.

This new film is stylish, and has a couple of really cool action moments, like for example there’s this whole sequence where Snake Eyes has to escape a temple that’s up in some icy mountains, and he has to rappel the hell out of there, and so suddenly we get this really cool sequence with Ninjas fighting while rappelling down a mountain, which was too cool for school. I mean, the filmmakers themselves even ended the scene by cutting to another scene with people clapping as if giving themselves a pat on the back for the whole thing. Retaliation switches from huge action sequences to political intrigue scenes and it's all very entertaining in my book, it worked. Seeing power hungry politicians pressing red buttons is always entertaining! Even the idea gets me on the edge of my seat, G.I. Joe: Retaliation plays with all these fears that humanity must be feeling as I type this.  Retaliation was directed by a guy called Jon M. Chu, the guy responsible for bringing us such masterpieces as Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) and Step Up 3D (2010); I guess those films made enough money at the box office that he was given the chance to make this one, and that’s cool by me, he showed he could pull off an effects heavy film. Lucky for him that Retaliation has made so much money because a third film in the franchise has been greenlit, something tells me it will be bigger and better. Hopefully the series will continue its steady rise in quality. It might be fluff, but it’s fun fluff.

Rating: 4 out of 5  


DrunkethWizerd said...

Not that I mind Johnathan Price, but there was waaaaay too much of him as the villain in this. I see how they took time to tell the storyline for the joes, but I wanted more Cobra Commander. A lot more.

Franco Macabro said...

My sentiments exactly, maybe they will give us more Cobra next time. I thought it was so funny how Cobra did the classic get away move of leaving at the last minute...that was so like the cartoons!

Dan O. said...

I wasn’t expecting anything high caliber of art considering it’s a movie based off a toy line from Hasbro and what I got from it was a mindless but functional action movie. Good review Francisco.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, it was fun, I hope they make an even better film next time.

Franco Macabro said...

Seen this one twice, it's a blast. Funny how the film ends with this song that says "How You Like Me Now?" as if asking us, how do like this new, improved G.I. Joe movie? A whole lot thank you very much, fun movie!


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