I was naturally hesitant to watch this movie, and for self-explanatory reasons. The original film in this series, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra was pretty bad, and nothing from this film’s promotional material made it seem like this was going to be anything better than your run-of-the mill action blockbuster. It didn’t help that the movie was delayed nearly an entire year. This is never a good sign. For all of my reservations though, this movie was better than it should have been. This does not mean that it was good.
Retaliation picks up some time after the events of the first film. Duke (Channing Tatum) has risen through the ranks, leading his own squad of Joes, including Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). These characters are the replacements for the last movie’s heroes, who are left out with no explanation whatsoever. Even Duke is *SPOILER ALERT* unceremoniously killed off within the first twenty minutes (at Tatum’s request). The rest of the movie follows suit by retconning established continuity of the last movie and characters for the sake of convenience. It’s not like I was so in love with the status quo from the last film, but consistency is appreciated it.
The Joes are attacked and seemingly eradicated by Special Forces on orders from the president (who you may recall is Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) in disguise) all part of Cobra’s secret plot to force the world’s nations into submission to their military might. I’d be tempted to go into detail on their means of doing so, but honestly, for this type of film, the story is just too convoluted, meandering (the events in Japan) and hard to follow. You wouldn’t think the writers of this movie would have such difficulty following the classic mantra: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Of course, what everyone came here for was the action, and the movie doesn’t really disappoint in this regard. The fight scenes are often silly, yes, but they also manage to be pretty suspenseful and exciting if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief (which I admit, may be quite hard to do). That doesn’t apply for all action pieces, though. The fights are filmed tightly in close-quarters. It’s a bit claustrophobic, but you’re capable of at least following what’s going on (as opposed to, say, Batman Begins).
In ultimate execution here, everything is pretty by the books. As in, the book as written (or at least codified) by Michael Bay. Plenty of explosions, un-engaging characters, obnoxious sound effects, and unnecessary sex appeal are here to be “enjoyed”, but the movie is superior at least to films such as Transformers. The comedy works better here, and it is generally better made. However, that isn’t really saying much.
At this point I was going to come up with some kind of witty way to end the review by quoting the TV show, but… Yeah.