G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Directed By: John M. Chu

Starring: Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Lee Byung-hun, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, and Channing Tatum

Up until now, all indicators pointed to the foregone conclusion that G.I. Joe: Retaliation would suck.  It's not just the fact that its predecessor G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra sucked.  Afraid of competing with The Amazing Spider-Man, Paramount pushed its release date back from Fourth of July last year (to the benefit of Ted) to a quiet weekend in March this year.  On top of both these things, the film had a post-production 3D conversion, and that's never as good as a film actually filmed in 3D.  Despite its crappy predecessor, its revealing schedule change, and its questionable 3D conversion, G.I. Joe: Retaliation manages to be a fun romp.

Though Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey, Robert Baker) has been captured and jailed, he's closer than ever to realizing his sadistic fantasy of world domination.  With Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) still holding the President (Jonathan Pryce) in captivity and continuing to dupe the world into thinking he's the leader of the free world using some nanomite technology, he's the key to putting all of Cobra Commander's plans into motion.  To take over the world, Cobra needs the ultimate weapon.  It also needs to get rid of the world's weapons of mass destruction via nuclear disarmament.  Most importantly, Cobra needs to get rid of the world's elite forces, the G.I. Joes.  Zartan and his Cobra ally Firefly (Ray Stevenson) are going to do what they must to accomplish all this.

It all begins when Snake Eyes (Ray Park) allegedly kills a high-ranking politician in the Middle East.  In the ensuing chaos, a nuclear weapon is dispatched from a facility in Pakistan, and the President (Zartan) tasks the G.I. Joes with recovering the nuke and preventing it from ending up in the wrong hands.  Now led by Duke (Channing Tatum) and his second-in-command Roadblock (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), the Joes walk right into a trap and are slaughtered.  The only survivors are Roadblock, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona).  Bent on avenging their fallen comrades and figuring out who's behind all of this, they seek out the one man whom they can trust, General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis).  Meanwhile, Zartan and Firefly continue the development of Cobra's secret weapon Project Zeus, convene a meeting of world leaders to push for nuclear disarmament, and free Cobra Commander from his subterranean jail.

Hasbro has apparently learned a few lessons since The Rise of Cobra because G.I. Joe: Retaliation is recast and retooled.  There's no annoying Marlon Wayans as Ripcord.  There's no generally awkward Cobra Commander from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  There's no cartoonish vibe to the special effects.  Hell, Channing Tatum's character Duke even gets taken out of the equation fairly quickly.  Ultimately, this sequel is more along the lines of what I would expect from a live action G.I. Joe film.  Fueled by some solid performances, this is a fun, action-packed romp that generally gets the job done.  This movie is far from perfect, but it's definitely enjoyable.

While there are a few vestiges of The Rise of Cobra, the cast is mostly brand new.  Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, two ass-kicking action stars, are at the forefront of this flick.  For his part, Johnson checks plenty of Cobra jabronis into the Smackdown Hotel.  Fresh from Snitch, the People's Champ is kicking ass and bringing a few laughs as Roadblock.  For General Joseph Colton (AKA "Joe"), there's no other actor who could have really portrayed this all-American other soldier than Bruce Willis.  Doing what he does best, the badass action icon shows us just why throughout G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Together, Johnson and Willis are a great duo to lead this new cast.

Our two leads aren't the only gems in the film.  Particularly, I'd like to talk about the two returning cast members who actually get more screen time in this flick than The Rise of Cobra.  As my boy Snake Eyes, Ray Park may not talk at all, but he opens up the biggest can of whoopass in the entire film.  This ninja badass delivers high-flying action sequences and some of the best choreographed fights I've seen this year so far.  He is undoubtedly my favorite part of the film.  In a different way, Jonathan Pryce really gets to shine.  Because Zartan often spends his time as the President in the movie, Pryce is often both villain and victim.  I like him as the President, but he's an even better Zartan.  Pryce gets to show a more dastardly side that I'd like to see more often in future films.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn't perfect by any measure.  In the first part of the film, I wanted to shoot myself because The Rock and Channing Tatum have terrible chemistry on screen.  Their scenes together are pretty stale and make me pretty nervous about the movie during its opening act.  As the film progresses, director John M. Chu only briefly touches upon several potential storylines.  He hints at some plot developments and never really expands upon them.  For example, Chu hints at a romance between Flint and Lady Jaye but never does anything with it.  He needs to finish what he starts.  Finally, RZA is cast in the film as the Blind Master.  I have absolutely no idea why the hell he is in this movie.  This isn't The Man With the Iron Fists, and his performance revives a bit of the franchise's cartoonish vibe.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation really surprised me.  It's a fun film in which the cast mostly delivers the goods. While there are a few misses, this G.I. Joe sequel is decent popcorn fare.  G.I. Joe Retaliation gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.