G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a film that left me baffled. Bewildered. Bemused. Flummoxed, even. You could go so far as to say that I was flabbergasted.
Here is a film in which not one single thing makes even the slightest amount of sense. The plot makes no sense. The character motivations make no sense. The connection to the first G.I. Joe movie is tenuous at best. Bruce Willis is in the movie for maybe ten minutes, and serves no purpose other than to provide obscene amounts of firepower. The protagonist from the first movie is unceremoniously offed about twenty minutes into this one. Most of the characters from the first film are nowhere to be seen, except for maybe three or four, one of whom died in the first movie. More nukes are launched in this movie than have likely ever been launched in the history of motion pictures. The movie was directed by one Jon M. Chu, best known for directing the 3D Justin Bieber concert movie. And to top it all off, if you count the entire population of London, this film based on a series of children’s toys has a death count in the millions.
Okay, confession time. I am one of the few people who will readily admit to having enjoyed the first movie. Sure it’s cheesy as hell and is certainly no masterpiece, but it’s good, goofy fun and I find it impossible to hate any movie in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Cobra Commander. I’ve also enjoyed Stephen Sommers’ previous movies. When I was maybe 11-14 I watched The Mummy and The Mummy Returns dozens of times, and watching Van Helsing is a Halloween tradition.
So I was also one of the few people actually looking forward to Retaliation, which was scheduled to come out in June 2012 but got pushed back NINE FREAKING MONTHS to March 2013 because movie studios are stupid. Not that I am bitter.
Anyway, I finally saw the damn thing this past weekend and as, has been previously described, it made zero sense. It made about as much sense as the dreadful second Transformers movie, although it admittedly was more fun.
Alright, so at the end of the first movie, the evil forces of Cobra had been defeated but the President had been replaced by the evil Zartan impersonating the President (Anyone named “Zartan” is evil, no exceptions. There will also be spoilers from here on out).
So the evil President promptly orders a strike on our heroes the Joes, killing ALL of them except for three: Roadblock (yes, Roadblock), played by Dwayne “Please-don’t-call-me-The-Rock-that’s-not-my-name-anymore-I’m-trying-to-be-taken-seriously-as-an-actor-but-I-keep-making-movies-like-G.I. Joe: Retaliation” Johnson, a Random Hot Girl named Lady Jaye, and some jackass named Flint, none of whom were in the first movie.
From there, everything pretty much descends into madness. It turns out that Snake Eyes, the badass black ninja dude who never says anything because he is literally too cool for words, is for some reason hanging out in the Himalayas with some blind ninja master dude. Who the hell this guy is and how Snake Eyes came to be hanging out with him is left completely unexplained, and I was left scratching my head every time the blind ninja master dude (played by rapper RZA) showed up. Maybe this guy is actually an important character in the G.I. Joe universe, but you sure as heck wouldn’t know it from this movie.
Also left unexplained is how in the hell the evil white ninja Storm Shadow survived, when he was clearly killed in the first movie. Seriously. He gets stabbed and left in the crumbling underwater base at the end of the first movie, but appears alive and well not far into the second movie, with absolutely no explanation whatsoever. There’s not even any half-assed mysticism or some kind of scientific reconstruction or cloning or something to explain his presence in Retaliation. He just shows up.
And to further muddy the waters, his character gets completely changed, since one of his major events in the first movie gets retconned to be something different, which completely annihilates his entire character motivation from the first movie. Also, after a while he becomes a good guy and fights with the Joes. So Storm Shadow’s presence in this film makes zero sense, both in terms of his actual character and the very simple fact of his physical presence. When the very existence of one your movie’s main characters makes absolutely no sense, you know you’re in some serious trouble.
It turns out that the evil President’s evil plan is to get the rest of the world’s nuclear powers to disarm their nukes, which would leave them vulnerable to the Bond villain-esque, massive orbiting death machines he has created. He blows up poor old London just to show he’s serious. This chain of events involves an absolutely hilarious scene where all the other world leaders get their little nuclear suitcases and launch all their nukes at each other, and there is this hysterical little holographic projection of the earth with literally dozens of nukes flying through the atmosphere, all of the world leaders are screaming at each other, and the evil President is sitting in his chair playing Angry Birds.
Seriously. This actually happens. In a major studio release that, according to Wikipedia, cost $130 million to make. This almost puts Michael Bay to shame in terms of sheer ludicrousness.
Needless to say that the Joes put a stop to all of this nonsense and the world is saved, except of course for poor old London which has been reduced to a smoldering crater.
God, writing this just reminded me of how little sense any of this made. Among the film’s many other ridiculousnesses are the fact that it takes the Joes a remarkably long time to figure out that the President is evil, which you would think would have been pretty obvious, and did I mention that poor old Bruce Willis gets to do virtually nothing except show off the literally dozens of very large weapons he has stashed in every conceivable weapon-stashing place in his house?
It’s also a disappointment because the movie was written by a pair of screenwriters named Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote Zombieland, which is smart, funny, and one of my top 3 all-time favorite zombie movies (the other two are Shaun of the Dead and Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead, just for the record). I was expecting more from them, but G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels like the result of a particularly potent acid trip.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a mess of a movie. The plot is overcomplicated, nonsensical, and utterly ridiculous, there are too many characters, most of whom either have little personality or are new and hard to care about (or both), and the events of the previous movie are mostly changed, overlooked, or ignored entirely. It rivals Michael Bay in terms of over-the-top, style-over-substance filmmaking, and it flat-out beats the entire Resident Evil franchise in terms of the complete lack of series continuity. What happened to the big black dude, the sexy redhead, Dennis Quaid and those other guys from the first movie? I have no idea, and the makers of Retaliation clearly did not care.
Ah well. At least the special effects were good, and there were a few fun action scenes, like the mountainside ninja battle that was admittedly pretty cool. That nine-figure budget had to go somewhere, I suppose. It’s not like I expected Shakespeare or anything from a movie based on children’s toys, but I think I’m not alone in wishing we had gotten something more that this random pile of junk running around in search of a movie to attach itself to.
That analogy didn’t even make sense, yet it made about a thousand times more sense than G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Maybe the 3rd G.I. Joe movie will fix all that…?
WTF rating: 9/10.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.