G.I. Joe: Retaliation didn’t get itself off to a good start when its much-anticipated released got postponed by 9 months. The delay, apparently for the sake of conversion to 3D and adding in more scenes of Channing Tatum after studio execs realised how freaking valuable he was to a movie.
Anotherwards, it was delayed for nothing: critics weren’t impressed by its 3D (I wouldn’t know; I didn’t bother watching it in that format) and Tatum’s Duke dies anyway.
I’m going to say at this point that I know that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a miss for a lot of people. Yes, it was far from fantastic; borderline comical even, but as a guy who grew up on G.I. Joe toys and cartoons, it was the film I’d waited my whole life for and it did not disappoint. More than that, it made me happy.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation took what the first film built – the characters, the subplots, the feeling like it could’ve been the start of something bigger, and most importantly of all, the franchise – and then put it in cryogenic-neuro-whatever lockup with Destro. What happened to the Baroness? What exactly was the purpose of introducing Lady Jaye and Flint when they didn’t have visibly specific skills that Scarlett, Ripcord, Heavy Duty, Breaker and Hawk from the first movie lacked? On that note, where did those characters go anyway? And why the fuck did they kill an important character like Duke when his death was not going to serve any real purpose to the story? It didn’t motivate Roadblock to counter-attack Cobra; he’d have done that regardless of whether Duke was among the fatalities. It didn’t change Flint’s character in any way; not that his character was of any importance to the story in the first place. It was basically the first of many indications of director Jon Chu‘s painstakingly nonchalant attitude towards a well-loved franchise and the generation of hearts that grew up with it.
Oh alright, I’ll list more. Y’know, in many movies, plot holes are tolerated. You know them when you spot them, or they sink in after the credits roll, but you shrug and say, “ah what the hell”. There’s usually something else that defines the film in a much more important way. Here’s the thing though: G.I. Joe Retaliation can pretty much be defined by the gaping holes in its plot. They just cannot be ignored, and then they build and build and build. Just off the top of my head: Storm Shadow got himself incarcerated to an above-maximum security prison by way of assassinating a president, just to free his boss. But all it took was 5 minutes of conversation with Blind Master to convince him to turn on the exact same boss, just to get revenge on someone he could’ve killed at any. other. point. of time. ever; like, you know, when said boss wasn’t about to pull off the greatest coup of his career. If someone as detached from the President as Lady Jaye could quickly realise the subtle differences between the real President and his impersonator, then how ignorant were his wife, children and inner circle for not seeing anything wrong the whole time? G.I. Joes in both movies have been established as military elite from all over the world. Giving Snake Eyes some leeway here, there is still no explanation of who the fuck Jinx and Blind Master are and why the fuck they’d suddenly decide to join in the fight. Then there’s that thing where Roadblock is a sergeant and Lady Jaye a lieutenant, yet the former became the latter’s commanding officer after…well, you know. The writers apparently lacked the sense to know that “second-in-command” and “commando” are not ranks – and that was barely one minute into the movie. And just so I call out that large pink elephant in the room…IT TOOK JUST TWO MINUTES FOR EVERY WORLD LEADER TO LAUNCH BUTTLOADS OF NUKES INTO THE ATMOSPHERE WITHOUT ACTUALLY KNOWING WHAT THEY’RE DOING IT FOR. I’d like to think that was a horribly poor attempt at caricature, but that would be too much credit.
To be fair, Retaliation really wasn’t a terrible film. It had well-placed humour, great visuals, some nice touches of tension and genuinely fun action sequences – especially all that ninja stuff on the mountain. It had strong actors in Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Lee Byung-Hun and the ever-invisible Ray Park. The Rock and Bruce Willis, whose star-power dominated the screen, did what they’ve been doing best in film, which suited this movie fine without adding much to their resumes. (RZA, Elodie Yung and DJ Cotrona however, could be added to the considerably lengthy list of Jon Chu’s un-inspirations.)
But all that went to waste in the shadow of careless writing and impeccably poor asset management. It’s a real shame.
Director: Jon Chu
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Brian Goldner
Screenwriters: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, DJ Cotrona, Lee Byung-Hun, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum