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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
GI Joe: Retaliation is a strange little movie. While it serves as a follow-up to 2009’s Rise of Cobra, it dispatches much of that movies cast and background story elements. Retaliation introduces new characters and keeps the premise of the first film’s cliffhanger ending. It is almost a reboot, but without going that far (kind of reminiscent of what Superman Returns tried to do). It is a unique trick the filmmakers pulled. I suppose it was the best way to revitalize a potential series after the disappointment Rise of the Cobra brought.
So, with a new lease on life, does this GI Joe film right the wrongs of its predecessor? Well, honestly, no. Not really. Maybe the first film is more enjoyable while this film is has a stronger story. The action is top-notch (particularly a sequence involving ninjas scaling a mountain), but the story and the characterization is all over the place and largely in tune with what came before. Do not expect some element of high-art at play here.
I do not anything against mindless action films. Most can be pretty fun. The problem with this movie is that it does not give us any reason to care about any of these characters. They are so flat and one-dimensional. Not helping matters is that the actors hired to play the Joes (save for Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson) are incredibly bland. If the film ended with all of our heroes being killed off, I would have met that with a resounding “meh”.
It also seems like the film just did not care about things either. There are moments of wide-scale destruction (even bigger than what was done to Paris in the first film), and it is executed in a very offhanded manner and met with a big indifference. It is almost unintentionally comical in how the film presents it.
One thing I was wildly impressed with was how cutting the movie was towards other nations. In today’s world, it seems at times filmmakers are too afraid to push the envelope when it comes to international relations. Nobody wants to unintentionally offend anyone. Not this film. There are some incredible cutting remarks (particularly towards North Korea). There were times I felt the film was going to throw in the “real American hero” catchphrase given how it seemingly does not care what other countries will think of it.
GI Joe: Retaliation is not a good movie. But, here is the thing: it does not have to me. When I saw it the other day, there was a kid about 9 or 10 in the row in front of me. He was engrossed during the entire thing. When some of the high-energy action stuff happened, he looked over at his mom with a “that’s so cool!” look on his face. He was eating this movie up, and, you know what, kids like him are the exact audience this film was made for. And I am completely okay with that.