It’s been nearly four years since “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” graced the big screen, grossing more than $300 million in worldwide box office grosses. That movie was successful enough, but suffered from poor acting on the part of lead actor Channing Tatum, as well as numerous edits. After multiple delays and pushed back release dates, the sequel, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is finally here, and it improves on its predecessor in every way.
This time around, Tatum reprises his role as Duke, who has become the leader of the Joes since the closing of the first film. Cobra Commander and his lieutenant Destro are imprisoned in an undisclosed location, but Zartan is running the country, impersonating the President of the United States. When Zartan initiates a plan to free Cobra Commander and aid him in taking control of the world, it’s up to a new batch of Joes to foil the plot and save the world from the tyranny of Cobra.
The film definitely benefits from all the fresh faces, but it receives the most help from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson plays Roadblock, best friend of Duke and his second-in-command. Johnson, who is no stranger to action films, does a masterful job as the heavy-hitting Roadblock, especially when forced into a leadership role by unforeseen circumstances.
Along for the ride are Lady Jaye (Adrienne Palicki), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Jinx (Elodie Yung). Palicki is the eye candy of the team, but she’s more than capable in the field as well. Cotrona is the reserved parkour soldier, but his character is never fully fleshed out. However, he does what he can with the screen time he’s given, flipping and sliding and climbing throughout every combat scenario. Yung has maybe two lines in the whole movie, and ends up mostly as a fringe character in the Snake Eyes – Storm Shadow side story. Even Bruce Willis shows up as General Joe Colton, the namesake of the G.I. Joes themselves.
The Cobra team remains pretty much the same, with the notable addition of Ray Stevenson as Firefly, the man who, in tandem with Storm Shadow, is responsible for breaking out Cobra Commander. Firefly is an interesting character with myriad explosive devices, most notably his army of exploding (you guessed it) fireflies. He and Roadblock have a couple of the more interesting fight scenes in the film.
The plot itself is busy at first. They cover what’s going on with the president, continue the saga between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, introduce new characters to the audience, and attempt to mesh all these elements to create a comprehensive film. Clearly, they wanted to do a lot of things, and at times it’s slightly difficult to keep up with who is where and what they’re up to, but once they tie all the stories together with the central plot, the movie is a pretty fun popcorn action flick.
The action in this film is intense to say the least. The mountainside fight scene we were all teased with in the initial trailer is a lot of fun, and grips the audience from beginning to end as countless ninjas cross blades. The aforementioned duels between Roadblock and Firefly are short, but to the point. Even though we only got a look at the 2D version, it’s easy to see where they planted the 3D, and the argument can be made that it only adds to the film’s action.
The chemistry between the actors is pretty much what you’d expect. One-liners abound, but aren’t overused. Of particular note is the back and forth between General Joe and Lady Jaye. Joe routinely refers to Jaye as “Brenda,” and her facial expressions are hilarious, as are her responses. Also, the early banter between Roadblock and Duke will endear the new character to the audience rather quickly, not that that’s hard for Johnson. The people already love him.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is an improvement on the first film. They clearly dialed back on the cheese factor that the first film took overboard and took a real shot at making the movie fun without making it pander to any one demographic. The new characters are fun and intriguing, and the action is legitimately entertaining. And of course, they left everything open for a third film (and possibly more). In short, GO (see) JOE!