Saturday, March 30, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation / *½ (PG-13)

Roadblock: Dwayne Johnson
Duke: Channing Tatum
Lady Jaye: Adrianne Palicki
Flint: D.J. Cotrona
President: Jonathan Pryce
Storm Shadow: Byung-hun Lee
Firefly: Ray Stevenson
Snake Eyes: Ray Park
Jinx: Elodie Yung
Blind Master: RZA
General Joe Colton: Bruce Willis

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Jon M. Chu. Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. Based on characters from the Hasbro toy line. Running time: 110 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language).

“It’s like the screenwriters said, ‘Let’s make movie about people blowing things up.’ Awesome!” —Jude Wells upon seeing “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”.

“My eyes feel like they’ve been violated.” —His father upon the same event.

A week ago I wrote about the Dwayne Johnson movie “Snitch”. I claimed it wasn’t a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie because it was a serious take on its subject matter and didn’t entail the silly exaggerations and mindless violence that are implied by a moniker like The Rock. Now, comes “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, which is most certainly a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie. It’s also a Channing “The Bod” Tatum movie, and an Adrianne “The Rack” Palicki movie, and a Byung-hun “The Shirtless” Lee movie, and a Bruce “The Smirk” Willis movie. It is all of the things these ridiculous nicknames that I made up imply and less, and yet somehow it is ten times better than the first live action G.I. Joe movie. However, that one set the bar so low that ten times better is hardly enough to make this one worth the price of admission.

In the spirit of the Hasbro toy company’s other major motion picture franchise, “Transformers”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is cacophony of noise, explosions, poorly conceived one-liners, gratuitous body parts, swords, sparks, silly costumes, flimsy plotting and nightmare editing. I challenge anyone to diagram the geography of even one of the battle sequences in this film. There’s no way to do it without making up all the stuff in your head that you don’t get to see on screen. This style of flash-cut editing makes for action sequences that grow tiresome within seconds because there is no sense of space or time involved in them. No stunt can be seen for what it is. There’s no sense of weight and consequence. There’s just noise and bright images flashing across the screen.

You might not know it from the mostly new cast, including all the leading roles, but this G.I. Joe adventure picks up right after the events of 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”. There are a couple of familiar faces, like Tatum, Lee and Jonathan Pryce returning as the President of the United States, or rather an imposter posing as the POTUS and the POTUS himself. But the rest of the Joes and their enemies the Cobras are new, save for those who wear perpetual masks.

Like those silly monikers for the actors, each character has an equally silly nickname. Johnson is Roadblock. Palicki is Lady Jaye. There’s a Joe named Flint, and one named Mouse. The ninja Snake Eyes, who never speaks or removes his mask, is back from the first film. The returning baddie Storm Shadow has a good sister ninja named Jinx. Firefly is a Cobra who likes to blow things up, which doesn’t really distinguish him much in this story. The guy impersonating the POTUS is Zartan, whatever that means. Even the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA shows up as the imaginatively named martial arts guru Blind Master. How’s that for some nickname overkill? Luckily, Willis’s character just wants to be called “Joe”.

I could go over the details of the plot, but like the first movie, I don’t really see the point. Cobra has secretly infiltrated the White House and plans on world domination with an overly complicated plot to implement that development. Will the fugitive G.I. Joes be able to figure out what that plot is and stop it in time? Come on. Is there even any reason to think they don’t? Whoops, spoiler! But, that does bring me to one of my biggest problems of the movie. Does anybody else have a problem with the fact that even though the Joes had all their people in place before it happened; nothing was done to stop the destruction of London? It isn’t even mentioned after the fact that one of the world’s most important cities has been wiped off the map. London’s gone? No biggie. That should play well in England.

As the quotation at the beginning of this review from my son indicates, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” will be exactly the G.I. Joe movie many will want it to be. I could’ve used a break here or there from the constant onslaught. There was one aspect of the movie that I liked. Originally set to release last summer, the producers delayed the movie when Tatum suddenly became a huge star. They added some scenes between Tatum and Johnson showing their camaraderie, including one funny scene involving them playing a video game together. These two together are kind of fun. I would’ve rather seen a whole movie of The Rock and The Bod playing video games than the rest of this movie, however.

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