I happened to check the movie times at my local theater and found out that there was a Special Advanced Screening of the new Joe movie on Tuesday. Being the Geeks that we are, we jumped at the chance and headed down to the Santikos Palladium IMAX to bask in the glory of Channing Tatum, The Rock, and Bruce Willis earlier than the general public.
Seriously, ya’ll, that’s a threesome of awesome right there. If I were ever on the verge of switching teams, that triumvirate might just be able to flip me. But can three muscle-bound dreamboats do more than blow things up and look good? Let’s find out in the Geek Dinks review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Let me start by saying that I was one of the few who actually enjoyed the first Joe movie, Rise of Cobra. It was silly, and it departed a little too heavily from the source material at times, but I still found it to be a fun movie with some solid humor. It was a bit sexist, and the technology made no sense. But I liked it anyway.
So what if you didn’t like Rise of Cobra? I can say with certainty that Retaliation is a better movie. It’s better crafted, better acted, and much closer to the source material. In fact, its biggest strength is the way in which the characters are portrayed. They feel a lot more like those cartoons you remember, and most of them get a fair amount of character development time.
This time around, there are no accelerator suits or invisibility cloaks. Lady Jaye wears fatigues just like the boys, not weird boob armor (though that’s not to say that they didn’t go out of their way to make sure to show off some of Lady Jaye’s assets). In Retaliation, the Joes are basically just elite army folk. They use mostly normal weaponry, they’re mostly American, and they manage to get all of the Armed Forces catchphrases mixed up.
For those who know their Joes, this movie boasts the characters of Duke, Roadblock, Mouse, Flint, Lady Jaye, General Joe Colton, Snake Eyes, and Jinx. In Cobra’s corner, you’ve got Cobra Commander, Zartan, Firefly, Destro (sort of) and Storm Shadow (sort of). It’s a big cast, so knowing your Joes from your Cobras before going in is helpful. Also, just remember that Firefly is Cajun no matter how uneven his accent is.
The acting in this movie is surprisingly solid. Akaemi says that Channing Tatum was the worst actor of the bunch, so she apparently didn’t get lost in his dreamy eyes like I did. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Duke is not central to the plot and thus doesn’t bring the movie down. The Rock (I refuse to call him Dwayne!) does a great job and he’s the perfect actor for a movie solely based on explosions.
My favorite character was Firefly (played by Ray Stevenson). His accent was a little iffy, but the character was beautifully painted. It takes a lot to show the ninjas up, but he does a great job. His love of explosions and general quackery is awesome.
Perhaps the reason Firefly is such a great character is because he likes to make things explode. Retaliation does not have a great plot, but it does like to blow things up. If you blow things up often enough and loudly enough, the plot disappears. Sure, it’s the Michael Bay school of movie philosophy, but when done with charismatic actors and some good fight choreography, it can make a movie work. The cliff-side ninja fight in the trailers was both unique and exciting.
Something of particular note here was the strange way in which this movie tried to be both a reboot and a sequel. It embraces many of the plot elements of the first film, and acknowledges that they happened but then ignores other things when it suits the story. For instance, there is no explanation as to how Storm Shadow survived being cut up by Snake Eyes and dumped into arctic waters. We’ll just go with ninja training on that one, I guess.
If you’re one of those people who can’t turn off the logic for a bit and enjoy some explosions and good looking actors then Retaliation is probably not for you. But if you’ve honed that button in your brain that lets you forget all the logic and enjoy the movie, then you’ll like it. Sometimes things explode inexplicably, sometimes accents are all over the place, and sometimes people have returned from the dead without explanation… But dog gone it if it isn’t a fun time.
Verdict: 80% as good as The Avengers.