Given G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra took a city-destroying, box office haul of $302 million it’s hardly surprising we’re getting G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The first film, based on Hasbro’s line of action figures (the people behind the other box office toy behemoth Transformers), was essentially a mindless action film that played out like a live-action version of Team America: World Police. Although there was probably more life in Team America’s marionettes than there was in Steven Sommers’ Joes. This time out they have the adrenaline injection,money machine that is the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson onboard, presumably with the hope that he can breathe new life into the franchise as he did with Fast Five.
When the Pakistani president is killed, the Joes find themselves framed for the assassination. All but wiped out, the surviving team of elite soldiers, led by Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), soon realise that the man posing as the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) is in fact master of disguise Zartan (Arnold Vosloo). When the evil Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey, replacing the first film’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt) breaks free, it’s up to the Joes to clear their names and save the day. But without the support of the government and wanted as fugitives, there’s only one man they can turn to, the original Joe, the ultimate fighting machine, General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis).
Plastic and brash, director Jon M. Chu’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels like a desperate attempt to out-explode Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. Within the opening ten minutes we see Johnson playing computer game Call Of Duty with his partner-in-action, Channing Tatum. From here on the film plays out like said computer game, the characters going through increasingly harder levels of bad guys in order to eventually have their shown-down with big bad Cobra, who looks and sounds like Darth Vader’s silver-faced brother. The plot bounces all over the place, like a souped-up ninja assassin, to such an extent that one of the final lines of the film is to wrap up a storyline that always felt irrelevant in the first place.
Throw into the mix a pretty girl, in the shapely form of Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) whose sole purpose seems to be to fill a cleavage quota, and it’s a fair assumption that this Joe is average at best. But then to expect anything else of a film based on a line of action figures is probably asking too much.
The action is over-the-top gun-porn, the type that has kids pretending to lock-and-load as they leave the cinema. Although, to Chu’s credit, one sequence, atop a mountain with ninjas running on ropes, has enough of a 3D wow-factor to make even the most cynical of viewer take notice. But it’s short-lived and we’re soon back to clunky dialogue and Bruce Willis looking slightly perplexed as to what he’s doing.
What Retaliation is really missing is a bit of banter. The back and forth between Tatum and Marlon Wayans in the first film is sadly absent here, with Johnson, who is more than capable of comedy timing, asked to do little more than frown his way through the film. If anything the dialogue seems to be a competition as to which actor can sound like they’ve gargled with gravel the longest.
Despite the 3D format, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a depressingly one-dimensional affair. Even Dwayne Johnson can’t rescue this one and as such it remains a toy destined to remain in its box.