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Film Review: 'G.I. Joe's' retaliation against us all

March 31, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Left to right: Channing Tatum plays Duke and Dwayne Johnson plays Roadblock in G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, from Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Skydance Productions.
Left to right: Channing Tatum plays Duke and Dwayne Johnson… (Courtesy of Jaimie…)

To summarize the economics behind "G.I. Joe: Retaliation": the 2009 "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" made enough moolah ($150 million domestic, $150 million elsewhere) to justify — nay, demand — a sequel. As for the aesthetics of the film, "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" made enough moolah to justify — nay, demand — a sequel. Really. There are very few moments here where the filmmakers seem to have thought about anything else.

You expect your basic action blockbuster to follow a rigid, demographically driven template, but with surprising frequency, the pieces superimposed upon that template include funny dialogue, distinctive characters, ingenious action concepts, or all three. Not this time around: Every element seems built to open the wallets of adolescent boys with excess hormones. Apparently the retaliation is against the rest of us.

In James Bond fashion, there's a pre-credit action sequence that has no relation to the rest of the film. Even though there's nothing inherently wrong with that — go watch "Goldfinger" again — there's also nothing right with this particular one. There is some effort to introduce us to the characters, but the effort is for naught. All you can say for sure is that one of them is Dwayne Johnson and another is Channing Tatum, reprising his role from the earlier film.

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This sequence displays one of "GIJ:R"'s worst faults. The action scenes are cut in a way that makes it tough to tell who's who, or who is on what side. We'll see a Good Guy being shot at, and the camera cuts to what appears to be a reverse shot, showing the Bad Guy doing the shooting. Except it's not a reverse shot; it's a cut to some other random Good Guy. In a few scenes, the sides are clarified through color-coded clothing, but more often there's just a hodgepodge of masked characters blasting away at each other.

What makes things even more confusing is that Snake Eyes (Ray Park) turns out to be Stormshadow (Lee Byung-hun); and whoever's blasting into a high-security facility to release him might be the Bad Guys trying to rescue Stormshadow or the Good Guys trying to rescue Snake Eyes. The general confusion over allies and enemies isn't helped when Stormshadow sort of switches sides. About halfway through, I wished I had brought a crib sheet.

All of this may be crystal clear to those raised on G.I. Joe comics, action figures and assorted geegaws. They weren't around during my adolescence, so I was in the dark.

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