**********MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. PLOT DISCUSSED IN DETAIL**********
Sequel to the 2009 film G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, and a reboot to the franchise, G.I. Joe: Retaliation was released in 2013. Directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2, Step Up 3 and Justin Bieber’s concert biopics), and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).
I’ve heard that a lot of people did not like the first movie G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra, and I still can’t figure out why. Most of them were faithful fans of the original cartoon series. I get not liking a movie franchise of an old favourite, but really it wasn’t so bad. It had a consistent plot, good character sketches, and good action sequences. You felt for the characters and believed in their camaraderie. There was a cohesive story, with all elements coming together. Maybe not great, but a decently well-made movie.
Whereas previously I liked the movie and enjoyed watching it, I will forever regret watching Retaliation. It made me fall in love with Rise of Cobra and appreciate it even more. Two hours of my life wasted, staring in horror and bewilderment at the screen, wondering the entire time what the hell was going on.
First, where are the characters of the previous movie? There is no explanation of what happened to them. Even Duke doesn’t mention them! It’s like they never existed. Flint replaces Ripcord, Lady Jane replaces Scarlett and Breaker and Roadblock replaces Heavy Duty. The changes were apparently made to make the story more authentic, but what is the point when there’s no chemistry and the characters are distasteful?
At the beginning of the movie you have a friendly, homely scene between Duke and Roadblock, trying to establish their friendship and loyalty. It came and went, I felt nothing. That was my first clue that I shouldn’t continue. I waited, fifteen minutes into the film, wondering when it would actually start and things will get clearer. Finally it does and how. In a sudden burst of explosion, with no preamble, Duke gets bombed and dies. The scene is pathetic because the direction fails to make it impactful and you feel nothing for the character’s death other than horror as you suddenly realize that the movie is a failure.
Another jarring moment: Roadblock is apparently deeply hurt and heartbroken over losing his partner; he even takes his dog tags, and I felt nothing. I didn’t feel his emotions. And usually, in Dwayne Johnson’s movies, I don’t have to work hard at feeling something for his characters. He’s a surprisingly decent actor. But in this movie, he failed to rouse any reaction apart from dismay.
I also blame this on the fact that it’s hard to feel for a friendship or character you’ve only seen for ten minutes. For death and broken relationships to make any impact, one has to witness them over a period of time in various scenes, so you get a chance to know, like, and connect with them, like in the first movie. I felt more with Ripcord when Duke was in trouble than I did at Duke’s death! Frankly I was and still am horrified. How could they just kill him? Like that? In the first ten minutes?
Dwayne Johnson taking over as lead and leader did not sit well with me. I also disliked the other two members. There was no substance, no personality as such and the little romance they tried to show also seemed to have been thrown in for the heck of it.
How does Storm Shadow survive? Why save Destro only to kill him? How has Cobra gained such loyalty and following when he’s been imprisoned since he ‘came out’ as the Cobra? What happened to the Baroness? What happened to the story of Duke and Baroness? No answers, zero explanations. One thing after another keeps happening, all action, without sense, or plot, or story or reason! The deeply hurt and out for justice soldier act slides off my skin. It’s not convincing, rather forced. The trio express gravity which is not supported by the plot, direction, writing. When there is nothing to give weight to their seriousness and hurt, the grave, heavy, mournful, serious expressions and body language only feel odd, boring and affected; evoking no emotions.
The coolest things in the whole movie are the firefly-bombs. That’s it.
Throughout the first half of the movie I kept waiting for Snake Eyes to turn up, as by then he seemed to be the only hope for an otherwise pathetically dead and dismal movie. He came, I rejoiced, he went into the mountains, I despaired. Because the revelation in the mountains makes an already horrifying movie worse. Storm Shadow did not kill their master. He was framed. By whom? Zartan!
Of all the characters to name (I was even open to the possibility of Cobra), Zartan? But, unfortunately, I predicted it before it happened, because of all the places to use logic, here, logically, Zartan was the only one who made sense out of the existing villains, the only one who would have been old enough. But, it makes absolutely no sense that Zartan saw potential in Storm Shadow for his own purposes. Or that he just happened to be the one to corrupt his life. Since I don’t know the stories of the comics and cartoons, I think it’s quite fair for me to expect some explanations.
I kept asking myself why I don’t just leave, but sometimes, even with the most horrible, senseless, painful movies, there is a perverse desire to know how they’ll end it, what else can go wrong. Turned out, everything.
There’s a scene of sword action in a house in the mountains between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow which was good. But after that you have an elaborate, bizarre CGI scene where ninjas are swinging between Himalayan Mountains, on cables, carrying and fighting over a body bag (!), which looked like a video game. I could actually imagine holding a remote control, and the sensation you get when you make your characters leap and fly in a video game! It blew my mind with its ridiculousness.
After that I had no hopes at all, and the movie delivered. We had the same old problem of nuclear weapons as the threat of destruction, and stopping them at the last possible second. Only this time it’s President Zartan who is playing nuke the nukes with the leaders of the world. You have a forgettable appearance by Bruce Willis which only manages to decrease his stature. Cobra, for all his attitude and importance as villain only manages to be a prop. He walks in, delivers one line, and walks out, in every scene. And there are just three. Zartan had more screen time and presence as a villain.
Also you have a seemingly defining moment in the movie when Storm Shadow switches sides and helps the Joes after finding out that Zartan set him up. I wish it could’ve happened in a plot where you could appreciate it, since he and Snake Eyes deserve to be in a better story. Here everything was too predictable to make a difference. In a movie where a simple fist bump/handclasp thing falls flat, what more can be said? They even managed to screw up the most universal, basic gesture seen in every movie or serial at one time or another between every other male character!
I wish I could erase this movie from my mind, but alas. I would not recommend it for anything. Senseless action in a plot less movie with forgettable acting and hollow, generic dialogues that fall into empty silences (there are a lot of them) when nothing is happening in the movie; all smoke, no fire. I reluctantly gave this movie a gem, which is for the firefly bombs and Zartan. The director should stick to dance musicals and the writers’ previous collaboration, Zombieland, was ten times better. The movie is a good example of when not to change directors and writers for sequels.