I know G.I. JOE: RETALIATION might be one of those movies I had low expectations for and when it exceeded those expectations I found myself giving it a possibly unearned good review. Perhaps after a second viewing I will see the film's flaws and decide that the whole movie is sucktastic. I don't think so though. I think RETALIATION did some things right. Things I didn't quite expect in this day and age where everything in movies has to be bigger and more explody than the last big movie. There really isn't much for me to complain about. I had a fun time watching the latest in the G.I. JOE franchise. There is a good mix of live action realism with impossible over the top visuals expected from a cartoon. It is better than what you would expect. At least that is how it was for me.
PLOT: G.I. JOE goes BOOM! COBRA tries to take over the world. DONE!
RETALIATION has the luxury of not being hampered of going through the predictable motions of being an origin story. We can move on and get into the movieverse where G.I. JOE is battling COBRA, a terrorist organization determined to rule the world if you didn't know. I think the only bad thing about part 2 is that they give us a story that probably should have taken place in either the inevitable part 3 THE REVENGE OF COBRA or part 4 THE RETIREMENT OF COBRA. It is too early to start our story by killing off all but four Joes. Too soon I say. Killing Duke off was a major mistake too but I will get to that later. We never really get to know any of these characters and not too many of them return from part 1. Where did they all go? To the mall to buy shoes? I guess the only good thing about their absence is we don't have real life Jar-Jar Binks himself Marlon Wayans returning playing the ancestor of the thief character he played in the poopular DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. Maybe it would be worth it if he showed up and got all blowed up. Nah!
Part 2 visually is a lot smaller in scope compared to most of the recent blockbusters in the last ten years. RETALIATION keeps the visuals in control to aide the story and not just blow a bunch of crap up because producers think that audiences are still impressed by explosions that destroy half the world. There is a scene where they blow up a whole city but the film isn't constantly trying to out do other films in the giant spectacle of stuff being destroyed category. What this means is that there is more focus on smaller details. Smaller moments have greater impact. Even though the whole movie moves through it's story faster than an actual episode of the classic cartoon series it does take time to focus on the smaller badass moments. There is a great moment of Cobra Commander simply walking looking like a total imposing badass. He is someone to fear and he almost gets the world to bend to his will and you are impressed by it. You are given a chance to see great costume and vehicle designs as well. Characters have more of a solid presence. They aren't as forgettable as they are in the first one. I didn't even realize that Channing Tatum was Duke in the first one. The only time the film wavers a bit is in the mediocre PG-13 style action scenes. There are some good humorous moments as well that were a little unexpected. The movie almost feels like a sequel to 21 JUMP STREET at one point.
Let's talk about the nerdy aspect to G.I. JOE part 2. Snakes-Eyes is to G.I. Joe as Wolverine is to THE X-MEN. The nerdos love him so they got to make a large part of the story involve Snake-Eyes doing stuff that makes him look all badass doing his twirly sword thingy. Oh, and Storm Shadow is back doing just fine after being killed in the first one. Only in the movies, folks. You can tell that whoever wrote part 2 had a thing for the ninja aspect of G.I. JOE. All the ninjas from the cartoon show are in this movie even the ninja that isn't a ninja but looks like one so when you were a kid you pretended he was one just so he would fit in, Firefly, Its raining ninjas in G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. In fact if you didn't look like a ninja they killed you off. Sorry, Duke. I know you were like the main character and the guy who played you was an emerging Hollywood star with a string of majorly successful films under his belt but you didn't wear pajamas that covered you head to toe and you don't know nothin about nun-chucks. Every nerd in the world that has katanas or samurai swords hanging proudly on their wall should adore and make sweet but unwelcomed love to this movie.
Where the TRANSFORMERS movies failed the G.I. JOE ones succeed. RETALIATION isn't about a couple of kids that find some device which find themselves being pursued by COBRA and eventually G.I. JOE showing up and saving the day towards the end of the film. G.I. JOE movies are about the G.I. Joes. I don't know why these movies based on toys have to focus so much on characters that have nothing to do with the figures we played with. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE did the exact same thing.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION does a great job incorporating the cartoon aspect into live action. It is kind of cool seeing Cobra Commander retreat like he did in the cartoon. Remember when we were kids and we called "B.S." on guys ejecting from their vehicles just as they were about to explode? It is nice to see that that doesn't happen in the live action movies. I am sure in the next one if they can afford it they will bring back Tatum to play Duke again. If Storm Shadow can survive a major impalement issue right before being dropped in arctic freezing water then I am sure Duke can come back after being blown up and left for dead by his friends who didn't even check his pulse. Oh, I bet Duke comes back pissed.