G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not a good movie. I can’t bring myself to recommend it on any aesthetic or intellectual level. For people in a certain age group, and here I refer to those who grew up in the 80’s when the G.I. Joe cartoon first aired, the movie will stir a certain amount of nostalgia. I enjoyed it, but only because I turned off my brain and allowed the inherent goofiness of the movie to wash over me.
Some time has passed since the events of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The Cobra leadership has been captured, and the Joes now follow Captain Duke (Channing Tatum), who leads his team around the world on behalf of the President (Jonathan Pryce). Little do the Joes know that Cobra has infiltrated the highest echelons of the U.S. government, and during an ambush the Joes are all killed, save for Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park). To save the world they enlist the help of the original G.I. Joe, General Colton (Bruce Willis).
The movie is basically a collection of set pieces that each try to outdo the previous one in terms of scale and carnage. One of the best involves Snake Eyes and fellow ninja Jinx (Elodie Yung) fighting a group of henchmen whilst swinging across a cliff face. It’s an exciting scene, even though obviously a computer generated construct. A lot of fun is had as the Cobras execute their plans of world domination, particularly when Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), disguised as the President, tricks the other world leaders into destroying their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
Not much can be said about the acting. Dwayne Johnson is his usual charismatic self, but both Lady Jaye and Flint never amount to more than cardboard cutouts. One of the positives of the first film was a cast that included Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph-Gordon Levitt, who all can add gravitas to the most ridiculous scenarios. And oh, Bruce Willis. He can be such a fantastic actor, but in a movie like this he seems to be channeling some lite version of John McClane. When Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes are more compelling characters and they’re always masked, there’s a problem.
And yet, I inexplicably enjoyed myself. There’s something to be said for a movie that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. I’ve used the cotton candy analogy before, and it certainly applies here. One might even call it a cotton candy flavored popcorn flick. There are worse things I could say about a movie.