G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Review

The first G.I. Joe movie was basically a kids movie. It deviated pretty much from the original cartoon series that it was based on. Shutting off your brain was essential to withstand some of the stupidest dialogue of 2009 and to just enjoy some nice action scenes and effects.
Originally set to release in 2012, G.I.Joe Retaliation was delayed a whole year just before release to convert the movie into 3D. If that doesn't give you a hint at hollywood money-making then i don't know what is.
Now, with the charismatic Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis in the lead, the movie presents itself as taking things a bit more seriously now and less goofy. Is that the case?

The plot:
Framed for crimes against the country, the G.I. Joe team is terminated by the President's order, and the surviving team members face off against Zartan, his accomplices, and the world leaders he has under his influence. (source: IMDb)

Once again, G.I. Joe's story is paperthin. Maybe even more paperthin than its predecessor's story.
With a typical betrayal/revenge plot, G.I.Joe 2 brings nothing new to the table. The story is littered with stupid moments but at the same time manages to maintain a specific amount of seriousness that the first G.I. Joe movie threw out the window.
This time, the story is much more down-to-earth. Overly goofy sidekicks like Marlon Wayans from the original are luckily completely missing.
Nevertheless, G.I. Joe 2 has to be regarded as a live action cartoon with over-the-top villains and action. Not as a faithful adaptation of a comic or a serious standalone action movie.
With that said, the movie's flimsily told story only serves as a backdrop to connect the several action set pieces with each other. Therefore, having to endure the boring and uninspiredly written dialogue scenes becomes really annoying when everybody in the theater knows that this movie is just preparing another big action scene than telling a story that it is genuinly convinced of.
The fact that every action scene takes up about three times the amount of time of any dialogue scene in the movie only serves as another indicator for that.
But to be honest, nobody goes to see this movie for the dialogue.

I give you the G.I. Joes! Now less annoying!

Let's skip to the main attraction right away -  the action.
The action scenes in G.I. Joe 2 are as expected very over-the-top just like the ones from its predecessor. With tons and tons of CGI, it is sad that the movie often seems to head into Michael-Bay-Transformers-territory. However, over-the-top doesn't necessarily mean that the action is bad.
While still more down-to-earth than the action from its predecessor (like the speed-suits and sub-marine battles), most of G.I. Joe 2's action scenes are fairly nothing special.
They are very flashy and don't really show anything new...except one scene:

The cliffside ninja battle is hands down the best scene in the entire movie and completely steals the show.
Why is it cool?:
1. A bunch of ninjas fighting each other is always cool
2. Everybody's favorite Joe, Snake Eyes (and his sidekick Jinx), battle groups of enemy ninjas while hanging down a cliff
3. The fighting choreography is really good and shows surprisingly great ideas considering the fights
4. It is the only action scene that really gets the audience excited

The cliffside ninja battle might be the best scene in the movie but still doesn't really warrant to sit through the entire movie if you aren't interested right away. Still, there has to be given credit for this awesome fight scene. Which brings us to the most important character of the movie...

Snake Eyes. Why Snake Eyes? Because he embodies all of the things in the G.I. Joe movies that are done RIGHT.
Being a movie that has tons of stupid dialogue, he is the only one that just doesn't talk. Additionally, he is basically a faceless stuntman/ninja who doesn't need to hide behind any stardom. Another thing is that his design is very slick and appealing, which speaks for a lot of design choices in the G.I. Joe movies (like it or not). He is just a great and silent tool to pull of some great action scenes, which everybody wants to see, while avoiding stupid, padding scenes with lazy dialogue.
And yes, of course it is impossible to build a complete movie out of action scenes with a silent protagonist without the movie turning into a mindless compilation of action scenes....but guess what?...that's exactly what G.I. Joe movies are.
All in all, Snake Eyes therefore is the only genuine character in this entire movie, which also explains why everybody likes him the most (besides the fact that he is a badass ninja).
Of course the stuntwork of Ray Park (who plays Snake Eyes) once again is excellent here.

Ninjas somehow make everything better.

Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) replaces Channing Tatum as the lead protagonist and leader of the Joes.
Without a strong characterization, it is surprising how his character, Roadblock, still manages to have more of a likable personality than Channing Tatum's character Duke.
A movie like G.I. Joe needs big actors like The Rock to underline its primary goal -  action.
The Rock serves this purpose just right and is faaar less annoying than Tatum.
The same goes for Roadblock's two sidekicks Flint and Jaye. While Flint is very unrecognizable and boring, Jaye, played by Adrianne Palicki, is just eye-candy to have a hot woman in your action movie. Still...far less annoying than the old goofy team from the original.

But what really bugs the hell out of me is the new trend of putting actors on the movie posters and banners, who are barely in your final movie!
A prime example for this was last year's Expendables 2, where Jet Li was promoted on every single poster but ultimately had about 10 minutes of screentime. He was just a gimmick for the movie's intro scene. Even more insulting was Battleship's advertisment of having Liam Neeson in it. But anyway...

The same thing happens in G.I. Joe 2.
Channing Tatum is presented as one of the big leading roles in this movie, but just as Jet Li, he is just in the opening attack scene in the beginning of the movie. Granted, i like that his role got scrapped down to a minimum, but putting him that large on your movie poster is just false advertising.
Bruce Willis is also guilty of the same thing. He is put right in front of all the other actors on the movie's poster but has barely more screentime than what you already saw in the trailers.
He basically just shows the other Joes his house, shoots some dudes from his car (trailer), shows up shortly before the end, DONE.
How come Bruce Willis got so lazy these days? First, Die Hard 5 and now this?
So just to recap, this is NO Bruce Willis movie. He is barely in this movie. It is a Dwayne Johnson movie.

And one last thing: RZA as Snake Eyes' blind master? That's just phenomenally stupid. And that bad old-man-make-up doesn't help much.

You gotta be kidding me with this make-up.

Overall, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is indeed an improvement over its predecessor but not by a whole lot. With a more down-to-earth approach and a more charismatic, yet still fairly characterless, team of protagonists it is much more satisfying to watch. With some standard-fair action scenes and one very good ninja battle scene, G.I. Joe 2 is only worth the watch if you are taking into account that you are only there for some explosions and ninjas...nothing more.
Once again, shutting down your brain and leaving your intelect at home is essential to enjoy this flick.
And one more time: Despite Bruce Willis being depicted so largely on the movie's poster, it is NOT a Bruce Willis movie. Shame on this movie for false advertising and taking so long just for some stupid 3D conversion.
If you want some brainless fun to kill some time with, the live-action cartoon called G.I. Joe: Retaliation might just be the movie to watch.


Final Verdict: 3 out of 10 

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