MOVIE REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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Film: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum

Like many movie snobs, the 2009 release of G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra was nothing special to me. The initial announcement of the film came at a time when multiple toy and board game properties were being picked up by major studios, and the thought of seeing figurines I had loved so much as a child turned into the biggest hollywood bastardization since Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen did not appeal to me in the slightest. So when Rise finally arrived in theaters I chose to sit out the big screen experience. In fact, I waited two full years before finally giving in and experiencing the film. When I did, however, I felt as if I had robbed myself of years of guilty please fandom. Rise Of The Cobra was far from perfect, but it never had to be. All a movie in this subgenre needs to do is entertain on a large scale without pissing off people who cherish the original property. If Rise Of The Cobra managed to do that admirably, then GI Joe: Retaliation might as well be the Casablanca of movies based on toys.

An unspecified amount of time has passed since we last saw the Joes, but these days Duke (Channing Tatum) leads with Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) serving as second-in-command. After deception from someone at the White House leads to a surprise attack and on Joes’ base camp, however, the once powerful team is cut down to three survivors who must band together to clear the Joes’ name and figure out what exactly is going on in Washington. They quickly realize the only one with the power to order such a strike is the president, but not everything is as it seems. The remaining Joes set out to regroup with former comrades, including Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and soon begin plotting how they can save the world and [hopefully] stop Cobra forces for good.

It may read like the plot described above is a fairly serious one, and at times it does touch on moments of real emotion, but Retaliation never forgets that it is first and foremost a film based on action figures. There are a fair amount of dramatic sequences, maybe even more than was found in the original, but they’re almost always balanced with additional storylines that are riddled in bullets and sword fights. There are enough explosions and gunshots here to make Michael Bay squeal with joy, but it never reaches the point of over-saturation that his recent work seems unable to avoid. No, the madness in Retaliation is more refined than that, and one of the best aspects of that is that it’s captured in a way that allows for large scale sequences to feel as big as they should. Director Jon M. Chu opts for wide angle shots over shaky, up close imagery during the film’s more action-heavy moments, and in the end it makes a big difference on the overall impact of the film. It’s a fast paced, big budget movie that never feels rushed or overly CGI’d, even with its post-converted 3D, and if that isn’t enough to sell you I’m not sure what will.

Whether or not you were like me and gave into your American-bred love of senseless violence and enjoyed Rise Of The Cobra, I can guarantee as long as you love fun action films you will find something to appreciate in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It is not what you would call a perfect movie, but it delivers on everything promised in its marketing and goes to great lengths to leave a positive lasting impression on the viewer. I mean, how many films can claim to have a sequence involving ninjas fighting with swords while swinging on ropes on the side of a snowcapped mountain? The answer is only one, and that film is now playing in a theater near you.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a movie that knows it is intended to be a Spring blockbuster that only skims the surface of emotion and delivers plenty of explosive eye candy that is unlike anything else you’ll find this side of the Marvel universe. If that sounds like a good time, I highly suggest seeing it on the big screen.

Score: B+

Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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