When there is potential to make a profit, sequels are almost always considered by Hollywood. Regardless of a film's quality, it could receive numerous sequels. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was an extreme disappointment to fans and moviegoers around the world. A few years later, Paramount and Hasbro bring us a second entry called G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Allow me to assure you that this is a clear improvement over the first one. It's probable that this sequel will attract large crowds, from big G.I. Joe fans to casual moviegoers. While this movie will most certainly receive better reactions than its predecessor did, it won't be crowned as a memorable, or even a decent action flick. This feature might work as an entertaining experience for some, but it comes across as another generic popcorn flick for the rest of us.
The G.I. Joe's are attacked when they least expect it after a COBRA agent named Zartan steals the identity of the US President (Jonathan Pryce). Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson aka "The Rock"), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) are left fighting the COBRA in order to ensure the world's safety before it's too late. They find themselves teaming up with the well-known Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and his apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung). The journey to fighting the enemy leads them to receiving aid from a retired Joe (Bruce Willis). This quest is to protect the world, but it is also to avenge their fallen comrades.
From the moment G.I. Joe: Retaliation begins, a "brotherly"-like relationship quickly shows itself between Roadblock and Duke (Channing Tatum). Director Jon M. Chu has clearly decided to embark upon a different path than the one director Stephen Sommers did with the previous film. With screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Chu attempts to deliver a more grounded picture with characters having their own stories. However, there are a lot of roles, therefore they aren't all explored. This sequel relies on viewers having pre-existing knowledge of the characters before walking into the theater. Regardless, it won't affect the few fun scenes that this motion picture has to offer. There are some entertaining action sequences to be found, which will keep you glued to the screen. Unfortunately, these scenes are few and far apart. There isn't a lot to keep you hooked in between them.
With a few of the characters receiving their own backstory, they're wrapped up so rapidly that it doesn't benefit the overall picture in any way. Audiences won't find themselves any closer to the roles, but are kept at the distance one would expect. In fact, this group of characters don't seem to carry much of a personality. They're all quite bland, which holds us even further from the G.I. Joe's. Writers Reese and Wernick strive to create humorous interactions between the main roles, but they simply aren't very funny. Some of the dialogue might receive some chuckles, but none of it is very clever. I was hoping for at least one charming character that I could root for, but that person never came along. There are small hints of decent characterizations, especially when some of them are speaking about emotional times in their lives, but these moments quickly transition back to disappointing comedic scenes and big action set pieces. You'll find yourself wishing that the screenplay allowed you to actually care about these characters, even if only a little bit.
At times, G.I. Joe: Retaliation displays its more grounded side, otherwise it becomes campy. Perhaps director Jon M. Chu and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were trying to achieve different tones through their creative processes. This makes for an uneven adventure. There are a few scenes that are pretty dark for the G.I. Joe's, but then you'll find remnants of the campiness from G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. This would have been a much stronger movie if it tried to achieve one particular tone. There will be times that fans will appreciate where the story is heading, but then it will incorporate tacky dialogue and a severe lack of motivation to keep you invested. Unless you're a dedicated fan of the G.I. Joe's, you might find yourself not caring about what happens next.
The majority of the casting is a success, even though they don't have a lot of material to work with. Dwayne Johnson was appropriately placed in the role of Roadblock. He's an extremely entertaining action star who demands our attention, especially through the battle sequences. Byung-hun Lee fits like a glove in the role of Storm Shadow. His character receives an even smaller amount of worthy material, but he does what he can with it. Ray Stevenson does a great job as Firefly, which is why it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with more screen time. D.J. Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki aren't given the chance to do very much as Flint and Jaye. They're hindered by the strict supporting roles fulfilled. The most unfortunate casting choice to be found is RZA as Blind Master. He isn't in the film for very long, but it's long enough to leave a lasting impression.
There is a lot of CG work to be found in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but that is to be expected. Since director Jon M. Chu is experienced with handling choreography in his Step Up films, he's able to utilize his skills in this feature. From start to finish, this movie looks pretty good. The fans will be pleased with seeing their favorite characters in live-action form. The majority of the fight scenes are typical, but there is one specific standout that is worth seeing. Several red ninjas fight Snake Eyes and Jinx on a mountainside. It's easily the most entertaining scene through the entire running time. Chu has done an excellent job organizing the movements of each ninja, particularly through this sequence. The film's release date was pushed back to March 28th due to the decision to convert the picture to 3D. The press screening I attended was in RealD 3D, which actually looks decent. Post conversions usually look horrible, but there is a solid amount of depth, even though there is a considerable amount of "ghosting."
As a tonally confused piece, G.I. Joe: Retaliation doesn't entirely recover from the hit that its predecessor delivered. While this is most certainly a step in the correct direction, it doesn't quite manage to push itself where it needs to be. The casting is solid, as are a few of the action scenes, but the screenplay greatly hinders this picture from being anything more than a generic action flick. However, that doesn't make it completely unwatchable. There are some fun moments to be had here, but there aren't very many of them. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is loud and uneven, but it will be enjoyed by some. Rent it.