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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (4K Ultra HD)
Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation is not a great film, but it is certainly an improvement over its predecessor, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which star Channing Tatum apparently hates. It makes sense that Retaliation brings new characters into the fold, with only a few friendly faces returning. Chu wisely steers the film toward more practical sets and effects, and, while there is still plenty of CGI, the movie feels a lot more tangible than The Rise of Cobra. The Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick script here is a bit too convoluted for its own good, taking the Joes from North Korea to Pakistan to Washington D.C. to Tokyo during a plot that probably did not need to be this dense. Nevertheless, the Rock/Dwayne Johnson commands the screen as the new Capitan of G.I. Joe and Chu's action set pieces are quite dazzling.
Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) remains disguised as the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce) to support Cobra and frames the Joes for stealing Pakistani warheads, ordering a strike that kills several members of the team. Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) find General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis) and seek to avenge the deaths of their friends. Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) rescues Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) from U.S. custody but ultimately realizes, after a confrontation with Snake Eyes (Ray Park), that Zartan has played him all along. For his part, Zartan vows to make Cobra the United States' top military organization, and invites world leaders to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, where he reveals a deadly orbital weapon and gives the heads of state the options of submitting or facing their countries' annihilations.
This film is a bit of an odd bird in that it feels like both a sequel to The Rise of Cobra and a reboot to that film. Spoilers ahead! By killing off Duke (Tatum) within the first half hour, the film allows Roadblock to fill the hero's shoes, as if the producers were teasing Johnson as the new face of G.I. Joe films that were never made. Retaliation describes Cobra's response to events of the first film, but it also stands for actions of the Joes. There are a lot of tangents during this film, such as Snake Eyes' trip to a Himalayan temple to tackle old demons. This segues into characters switching allegiances, and allows the film to move toward its high-tension resolution. There is a lot going on here with relatively little forward motion, but Retaliation is certainly not dull during its 110 minutes.
There is still plenty of cheese to go with this action, and the material here is only slightly less silly than as presented in The Rise of Cobra. That said, I think the humor here works better, and the dialogue is nowhere near as horrible as in that movie. Chu's direction is superior to Sommers' and his action sequences are much more competently shot. The film also has superior sets, and the CGI effects are hands and feet above those in the previous film. The principal cast seems to be enjoying themselves here, and fans of the Hasbro toys and comic books should appreciate this outing more than The Rise of Cobra. The action is fairly intense for a PG-13 flick, and the ninja fight in the Himalayas stands out among several solid sequences. Though hardly a classic, G.I. Joe Retaliation is significantly more accomplished than The Rise of Cobra.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Paramount provides the film a 2.40:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer from a 2K digital intermediate with Dolby Vision and HDR10. Like the Rise of Cobra 4K Ultra HD disc, this is not a particularly notable upgrade from Blu-ray, but I think Retaliation offers a bit more impressive detail and color saturation than Cobra's 4K. Black levels are deep, shadow detail is abundant, highlights push bright but are kept in check, and colors are nicely saturated. Shots during the initial siege offer some gorgeously rendered, neon colors and excellent detail. The film looks solid in motion, and I noticed no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement.
Paramount recycles the previous Blu-ray's 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, and, while an Atmos mix would have been nice, this is a damn good mix. Totally immersive, with nonstop surround action and rambunctious LFE support, it's hard to complain about this modern surround soundtrack. Dialogue is crisp and appropriately layered amid effects and the score, which is presented nicely. A host of dubs and subtitle options are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and a digital copy. The discs are packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover. On both discs you get a Commentary by Director Jon M. Chu and Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. On the Blu-ray you get some Deleted Scenes (3:59/HD) and G.I. Joe: Declassified, a solid, multi-part making-of.
Not perfect but a marked improvement over its predecessor, G.I. Joe: Retaliation offers exciting action and a new lead in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. This 4K disc offers a small upgrade in picture quality and recycled audio and supplements. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.