When G.I. Joe: Retaliation was first announced, I hoped that a lot of the mistakes from the previous film would be rectified. I was pleased to see that Jon Chu captured so much of the cartoon I enjoyed as a kid this time around. While there were ample times throughout the film where I thought they’d drop the ball I will admit they kept the plot pretty straightforward, albeit with taking some liberties in regards to certain characters (I will address later on). I have watched every incarnation of G.I . Joe since I was young and it was apparent to me that they borrowed a lot from the G.I. Joe: Renegades animated series for some of the plot points which was a nice touch.
Now let’s get into some of the things that I was not too fond of the first of which is a SPOILER!!!!![spoiler] How do you have a movie about G.I. Joe and Cobra and write off Destro!! Destro is Cobra Commander’s right hand man. Considering how the first film ended with regards to The Baroness her omission is understandable, but Destro’s removal from the story was poorly written. When Cobra Commander told Destro “You’re out of the band” I cringed because the line seemed out of place and came off rather corny[/spoiler]. The second issue is also a SPOILER! [spoiler]You kill off Duke and have Roadblock lead the Joes? Duke’s death is tough to justify in my opinion and honestly only used as a vehicle for The Rock to take the lead. Why not write Duke off as being on a separate mission and keep his character around to use in another sequel?[/spoiler] Another issue I have is with Flint who many know was a high ranking member of G.I. Joe and was relegated to doing parkour and not listening to his commanding officers. This was a trait that really made no sense in my opinion considering Flint’s place in the G.I. Joe universe, but again, most likely done to make Roadblock look strong. Now these gripes are the things that frustrated me, but they did not hinder my enjoyment of the film as much as you’d think. On the contrary, I think certain characters were extremely memorable – the first being Firefly whose portrayal by Ray Stevenson was well done. Stevenson added some nice subtle touches to the character that made him standout in the presence of such well-known characters like Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander. I also think the changes done to Cobra Commander's appearance were for the better and embodied everything we remember from the cartoons. While Cobra Commander was not the sniveling coward voiced by the late Chris Latta, he commanded presence as a man whose goal of world domination would not be deterred which gave a real-world feel to his character which I liked. The voice work by Robert Baker had slight bits of hiss in Cobra Commander’s voice that were subtle but a nice touch. Byung-hun Lee’s work as Storm Shadow continues to impress not only for his portrayal as the iconic white ninja of Arashikage Clan but as actor as well. He is currently scheduled to appear alongside his G.I. Joe cast mate Bruce Willis in Red 2. The only gripe I have regarding acting on the Cobra side of things was the character of Zartan who was in disguise as the President. I felt that Zartan could have been a bit more physical in this film and not relegated to zingers and one-liners. Zartan is a formidable villain and deserved a better treatment in the film. Now aside from the issues with certain plot elements and actors, I have to admit the film did not skimp on the action in the least. We got to see some great hardware as well including H.I.S.S Tanks which were a nice homage to the series but also got new toys including Firefly’s awesome motorcycle, Roadblock’s heat gloves and General Colton’s tank which were all well done and looked great on screen. I have to commend the effects team for all the great work they did with all the destruction throughout the film. I also have to commend the fight choreographers who put together some impressive fight sequences. The one that standouts the most is of course the cliffside battle with as well as Snake-Eyes vs. Storm Shadow that I shared above.
Long time G.I. Joe fans will have some issues much like I did, but action movie fans and kids will enjoy this film. It was nice to see so many kids embrace a product I grew up with and come out of the theaters wanting to be Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. It was definitely cool to see kids really get into the film. Is it as bad as the first film? Absolutely not! On the contrary, it made up for a ton of mistakes but it definitely wasn’t flawless in execution. I will say that the post production 3D was worthless and added nothing to the film, hence this review not being for the 3D version, so you are not missing anything watching the standard version of the film.