Here we are at the debuted of a new column of The Matt Harding Blog, more of a test to see how I feel about this. I am someone that can waste a whole week watching movies I gavexalready seen and as such I thought I would start reviewing them, my problem is that everyone and their dog likes to trash new films… sorry review new films so I settled on the idea to Review older ones, some I have seen already but a few on my list I have not seen before. For this illustrious debut I have chosen G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Why, you may ask? because I found it more enjoyable than the first film and I was watching it as I encouraged a friend to start her own blog so I figured I better stop talking about it and be about it.
This 2013 sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did not exactly shake the world, I found Retaliation to be a far superior production than its predecessor and it had a good outing considering it was released just before the peak season of 2013. They toned down much of the weaponry and technology involved and did not bash us over the head with the size of the fully realized G.I. Joe world that took years of cartoons, toys and comic books to develop. The scope is reasonably small on the Joes end giving them an underdog feeling.
The casting is by far the biggest upside with Dwyane ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the role of franchise corner stone Roadblock, joining Channing Tatum (Duke)and Ray Park (Snake Eyes) and earning him the nick name ‘Franchise Viagra’. The casting here is a fine example to anyone making good on preexisting characters. DJ Corona (Flint), Adrianne Palicki (Lady Jaye), Ray Stevenson (Firefly) and Elodie Yung (Jinx) come in as major players and deliver to the source models and RZA brings a certain style to the role of The Blind Master even if he is slightly off the original model. The vastly down sized Cobra roles are an improvement as I felt swamped with characters in the first film and a few key villains operating from a position of power and in control of an army makes a more formidable obstacle
The story itself is good, Cobra had inserted itself to a position of power at the end of the last movie and this one doesn’t ignore that. The film is using the premise G.I. Joe: Renegades, a cartoon produced in 2010, Cobra in power and Joes on the run trying to clear their name and unseat the snakes, while this could be played out over longer stretch the goal here seems to be correcting the damage done in the first movie. While an original movie wouldn’t be unwelcome there is a tremendous amount of source material to draw from some of which is not as far fetched decades after the 30min toy commercials first aired, not all mind you some were just way to far off the page.
Biggest wins: Casting, props (no laser guns), ninja relationships (they pulled the most compelling story arc from the books and ran with it), $130 milllion (ish)budget nearly tripled to $375million (ish) box office which is a huge feat given the late March release date.
Biggest fails: killing Duke (or did they…), mountain fight (they pushed disbelief too far), revealing Joe Colton when they could have used any number to others instead of going right to the original name sake of the G.I. Joe program .
Worth watching: absolutely, Do not expect a massive hit but I think it is under rated and with some fresh vision and some more grounding in reality there is a real chance to save this franchise. A rare example of the sequel being better than the original.
Sequel worthy: yes, there is a ton to build on here and if they can keep grounded and steer clear of shark jumping fight sequences like the cliff ninja battle and the robot suit Paris chase in the first movie. Stay grounded and tell stories that can focus on any number of the dozens of Joes out there, a solid military centered anti-terrorist franchise with a near infinite selection of environments to chose from and Joes to use, recasting the core group with new characters is no problem if they use a few bridging characters in secondary roles, think Coulson and Maria Hill in the Marvel Studios films.
If you haven’t checked it out and aren’t ready for the Christmas movies yet give this a chance. It’s not perfect or deep but it will entertain for a couple hours.