Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) Review

After a months-long delay so that a slick 3-D veneer could be applied to the final product, GI Joe: Retaliation is finally out. Was the wait worth it? Sure. Retaliation 2.0 looks great in 3-D, with enough debris flying into audiences’ faces to warrant the surcharge. Technological feats aside, there are also some cool set pieces that are remarkable in their own right, but those plusses notwithstanding, no amount of shine is going distract from what is otherwise a dull movie.

After the events of the previous film, the evil organization COBRA was largely defeated, with Destro and Cobra Commander jailed in a secret facility. Unfortunately, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) is still on the loose, with Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) still impersonating the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce). They hatch a plan to free Cobra Commander while also discrediting and destroying the G.I. Joes. Everything almost goes according to plan, except three Joes narrowly escape death. They are Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Controna) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). Together, they must find out what COBRA is up to, and stop them. In order to do so, however, they must meet up with surviving Joes, like Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and seek the aid of retired members, like General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis).

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a popcorn movie with aspirations to be something a little more serious, which unfortunately blunts the enjoyment of the mindless action – and there is plenty of action. In fact, this is probably one of the few films where there is too much action. Consider the opening sequence where the Joes smuggle a target out of North Korea. This segment has no bearing whatsoever on the rest of the film, except perhaps to introduce new Joes to audiences. But since they’re almost immediately sent out on another action-packed mission, which ends in an action-packed ambush that kills almost all the Joes, the opening action sequence is rendered superfluous. But the action keeps going for action’s sake. Almost every scene has action in it. So to break up the monotony of sparking swords and whizzing bullets, the filmmakers tossed in moments of character development where select characters are given space to emote and talk about their pasts. Unfortunately, those moments, like Roadblock’s explanation about his rough childhood before he was recruited by the Joes, have nothing to do with the film and offer no greater insight into the characters as they relate to the plot. So these scenes essentially offer useless information just to elevate the film.

While the action is never uninteresting, it’s so pervasive that its value has diminishing returns as the movie goes on. So by the end of the film, with tank battles happening concurrently with ninja duels won’t feel any kind of jolt to their pulses. This is supremely disappointing because one of the better visual effects in the film is the destruction of a major international city, which happens late in the film and is supposed to be awe-inspiring and frightening. Unfortunately, audiences will be so desensitized by violence at that point that the devastation won’t matter.

Thankfully, there are a few highlights that audiences will enjoy. Ray Park turns in his usual, reliable physical powerhouse performance, and his fights with Storm Shadow and other ninjas are fantastic to watch. There is also genuine creativity in a lot of the destruction, like with a motorcycle that disassembles into rockets, or the remote controlled bullets that can be guided by camera. And, of course, Adrianne Palicki is enough eye-candy to counterbalance all of female attention Dwayne Johnson will draw – since Channing Tatum doesn’t have much screen time. For everyone else, the 3-D effects are outstanding.

No one was expecting G.I. Joe: Retaliation to be a great film, but that didn’t mean it had to be a bad film either. Thankfully, the reality is that it isn’t a bad film. It just loses its appeal quickly. Nevertheless, action fans will definitely get their money’s worth and then some.