Assuming charge of directing duties from Stephen Sommers, director John M. Chu had the unenviable task of ameliorating the franchise following the much-maligned G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Based on the line of iconic Hasbro action figures, Retaliation was initially scheduled for release last summer. However, it was delayed several months to allow the conversion to 3D.
Unconventionally, G.I. Joe: Retaliation sees an almost complete overhaul of the cast from its predecessor, with Duke (Channing Tatum), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the imposter US president, Zartan (played to perfection by Jonathan Pryce) amongst only a handful of returning characters. The plot of Retaliation sees Pryce’s doppelganger president order an all out assault on the G.I. Joe base, managing to annihilate all but three survivors: Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). Additionally, Zartan orchestrates the escape of Cobra Commander, the eternal nemesis of the Joes. Cobra then leads a covert network of nefarious miscreants in a quest for world domination. The solitary obstacle in their grandiose scheme is the remaining Joes.
Designed primarily for merchandising and to attract the preadolescent demographic, adults may be forgiven for thinking that G.I. Joe: Retaliation is also written and directed by them. The sequel manifests a level of intelligence that may appeal to a ten year old, but the narrative may prove inane for all other age brackets. Furthermore, the reconditioned characters may test the comprehension of those not fully acquainted with the background of G.I. Joe.
In terms of performances, Dwayne Johnson exudes charisma and shows a penchant for humour. Secondly, Snake Eyes, the fan favourite from the cartoons, emanates authority despite being bereft of any dialogue. The rest of the cast, particularly the villains, are devoid of any personality. With just a few memorable quips, Jonathan Pryce as the Machiavellian president is the pick of a very bad, bad bunch.
The action sequences, the main selling point of the movie, are generally well choreographed. One scene specifically, an exhilarating mountain peak escape, is by far the highlight of the film. Augmented by the post production 3D conversion, this scene in particular, gives Retaliation a much needed epic quality. The postponement to allow the inclusion of 3D is worth its weight in gold, rendering these action scenes with a welcome larger than life quality. Chu, having previously directed the Step Up series, is in his comfort zone with regards to the well-choreographed action, unfortunately, Chu leaves minimal room for the story or the characters to flourish. Retaliation is burdened by an overdose of action, the pacing of the movie suffering as a consequence. Perhaps Chu should have aimed to emulate Avengers Assemble, which allowed ample time for both action and the development of characters.
The screenplay is also permeated with real world politics. In the original, the villains decimated the Eiffel Tower with a biochemical attack. They went one better in Retaliation with the wholesale obliteration of the city of London. Retaliation serves as a tribute to the resilience of USA, something which has been delineated ad nauseam in recent years. All in all, the movie offers a myopic perspective of America and the rest of the world.
In conclusion, Retaliation is arguably better than its antecessor. It is essentially a representation of a child’s imagination running wild, brimming with an incoherent plot and mindless action. It may invoke nostalgia for G.I. Joe enthusiasts or even prove a fun fare for some viewers but sadly, it is tantamount to nothing more than your average Joe.