Movie Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation by Jason Burleson

GI Joe Retaliation PosterI myself was a child of the 80s.  During that generation, you weren’t cool unless you like Thundercats, Transformers, and, of course, G.I. Joe’s. I never had any of the 12-inch dolls. Those were weird. However, I had hundreds upon hundreds of G.I. Joe action figures.  At least until the rubberband broke, they were amazing. You could save the world daily from COBRA, the unified and evil “bad guys.”  Be it under the sea with Deep Six, in the desert with Dusty, the ground with Duke or Footloose, in the snow with Frostbite, or even on the basketball court with Big Lob, there was a hero for every situation.  You could even be a ninja.  I actually thought the army had ninjas until I was about 11. These characters taught people of my generation what was right and wrong in the coolest way possible with lots and lots of guns and high fives. They never gave up over land or air. G.I. Joe was there.  Yeah, I just quoted the theme song. This cartoon was a HUGE part of my childhood, and I’m sure it was for lots of other people as well. Of course, it was only a matter of time before they made a movie out of it.

Since, 1964 people have been enamored with G.I. Joe. G.I. actually stands for Government Issued and is a term used for soldiers since WWI.  This has lots of symbolism for lots of people. When I first heard they were making a G.I. Joe movie, I really wanted it to do well.  This was around the same time the Transformers movie had already been made for a while, and, at the least, a G.I. Joe movie could have ridden on the coat tails of nostalgia.  Unfortunately, I can’t even say it did that.  I didn’t even see the first G.I. Joe movie because it had the Wayans brothers in it! C’mon!  The Wayans brothers? Who’s casting idea was that?  However, it made enough to warrant a sequel, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation might be more of the movie I expected the first time.

GI JOEIn this film, Duke (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) and the other Joe’s are framed by Zarthan, a master of camouflage, to have stolen nuclear warheads.  After Duke’s team is nearly wiped out, they regroup as rouges to fight back and rescue the president who has been replaced by Zarthan.  While doing so, the Joes, consisting of Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson, Fast Five), Lady Jay (Adrianne Palicki, Red Dawn(2012)), Flint (D.J. Cotrona, Dear John), Snake Eyes (Ray Park, Star Wars), and General Joseph Colton(Bruce Willis, Die Hard), learn of a new threat, Project Zeus. COBRA, of course, complicates this with their own team, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun, Hero), Firefly (Ray Stevenson, Thor), and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey, Home and Away).  The G.I. Joes swear to avenge their lost teammates and renounce Zathar and COBRA in the process, but the odds are definitely against them.

As I said, I couldn’t stomach to watch the first G.I. Joe movie, so I can’t say that this one is really any better.  What I can say is that the stars they chose this time are far more reminiscent of their characters than the Wayans brothers.  There are also no magic suits for the Joes to wear, just good ole muscle and scowls.  In my opinion, real G.I. Joes don’t need technology to be badasses. That being said there is tons of cool techology in this film; Lots of fun weapons, helicopters, robot insect bombs, shooting around corners and Adrianne Palicki isn’t hard to look at either.  This is definitely a movie made for guys that girls can enjoy, too, but really it’s for the dudes out there.  It’s probably one explosion short of a Michael Bay film.

GI JOESurprisingly, this film was written by the same team who wrote Zombieland, another of my favorite movies, Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick.  Unfortunately, the film really hits a little too close to an 80s cartoon and makes some leaps in cohesiveness throughout the plot.  Who could really hold that against them though in a G.I. Joe movie? That’s not what it’s about.  G.I. Joe is about the good guys triumphing over the bad guys.  It’s black and white in that sense, and it always has been.  They put that feeling into the story line, and it should stay true for all of the moviegoers.

I really liked that they stayed true to the original G.I. Joe theme meant for young people.  The idea when G.I. Joe was popular was that of teaching kids to do the right thing, stand up for the kid getting picked on, help the needy, and fight for those who have no one to fight for.  The symbolism and life/ethical metaphors we learned and experienced from this cartoon was beyond our comprehension as children.  You can’t do that with an edgy R rating or lots of blood and guts.  There is just enough violence in this movie to keep it interesting and that’s it.  It keeps the standard, setting the bar for whom it was made for.

52401334870104-gr-07641This film is also surprisingly funny at times which helps to maintain the lightheartedness that is kindred to the cartoon.  Watch it and try not to laugh. This helps to break the seriousness of nuclear destruction and allow you to just enjoy the movie.  The characters make this movie.  I love the Rock and Bruce Willis in just about any action movie they make.  My only complaint with the characters is not finding a way to go into more detail about them.  You knew and related to each character in the cartoon and that helped to make it great.  A younger audience misses out on that opportunity.  In particular, Bruce Willis’ dry humor and delivery make his patriarchal character solid.

Turns out, I really enjoyed G.I Joe: Retaliation.  It may not set the standard for action cinema but maybe for cult classic cartoon to cinema transition.  It was just plain fun to watch and I found myself smiling at the screen numerous times.  We just don’t have stories or characters audience members can relate to as much as the G.I. Joes anymore.  I hope younger audience members love this movie as much as I did with the cartoon growing up, and I’m sure this is the goal of any film of this type.  It makes me want to get my old G.I. Joes out again.  Pay attention and you’ll even see some subtle aspects of the show in just about everything in this movie.  Go Joe!

I give G.I. Joe Retaliation 4 ”I wanna be a ninja” out of 5.

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by Jason Burleson

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