Dec 9, 2013

[Movies] G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

You see that poster? That's a shirtless Byung-hun Lee. That is a shirtless Storm Shadow. And that poster pretty much sets the tone for this movie. And it's not like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was the most brilliant, thought-provoking piece of movie-making in the world. But it was a fun movie - and this one was oddly even more entertaining.

At the end of the day, this is a movie based on an action figure toyline. And while it's not entirely meant solely for kids, that statement isn't too far off the mark/. But of course folks had some pretty high, typical action movie expectations for this production and so it was generally panned in critics circles.

Despite bad reviews, it was quite the success at the box office which says a lot about the movie as a whole. It's not the kind of movie that makes you learn something new. It's a fun movie that lets you celebrate the kid in you with lots of action and apparently a shirtless Storm Shadow.

I'm not sure whose childhood we're celebrating now.

Synopsis: G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the 2013 action movie sequel to G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra. It was directed by Jon M. Chu with a screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and is also positioned as a reboot of the movie franchise.

Duke (Channing Tatum) is now head of G.I. Joe, but his run is rather short-lived as the Joes are framed for the theft of several nuclear warheads from Pakistan. This is all part of the plan set in motion by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who has replaced the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) since the end of the first movie. The false President then orders the elimination of G. I. Joe, thus taking out most of the Joes except for Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). Thus they set about to finding a way to clear their names and somehow save the world.

On a parallel track, we see Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and the former G.I. Joe Firefly (Ray Stevenson) break into a maximum security facility in order to liberate Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey). Once they have the leader, he opts to leave Destro behind for his failure in the first movie. Their escape is not perfect and Storm Shadow is injured and ultimately left behind. He survives and goes into hiding in order to recover, but is pursued by Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and his apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung), who also happens to be Storm Shadow's cousin. They are on a mission from their teacher, the Blind Master (RZA) to bring him to justice in order to answer for his murder of the Hard Master.

First, the way that this movie began was both the most blatant and yet somehow ridiculously brilliant way to reboot a movie franchise. We get a hint of the original cast from the first movie and we find a reason to wipe them all out with a single strike. Not even returning villains were spared the effort to remove the "offending" characters in a matter of minutes. It was so crazy that it was genius.

The movie seems almost self-aware of how ridiculous it is and it sort of embraces that. I mean come on, they gave in and found another reason to cast RZA as a martial arts master. And he's Blind Master avenging Hard Master. This stuff is so crazy, but you have them trying to be fully committed to the role! And then we throw in Bruce Willis being a badass - because that's what he does best.

I also have to concede that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wasn't actually all that bad an actor in this movie. Then again, he is playing a children's cartoon character who was already a caricature and thus it all worked. I didn't really care much for the other Joes - the Rock was free to take over this movie.

I do feel a little bad for Byung-hun Lee. While it was smart to keep his amount of dialog to a minimum (although he was still a tad too chatty for me), it must have been insulting to become the blatant display of meat in the movie. And this was a movie with the Rock - seriously. Instead we find excuses to have the ninja shirtless - so much so that he was also shirtless in the promo photos. Again, I shall refer you back to the poster image above. This is a movie that decided to use Asian skin to sell it.

The movie is fun with silly code names, lots of guns and Jonathan Pryce totally rocking the role of a fake president. But then that's also part of the charm of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It's not quite b-movie bad, but it still draws on a similar source of entertainment. Thus the movie gets 3.5 crazy things that Zartan does as President and yet people still don't figure out he's an impostor out of 5.

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