Channing Tatum has had a really good year. He bolstered his female fan base with Magic Mike, proved he can be funny as hell and earned a fan base among men with 21 Jump Street and even got respect from stuck-up critics with his work in serious films like Side Effects. So why would he sign on to do a sequel to a movie of his that nobody liked, not even hardcore fans of the G.I. Joe show and toys? The answer to that is because he barely does. This is not a Channing Tatum movie, despite being one of the largest people on the poster and controling half the shots of all the trailers. But that's a good thing.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra came out in 2009 and it was a terrible failure in almost every way and THE black eye in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's career. But Hollywood is as greedy as Wall Street and if they think they can get bank out of a franchise, then goddamnit, they're gonna do it. But how do you get people to show up for a sequel when they hated the first one so much? You relaunch the franchise with a re-imagining. But doing a relaunch just four years later looks desperate. So what G.I. Joe: Retaliation does is both; it is a sequel and relaunch and they accomplish that by killing off everyone from the first one within the first ten minutes. That's right, Duke is dead and Roadblock, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the new face of G.I. Joe (which is silly to those of us that grew up on it).
I give this movie some credit for doing that because it's ballsy and not easily pulled off. However, they didn't really succeed in making it a whole lot better. Even by bringing a slick new director in Jon Chu, who only has expierence directing movies with dancing in them like the Step-Up series and Justin Bieber's documentary, they still couldn't shake off the vibe that it's a pretty stupid movie. In full disclosure, I'm not sure why that bothers me so much considereing that the premise for the cartoon and toys was stupid. This movie has a plot not that much more thought out than those featured on the show in the '80s and a moronic script to match.
That's not to say the movie is a total loss. The Rock is a decent leading man as long as this is the kind of movie he quarentines himself in. The man is so large now that he looks like he could die at any second from an exploded heart, but that's how we like our action stars. He's a throwback to the squared jaw, biceps bigger than a human head star of the '80s action flicks that were stupid, bloated and fun...and that's exactly what G.I. Joe: Retaliation is. If I was a 10-year-old again, I'd proably enjoy it like I did those.
The best part of this film is Jonathon Price (Brazil, the Pirates of the Carribbean films), who returns as The President and seems like he has a blast playing two roles. Bruce Willis pops his head in for a small role that's also silly and fun as well. Do you have to see the original to enjoy this one? Not really. The studio knew that since hoping people would come back to find out how that cliffhanger ending turned out was a long shot. Not really sure who this movie will appeal to outside of the boys and fathers of boys who want to have as close to "family fun" as you can while watching copious amounts of people dying, but I guess we'll find out. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-