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It's still dumb as dirt, but ten times better than the first one...
Paramount / 110 Minutes / 2013 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: July 30, 2013
The G.I. Joe live-action movie from a couple years ago was indefensible the way the second and third Transformers movies were indefensible. Yeah, there were mech-geeks who were able to ignore the quicksand of all these films’ soporific dialogue and just focus on the machine-porn at hand, but even guys who would support anything that was birthed out of the action figure renaissance of the 70s and 80s had to admit that they maybe could have been a little bit better than they were.
It’s beneficial to approach G.I. Joe: Retaliation thinking that it will belong to the same cabal of dramatically undernourished multiplex fare, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Retaliation isn’t a great action movie, but it plays much more like the first Transformers picture than the last G.I. Joe installment. In fact, even though there are characters and perhaps an interaction or two from our last live-action G.I. Joe picture that might have relevance to its sequel, Retaliation is its own beast – it’s more of a spin-off reboot than an out-and-out sequel.
Surprise, surprise – America’s in trouble as Retaliation beings. Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), a chameleon able to take on multiple shapes and forms, has fooled the USA by becoming President (in the visage of Jonathan Pryce) and trying to push a nuclear-free legislation that would make having nukes a thing of the past. Of course, this is all part of an elaborate plan to neuter the country’s defense systems and take over once and for all, but as soon as the Joe team hears about it, they lock and load. Folks like Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) do their best to avoid Zartan’s thugs and save the country from this latest nemesis.
Retaliationspends too much time with its glossy CGI effects and lingers way too long on extraneous plot exposition, but stacked next to the installment that preceded it, the thing plays like high art. It’s not a perfect encapsulation of the kind of movie G.I. Joe fans from back in the day have been waiting for, but it comes damned close sometimes to filling that void. And if Paramount can keep up this streak, if Retaliation is ten times better than The Rise of Cobra, then the third picture in the series should be killer.