In spite of the heavy criticism it received, I really enjoyed “The Rise of Cobra” as a silly action movie fantasy that tried to have fun with its source material. The twenty six year old me in 2009 really enjoyed the goofy fun that was the first film, but the ten year old me loved every single moment of the cinematic adaptation of the famed toy line. “Retaliation” is still a very flawed film (stop letting RZA act in movies!), but it’s superior to the first installment in every way.
After finding out that “The Rise of Cobra” was merely a prologue to the entire cinematic GI Joe saga, we meet the group years later where the team is less gimmicky and more military. Duke (Channing Tatum) is really the lone Joe who has stuck with the group and leads them in to combat alongside Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianna Palecki). Duke’s best friend is his second in command, Roadblock. Anyone who was hoping for some charisma and much more energy, the casting of Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock is great casting. Johnson carries “Retaliation” on his back and he gives the movie a punch that it needs. Now with Zartan in office as the President, he and Storm shadow engineer the break out of Cobra Commander from a high facility prison.
When Zartan as the president, sends the Joes to acquire nuclear warheads, the Joes are framed for terrorism and obliterated. Even commander Duke is killed in combat, with only Flint, Jaye, and Roadblock surviving the attack. As they struggle to make sense of the attack and regroup, Cobra Commander and the Cobra group begin turning the world under their control to build WMD’s that are much deadlier than warheads. The Joes are now a band apart, as Roadblock struggles to bring down Zartan while Snake Eyes and his cousin Jinx kidnap Storm Shadow to find out what Cobra has planned. “Retaliation” rids itself of the silly plot devices and somewhat goofy characters and tries its best to come down to its military roots. Sure, it’s still a very silly film for the teenage boys, but the cast is stripped down in favor of more key characters detrimental to the narrative.
Folks like Baroness, Destro, Scarlett, Hawk, and Ripcord are gone, while Arnold Vosloo gives a three second cameo as Zartan. Channing Tatum only returns as Duke to set the stages for the story at hand. “Retaliation” is by no means a perfect film with meandering in the sub-plot that don’t really make a lot of sense. I was wondering how Roadblock and his group were able to walk around without being identified, and I was never too sure how they were able to set up computer equipment in an old sports gym. Bruce Willis as the original Joe is out of place, and often times I was never sure what his personality was supposed to indicate. Why was he afraid of the government?
Why did he seem mentally unbalanced? And whose bright idea was it to let RZA act again? Nonetheless, the writers know where the audience pays attention, so the great Ray Park is able to garner more screen time as the enigmatic and popular Joe Snake Eyes. With a slightly altered costume, Park as Snake Eyes is as great as ever, given so much more to do, as well as a sidekick to play off of. The gorgeous Elodie Yung keeps up with Park well as Jinx, and the interplay between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes really carries over in to film. They have years of resentment and hatred, and it’s conveyed well. Johnson along with his co-stars really give “Retaliation” high entertainment value, and the addition of Ray Stevenson as mercenary Firefly is just icing on the cake. “Retaliation” is a definite step-up in the “GI Joe” cinematic series, and I really hope we garner at least one more installment before a reboot of some kind.