Making a live action version of a cartoon in the “gritty reality” zeitgeist in films these days presents an interesting challenge for filmmakers. For instance, how do you make a silver headed man named Destro realistically? More often than not, Destro spends most of the movie looking like a normal man, then in the last ten or fifteen minutes there’s the transformation. Camp is best masked by allowing it little screen time.
This presents the audience with a similarly interesting challenge, namely, buying into something as completely unbelievable as a silver headed man named Destro. Bottom line, you’ve got to know what you enjoy and what you don’t. For some, no matter how well established, Destro will never be a believable, or interesting, character. If you happened to have grown up playing with G.I. Joe action figures and/or watching the cartoon, you might be more forgiving.
Having established the story with The Rise of Cobra, G.I. Joe Retaliation has an easier time getting into the story. In other words, Cobra Commander can run around with his reflective mask, there can be fantastic futurific weapons and vehicles, and impossible ninja fight scenes can happen without a lot of “blah, blah, blah.”
If you’re going to the movies to watch cool fights and explosions it’s better to have as little exposition as possible. And that’s what Retaliation delivers. We get to see the Joes doing some major ass kicking. We see them betrayed (and unlike the cartoon people die). We watch Cobra take over. We see the Joes regroup. And, finally, we see the Joes save the day.
The Rock is perfect as Roadblock. Adrianne Palicki is totally smokin’ hot as Jayne. Byung-hun Lee and Ray Park destroy as Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, respectively. At this point in the game I can take or leave Bruce Willis. He’s in every other action movie, and while I like him as an actor, there are plenty of other people who are just as good. Can we get a little, just a smidgen, of diversity here?
There is one casting choice that is just too much to suspend disbelief over, RZA as the grey-haired Blind Master. I really dig Wu-Tang. I love what RZA did with Afro Samurai. But he’s just not a Blind Master. I know how stupid it sounds to say I can be all in for all of the other bull mess, even the unnecessary middle finger to Best Korea, but RZA was the proverbial fart in the elevator. I haven’t seen The Man With the Iron Fists, which might change my thoughts here, but I doubt it.
I’ll say this, you can live your entire life, happily, without ever seeing this movie. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, too badly, if you give it a miss. There are better action films. That said, if you were into G.I. Joe as a kid, or just want some mindless action to take you away for a few hours, G.I. Joe Retaliation will scratch that itch.