When I was a kid I could play with my action figures for hours, developing simple stories in my head, all in an attempt to make sense of the smashing and gun noises that would accompany the battleground on my bedroom floor. And you know what? It worked.
I didn’t need a great script as long as I was able to give the fun I was having a little bit of foundation. I think the filmmakers behind G.I. Joe: Retaliation could learn a thing or two from childhood me – you need to give all of the explosions some context, but the end product should exist solely to provide the viewer entertainment.
There’s a loosely thrown together plot in Retaliation about the terrorist organization, Cobra, hijacking the White House and arming a deadly satellite in space. After framing the Joes for a secret-op gone wrong, all that’s left is for Storm Shadow to break the Commander out of prison in order to finalize the insidious scheme.
If the story stuck to this simple foundation, things might have actually worked. Granted, Cobra Commander’s plan isn’t very well thought out; in fact, it’s fair to call his evil plot convoluted and asinine. But it could work to push the action forward, if not for the plethora of side-plots about ninja betrayal, daddy issues, Bruce Willis, and a President in a bunker. Once you throw all that crap into the mix, all that’s left is a loud movie with too much going on to keep track of.
Admittedly I could overlook all of the story sins if the on-screen spectacle was visually engaging, and the characters themselves weren’t more annoying than cool. Banter between the Joes that’s supposed to provide comic relief is more embrassing than funny, and action that presents itself as epic fails to provide any real excitemement.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is desperate to be a Michael Bay movie, but it lacks the talented direction necessary to pull off the roller-coaster of emotion that I think it’s going for. Somehow with a cast that features huge stars like Dwayne Johnson and Jonathan Pryce, the script still manages to fall flat, largely because it never follows through on anything. Best friends die, other characters learn dark secrets from their past, but nothing seems to carry over from one scene to the next, leaving no hope for any sort of meaningful build-up.
At one point Cobra eviscerates an entire city. Seconds after a lifeless model of London is destroyed before our eyes, I can’t help but realize that all the characters on screen seem over it. I suppose millions of people probably died, but I can’t be too sure because the ramifications of an event of this magnitude does not only go unanalyzed, it’s never mentioned again. Somehow this unconscionable act of genocide has no bearing on the overall plot whatsoever, something that is absolutely unbelievable to me.
The problem here is that Retaliation is a collection of big events, one after the other, and since none of these big events connect, the end result is pure chaos. So much happens in this movie, yet moments after the credits role you’ll be hard pressed to remember any of it. My complaint with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was that the it was ridiculously aimless, leaving me trying to make sense of all the noise instead of having fun. I think Retaliation has the same problem, and it’d be a stretch to say it’s much of an improvement over its predecessor.
How can it be this hard to make a live action G.I Joe flick? Throw some terrorists, fist fights, crazy vehicles, and America into a blender, and the result should be some stupid fun that fans of the classic cartoon can enjoy with a new generation. You have to wonder if the creators behind these pair of terrible G.I. Joe movies have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid – films based on toys should only provide some escapism, much like the classic cartoon did. Once you start trying to throw about three scripts worth of plot into one action-figure-inspired affair, you end up with something that’s too epically dumb to enjoy at any age.