G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the film that most people expected G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra to be. It's brainless, full of characters that it's hard to care about, and full of action sequences that are hard to watch due to the hectic over-editing. Of course, some people are already saying "but Kevin, that's exactly THE SAME as the first movie." Well, I disagree. I thought the first film was a blast. This, however, is a big disappointment.
Channing Tatum may pop up at the start of this movie, but it's not long before he's sidelined in favour of a new bunch of Joes, with the main one being Dwayne Johnson. There's been a mission to wipe out the unit, allowing the President Of The United States (Jonathan Pryce, playing a fake version of himself due to the events of the first movie) to move on with his dastardly plan, a plan that may leave a lot of countries seriously damaged by Project Zeus, which can cause all of the destruction of a nuclear blast without any of the fallout.
Leading man Johnson is accompanied on this adventure by Adrianne Palicki and D. J. Cotrona, two attractive people to appeal to any teenagers watching the movie. Unfortunately, neither of them have much screen presence. Thankfully, Byung-hun Lee returns in the role of Storm Shadow, Pryce is having a blast and Ray Stevenson gives a performance that, for all its faults, is at least fun and never dull. Walton Goggins is great in a small role, and RZA fans may enjoy his turn as Blind Master. The addition of Bruce Willis in a small role was, I guess, a big coup, but the character that he plays, and how he plays it, just ends up feeling smug, which is becoming a bigger and bigger problem with anything that Willis has been doing over the past few years.
The script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is disappointing, with the humour feeling a lot more forced this time around, the plot never having any real sense of urgency (the whole thing feels like viewers are killing time until the good guys blow up some more stuff and win), and everything just feeling distinctly . . . . blah.
Director Jon M. Chu does nothing to help the situation, of course. He still has some good material to work with, in the shape of main characters such as Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Roadblock and Firefly, but he very rarely uses them well. A fight sequence involving Snake Eyes (Ray Park in the suit once again, returning from the first movie) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) against a number of soldiers on the side of a mountain looks nice enough, but is completely undone by just how far-fetched it all is. Yes, this kind of stuff IS allowed to be far-fetched, but it's still grounded in a real version of our world, even if it's a heightened reality.
I'm sure there will be some people who will like this film as much as the first movie, or maybe even more so. My advice is to give it a wide berth. It has some good moments, but doesn't make for a satisfying experience, overall.