I didn’t see the film G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra in theatres. In fact, I almost didn’t see it at all – however, in November 2010 it so happened that my brother had it rented for his birthday party, and the following day I decided I’d give it a go, despite having never seen, read, or played with anything relating to G.I. Joe before.
My memories of the film are a little fuzzy – I watched it twice that week, but I haven’t seen it since (nor do I feel any need to do so). I remember thinking that it was cool, and relishing in the fact that they weren’t afraid to have something like the Eiffel Tower be destroyed within the story. The nanobot technology was very interesting, albeit so obviously fake it was laughable. However, despite any flaws, in its own right, I do believe that Rise of Cobra was a good film. It wasn’t great, and I wouldn’t hype it or recommend it, but it’s not a film that you’ll regret.
Retaliation is another thing entirely. It’s almost as if they sucked up every single thing that was good about the first film until it had shrivelled up like a raisin, and then they just threw all that good stuff out. Up until this point I have never truly regretted seeing a film in the cinema, and this is counting movies like Happy Feet, Imagine That, Iron Man 2, Shrek Forever After, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (among a few others, probably, that I just don’t care to remember). So not once in my life have I regretted a visit to the cinema – but I do now. Retaliation was two hours of my life that I’m never going to get back. Retaliation is quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen. I haven’t seen many bad movies, mind, because growing up my father had good sense and taste in what movies he bought or rented for us, and since I became self-aware as a human being I have had the sense to make sure I watch good films.
Until now, of course. Retaliation was playing at the same time that Oz: The Great and Powerful was. My brother and I debated with each other the pros and cons of seeing both films for hours on end, neither of us able to decide upon which film we wanted to see. All either of us really cared about was that it had been almost two months since we’d been to the cinema, and gosh darn it, we were going to go! So we let our younger sibling decide, and in my foolishness I allowed that to settle the decision. Despite the mixed reviews Oz: The Great and Powerful received, I’m sure it would have been far better than Retaliation.
The first mistake was that they killed Duke. This is no spoiler; he’s dead in the first twenty minutes. His death is supposed to trigger the emotional impact necessary for the heroes of the film to take down the villain, but instead, I felt nothing. His death felt absolutely pointless, and frustrating too – what kind of a series kills the main character of the first instalment in the prologue to the second? Duke’s death immediately chops off a bunch of the “good stuff” from Rise of Cobra- the triangle linking Duke, Cobra, and Cobra’s sister (who is mysteriously absent in Retaliation)gave an emotional connection that made Rise of Cobra worth seeing. With this connection vanquished, the heroes have no personal reason to fight Cobra.
The second mistake is that the three survivors of the attack are all brand new characters. Now, this wouldn’t be such a problem, except that none of them feel real. Dwayne Johnson is there because he has muscles. Big fat deal I want a character I can relate to, and his bogus story of him being bullied when he was younger just doesn’t cut it. They introduce Bruce Willis about halfway through and guess what? His character is non-existent too. Snake Eyes is the same as usual and his new buddy doesn’t develop at all either. They have a sensei that has to blatantly explain the emotional subplots to them, and that’s just sad. I could go on all day, but honestly, there is only one character that has any sort of development in this film, and that is Storm Shadow.
Storm Shadow evolves from a villain to an anti-hero, thanks to a fourth wall breaking statement made by the aforementioned sensei (this guy is like an omniscient narrator trapped in a regular character’s body). Storm Shadow was tricked into becoming evil, despite him becoming evil years before Cobra ever turned evil. The back story and explanation for this trick are lacking like everything else in the film, but Storm Shadow’s development is the one thing that works in this film.
Even the action in this film isn’t enjoyable; it’s like all of the actors are just going through the motions of going through the motions – there just isn’t any sense of a threat whatsoever. I never felt like there was any risk that the bad guys might win. The action is so boring that I’m hard pressed to even call it action.
As the first film that I saw in theatres for 2013 (not counting the absolutely wonderful Les Miserables, since that was a 2012 release), G.I. Joe: Retaliation was an absolute mess, and even worse because it was originally supposed to be released around March of 2012. Too bad it couldn’t be delayed inevitably.