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T.S. (Terrible Sequel) Joe: Regurgitation – G.I. Joe: Retaliation

March 28, 2013


Apart from the surprisingly entertaining first entry into the live action Transformers series, Hollywood’s adaptations of treasured 1980s Hasbro properties have been flat out bad. Outings II and III of the robots who are More than Meets the Eye were increasingly crude blockbusters with crescendoing levels of mind-bending stupidity, and the first installment of G.I. Joe was just as dumb, a muddle that nearly smothered a franchise in the cradle. Rise of Cobra turned out to be a Wayans-infused pile that forgot what made the Joes so great in the first place, and had all the principals connected from their youths in a way that shrunk a universe that should have been expansive. Part of the charm of the toys, cartoons and comics was that the warring rosters of Real American Heroes and Cobra were seemingly infinite, a covert ops equivalent of life’s rich pageant. Need a Cajun Marine? We have one! Twin brother arms dealers? We have them! A sailor with a parrot? Those too!

It just didn’t get it.

The almost year-long delay for the release of the follow-up, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, did nothing to evaporate the fog of concerns about whether it would be more of the same. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just as bad. No. IT. IS. WORSE. Remember in the cartoons when they’d have the five-part miniseries where Cobra would develop some improbably weapon of mass destruction, something that would harness oddball energies and then threaten global capitals with annihilation? Sitting through this mound of awful feels like Cobra founded a movie studio for the sole purpose of crafting a soul-crushing film, one that would succeed where their other schemes failed. If you watch this film, you will yawn. You will check your watch. You will cover your face in embarrassment, and thank the dim light of the theater for obscuring your face, because God help you if anyone knew that you bought a ticket to this drivel (though the other person would have bought one too, so you’d both be standing in barrels of gasoline while holding matches).

Some thoughts, including a few spoilers, so tread carefully (though being spoiled might save you time and trouble):

  1. Most of the rumored reasons for the delay from a Summer 2012 to a Spring 2013 release revolved around reshoots that would have fleshed out the screen presence of Duke, played by the newly Magic Miked Channing Tatum. (He is, for some unholy alchemy, now a star.) SPOILER: He dies about fifteen minutes in, after several bro bonding scenes with Roadblock (played by the Rock), which feel tacked on and feature inane dialogue that might have been written by a team of gibbons. If these are the products of the reshoots, then the delay was a complete, utter failure. Remember in Iron Man 2 when Tony and Pepper would talk over one another and you just wanted to scream shutupshutupSHUTUP at the screen? Same here. Except the words that you can make out in this case make that other sequel look like King Lear. And yes, the Duke death scene that wasn’t a death scene in G.I. Joe: The Movie, where he was speared through the heart by one of Serpentor’s snakes, was better executed. The flimsy cartoon had more emotional heft. Unreal.
  2. The cast of characters has undergone a massive overhaul. Gone are Scarlett, Hawk, Destro, etc., with Snake Eyes (sans lips, one of the few improvements), Storm Shadow, Duke, Cobra Commander and Zartan-as-President returning. Flint (played by DJ Cotrona, who was Superman for about five minutes), Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Jinx and Firefly round out the new additions. If it’s possible, the cast seems more claustrophobic than the first time. All of G.I. Joe, an organization that had a damn aircraft carrier — repeat: AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER — back in the day, can apparently be wiped out by one desert attack with a few heavily armed choppers. Fantastic.
  3. Editing is like refereeing in a basketball game, in that you only notice it when it’s bad. There’s horrendous editing in this movie, a dizzying back and forth between things you could hardly care less about to things you couldn’t care less about, with clunky ADR tacked on in a vain attempt to grease the skids. It’s choppy storytelling, though the profoundly stupid script carries most of the blame for the whiplash. You’d think there could have been some extra time in the editing bay during the lengthy delay, though. (Maybe there was. And maybe that’s the problem.)
  4. Walton Goggins shows up as an over the top warden for a super-duper-max prison. He used to be on The Shield. Remember how great The Shield was? Yeah, focus on that.
  5. Last week I wrote a brief post about one of the fun old Larry Hama G.I. Joe comics, which had Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes fighting side by side. SPOILER: They do here, too, though Storm Shadow’s sudden turn makes absolutely no sense, in that there’s no personal revelation that would make him turn his back on Cobra Commander and about-face to the Joes, just something he’s apparently known all along. It’s a “twist” straight out of the Michael Bay School of Just Because Filmmaking.
  6. If there’s one thin root that you can cling too as you’re plummeting over this plot cliff, it’s — oddly enough — a raid on a mountain Cobra/ninja redoubt carried out by Snake Eyes and Jinx. You’ve seen some of the rock-face fighting in the commercials and trailers, and there’s indeed some speed and acrobatic action to be had, though the editing, once again, often renders it a whatjusthappened mess.
  7. Cobra Commander is called Cobra Commander and wears a silver mask this time around, which is a plus. But he’s barely in this and has very little to do. So that’s a minus. A huge part of the old cartoon’s success was that it understood that good vs. evil stories, like professional wrestling, really connect when the villain/heel is one you love to hate. (The producers should have picked the brain of the Rock, a man who’s had major heel heat more than once in his wrestling career.) You never get a chance to know this Cobra Commander, so it’s really hard to hate him. He’s nothing, a cipher. Give me the screeching schemer with the hissing lisp any day of the week.
  8. There are leaps of reasoning and logic in this movie that threaten to tear a hole in the space-time continuum. Lady Jaye figuring out that the President isn’t the President (WHICH WE KNEW A MOVIE AGO) is riddled with such pseudo-science babble, you’ll shoot whatever you’re drinking out of your nose. (The guy in the seat behind me laughed out loud as she prattled on. In that one moment, I didn’t feel so alone.) And there’s the point when they go to rescue the real President — without ever figuring out where he’s hidden, they just know all of a sudden — where I had to restrain myself from standing up and bellowing WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE to any who would listen. (In retrospect, maybe Storm Shadow told them off-screen. Or maybe it was onscreen. I was probably bashing my head into the back of the seat in front of me when this secret was revealed.)
  9. Bruce Willis plays the founder of the Joes, Joe Colton, a retired general with a home arsenal that would make Mayor Bloomberg faint. I have no great love for Willis, but seeing someone with genuine movie star stature slumming in this was rough. The first Die Hard was so, so long ago. So was Moonlighting, for that matter.
  10. This is also playing in 3D. I didn’t see it in 3D. My mind can’t even process how awful this would be in 3D. It might be the thing that starts the Zombie Apocalypse.

You have been warned. G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels like someone welded Zero Dark Thirty to a Justin Bieber concert. It’s that awkward, and that bad. I thought last year’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance retired the Awful Sequel That Should Never Have Been Made trophy, but this movie outdoes it, as hard as that is to believe. Avoid it like the plague.

One half of a Snake Eyes tattoo out of five:


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