Movie Review: ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Feels Plastic [Video]

The sequel “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” in the theatres now, but don’t expect too much.

Franchise reboots are multiplying at an alarming rate. No longer do filmmakers wait a decade or two for the memory of the last failure to fade.

The GI Joe franchise gets yet another shot this weekend with the sort-of sequel/sort-of reboot that is GI Joe: Retaliation. And while many critics agree that it’s better than its dreadful predecessor, they also agree that it’s a mindless barrage of ludicrous-yet-somehow-dull action scenes.

In the tradition of “Transformers” (just kidding about the “tradition” part), this franchise is of course based on a collection of toys, so it’s not as if we’re expecting “Zero Dark Thirty.”

The first installment, “Rise of the Cobra” (2009), at least had a sense of its own absurdity, but the sequel is a heavy-handed, explosion-riddled, ear-piercing disaster with an insanely stupid plot and an endless stream of mostly generic fight sequences that straddle the PG-13 line.

Sure, there are all kinds of cool toys and breathtaking mountain-side fight sequences and guns-and-against swords nonsense, but they’re all so clearly fake, so clearly concocted in the CGI lab, that we’re bored when we should be saying, “holy bleep.”

There’s a new director, Jon Chu — the man behind a couple “Step Up” installments and the Justin Bieber documentary — and “Zombieland” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick signed on. But rather than wiping the slate clean, the filmmakers integrate, seemingly at random, elements from the last film.

The writers resuscitated one deceased character, but left others incapacitated. They stay just faithful enough to the last film to make this preposterous CGI-centric 3D extravaganza feel like a confused patchwork of new and old, says the Washington Post.

The dialogue and exposition scenes in “G.I. Joe” are like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980s, but the PG-13 violence is a little intense for the 7-year-old boys (and girls) who might love this stuff. The end game here is we have a villain who says he “wants it all.”

And although “G.I. Joe” is merely a movie based on Hasbro toys, the action — the real point of all this — feels just as lifeless. With so many sequences obviously computer generated, the excitement bleeds right out of the fight scenes.

The brightest points of the movie come and go in the first 30 minutes with the bickering banter between Johnson and Tatum.

At the start, Dwayne Johnson (who somehow managed not to be in the first one) and Tatum are buddy soldiers who blow away bad guys in North Korea then invade Pakistan after the assassination of its president to secure the nation’s nukes on behalf of the US president (Jonathan Pryce) — who, as we found out at the end of the excruciating first film, is actually evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) in disguise.

So the president is an impostor who starts giving peacenik speeches about a nuclear-free world. Psychopathic megalomaniacs are bad enough, but this guy is starting to sound like Jimmy Carter, wrties the NY Post.

Meanwhile the real president is kept alive in an underground bunker by the bad gyes, though, that they have someone to chat with about their malevolent scheme.

The masked evil Cobra Commander busts out of his underground prison and returns to power in the company of his chief ninja Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), who is working both sides of the ledger.

Back in the states, the Joes’ top lady commando, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) decides there’s something fishy about the way the president has been acting lately and resolves to get a swatch of his DNA. To get close enough to snag a hair off his jacket, she puts on a flame-red dress and pretends to be a Fox News Channel reporter.

If “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” teaches us one very small thing, it’s that box office returns have more to do with familiar franchise names than film quality. People may flock to “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” despite its inert illogic. But don’t say you weren’t warned. As a wise man once said, “knowing is half the battle.”

 

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