Leading up to the release of G.I. Joe Retaliation, Anthony and I did a Head to Head of G.I. Joe Rise Of Cobra from 2009. Now that it’s hit the big screens, Anthony and I go Head to Head over G.I. Joe Retaliation.
Ed: Well Anthony. I’ve spent most of the weekend at the theatre seeing G.I. Joe Retaliation. I had the opportunity to see it both in 2D and in 3D. I have to say that I was very impressed with G.I. Joe Retaliation. It is a very solid action movie, and I think the movie going public will really enjoy this one.
Anthony: Ok, let’s start with the elephant in the room. The movie got pushed back to add 3D and (depending on reports) more Channing Tatum. 3D is one other tool in a filmmaker’s kit, but the movie needs to be shot with 3D camera and designed to be 3D from the start. The 3D was weak and added nothing, as is usual when 3D is tacked on as a money making afterthought. I’m glad you got a chance to see it in both 2D and 3D because the 2D option wasn’t available for me. Most theatres just have the 3D and so we begrudgingly fork over an extra $3.
Ed: Since you want to talk about the elephant in the room (because it’s on fire…), I enjoyed the 3D conversion of the movie. I am not a 3D fan, but I thought there were the little things added to the movie that made it very cool. And not to be a spoiler, I ducked when Firefly fired towards the camera. That effect was lost on the 2D screen, but it was a very cool effect on 3D. I’m not happy the movie got pushed back for the 3D conversion, but after seeing it now the wait was worth it because the movie would have disappeared in the glut of mega block busters last summer.
Anthony: But did the movie really need the extra 3D? I don’t really think so. It just seems a thing that studio do nowadays.
Retaliation was in an interesting position because it was trying to maintain a semblance of continuity while trying to forge a new mythos. This sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. At this point we should mention that from here on there will be spoilers, so come back after you’ve seen the movie.
The shift to movie G.I. Joe from a UN multi-national force to an American one is never explained. I don’t have a problem with this but it is strange. Especially since the movie heavily implies that after the team is ambushed the only Joes left alive are Roadblock, Flint, Snake Eyes, and Lady Jaye. But we don’t actually see Hawk, Scarlett, Ripcord, Heavy Duty, or Breaker. So maybe they’re dead or maybe they are just on some other mission? The movie wanted to have the Joe team betrayed, eliminated, and stripped of their vast resources as part of Cobra and Zartan’s plan. I get that and if the first movie didn’t exist it would work pretty well. But the first movie does exist so it seems like sloppy writing by avoiding to address plot holes.
For example, Zartan does need to torture the President to find out where Cobra Commander and Destro are imprisoned because he is the President! In fact, he was the President while Cobra Commander and Destro were caught in the last movie! So that scene was useless and pretty much demonstrates that the writers didn’t watch Rise of Cobra.
I also thought that the Storm Shadow revelation scene was really weak and made even worse by the decision (in the last film) to have the Hard Master killed while they were kids.
Ed: Now you are getting into the territory of a hardcore Joe fan.
If you compare Retaliation to the realm of comics, it is a sequel but it is a reboot as well. It appears that the only parts of the movie that applies is there was a Nanomite war. Cobra Commander and Destro were the culprits behind the war and they have been captured. Zartan is the President. And Duke is field commander of the G.I. Joe team. I think that Hawk, Scarlett, Ripcord and the rest gang never existed in this new movie universe. As well as the Pit in Egypt. It simply doesn’t exist.
This fixes most of the problems people had with the first movie. I remember the outrage that existed on the interwebs when the news leaked that G.I. Joe wasn’t an American team anymore, but a team made up of members from different nations.
The origin of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is very tricky, because technically they met 40 years ago in Vietnam. That works in 1982 but it simply won’t work today. So the characters had to be updated somehow. Having them as children didn’t work for me as well, but that is old school G.I. Joe fan talking.
I like the fact that Zartan was the one responsible for the death of the Hard Master. That is how it was in the comics (and most other origin stories since). I wish they could expand on it more, and develop the Zartan more deeply, but after you see the movie you will see that isn’t going to happen.
Retaliation is awesome, but I have one complaint, I wish there were more “easter eggs” for us Joe fans. Rise of Cobra had those little tidbits in there for us. For example the tagline “knowing is half the battle” or saying Duke is Government Issued (that’s where G.I. comes from) or noticing Heavy Duty’s Kung Fu grip. When the team was preparing to invade the Pakistan facility I would have liked to hear them yell “Yo Joe!!!” instead of “Huah!”
Taking out those small G.I. Joe specific details made the movie a generic military action movie, and not a G.I. Joe movie. At least on the Cobra side there were inside stuff for us Joe fans. Like using the full name of the HISS tanks. Most people wouldn’t have caught that.
Anthony: I also like Abernathy’s Gym. I’m not sure that others will have your sense of what to ignore and what to treat as new though.
What really struck me is how I recognized the vehicles: the Fang Helicopter, the Striker, the Water-Moccasin, that old school recognition was missing from the first movie. The characterizations were good for the most part. The Rock was perfect as Roadblock, Ray Stevenson did a great job as Firefly, and I thought Jonathan Pryce really got to let loose as Zartan this time around. Bruce Willis basically played Bruce Willis but it totally works for Joe Colton. I thought that Lady Jaye worked pretty well and I understand how she really can’t have her Hawkeye trick arrow style javelins, but Flint was brutal. You literally could have put anyone in there. The character was stilted and had no depth. A shame seeing as he was one of the best from the old animated series.
However, anytime Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are on screen is more than worth the price of admission. Incredible action sequences, brilliant martial arts, and unique special effects (like Snake Eyes shooting throwing stars with his Uzi) make their scenes a dream for any action movie junkie.
Ed: You are correct. Flint was completely wasted in this movie. The classic character Flint was a Rhodes Scholar and he is a natural leader. This movie he came across as an idiot with some good parkour moves. He could have been any other character but Flint.
The mountain ninja scene is getting a lot of attention around the internet. People love that whole sequence. I thought it was unbelievable. Retaliation worked the two sides of the story really well. This is a military action movie, and a movie about ninjas as well. Jon Chu was able to blend the two very distinct story styles together to make a very solid action movie. Yes the acting wasn’t the best, but it’s an action movie about toys. What do you expect?
I hope the release date for the third G.I. Joe movie comes out soon. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be a third movie, and now they know how to do it right. And as you know, knowing is half the battle.
Any final thoughts Anthony?
Anthony: I think that going forward as a series the movies need to focus on what the comics and television shows did right and showcase unique, individual personalities on both the Joe and Cobra teams. I also think that Cobra Commander needs to be front and centre as a main villain next time. His character is part of why G.I. Joe was so successful in the 80s. He’ll need to answer for killing millions of people in London. Although he did manage to disarm all the nukes in the world.
The bottom line with this movie is that fans of the series or action movies will have plenty to enjoy if they overlook some of the nonsensical foolishness