[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!]
As a lifelong Joe fan, I was very excited to see the first live-action Joe movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, in 2009. After the initial buzz wore off during the movie, I realized it wasn’t the Joe movie I wanted to see. With a poor cast of characters (Heavy Duty, Ripcord), an even poorer choice of actors (Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans), a silly looking Cobra Commander and those stupid accelerator suits, that film was a mess.
I suppose I can get more in-depth with my disappointment for that film at another time but WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY is that G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a MAJOR improvement over ROC in about every way. There’s a stronger cast of actors and characters this time. The core Joe members in this movie are: Roadblock, Snake-Eyes, Lady Jaye, Flint, Jinx and General Joseph Colton. My only disappointment with the casting there is the guy playing Flint (no, I’m not going to bother to look up his name). I love that Flint is in the movie but the guy playing him is just another pretty boy who doesn’t really give off much of a presence in the movie. It’s the same way I feel about Channing Tatum as Duke.
Speaking of Duke (here’s the SPOILER, folks!), he’s dead about 15 minutes in. As much as I love Duke, if Tatum is going to be the guy playing him, I’m glad he was killed off. When Paramount pushed back the release date of this movie from June 2012 to March 2013 (!!!) the official word was they did it throw in 3D. While that’s perfectly valid, it’s been said they also wanted to add some more scenes with Channing Tatum due to his explosion in popularity and also to avoid getting crushed by The Avengers and The Dark Knight. After seeing the movie, I’m not so sure the Tatum theory really works. He’s a main character for that first 15 minutes but he’s eliminated fairly easily and without much dramatics. I wonder why they even bothered to bring the character back for that.
Other missing Joes after starring in the first movie are General Hawk, Ripcord, Scarlett, Breaker and Heavy Duty. These guys are never seen or mentioned in this movie and we’re to believe the entire Joe force (other than a handful) was destroyed by Cobra right after the Joe team just successfully completed a mission. I’ll assume they were in the background somewhere getting blown to pieces.
On the Cobra side, we have the awesome looking Cobra Commander (looking much more like he did in the cartoon), Zartan still posing as the President of the United States, Storm Shadow and Firefly. Destro only makes a cameo because (true to their relationship in the cartoon & comic books) Cobra Commander leaves him locked up when Storm Shadow comes to free the Commander. I really like Ray Stevenson as Firefly, even if he sounded really silly trying to do what I guess was supposed to be a southern accent. Firefly was incredibly underutilized in the cartoon and while they didn’t stick with the character’s obsession with being anonymous (he mostly walks around without his mask), I still think they did a great job with him in the movie. I think Ray would’ve made for a better Zartan and Arnold Vosloo a better Firefly but they still did well in their roles.
Of course, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did great as Roadblock, Bruce Willis gave the movie some lighter moments with his portrayal of the original “G.I Joe” General Joe Colton and Adrianne Palicki was gorgeous as Lady Jaye. In fact, I think Palicki would’ve been better suited for Scarlett, much better for that role than Rachel Nichols was. As always, Snake-Eyes was cool and so was Storm Shadow. There’s a great ninja sequence in the mountains that every one seems to have liked.
This is really the movie they should’ve made the first time around. It’s a love letter to the fans of the cartoon instead of a slap in the face like the first movie was. It has a cast of classic Joe/Cobra characters and there’s Cobra H.I.S.S. tanks, Joe A.W.E. strikers, Cobra Water Moccasins, red ninjas, the Blind Master and the classic plot of the Joes being framed as traitors while Cobra Commander attempts to enact some insane plot to rule the world. Retaliation really is a live-action version of the cartoon and I think most Joe fans will be pleased. It’s big dumb fun. Just the way G.I. Joe should be.
Also, it sets up the series to continue with a third movie. Just as in the cartoon, the Commander escapes yet again! I’m looking forward to seeing Destro getting involved again. Either working uneasily with Cobra Commander or going out on his own. Perhaps we’ll see G.I. Joe vs. Cobra vs. M.A.R.S. Industries in the third movie.
My personal wishlist of characters getting introduced in the next film: Beachhead, Low-Light, Gung-Ho, Leatherneck, Wet-Suit, Sci-Fi, Mainframe, Shipwreck & Spirit for Joes and Major Bludd, Tomax & Xamot, the Dreadnoks and the B.A.T.s on the Cobra Side. Plus a return of the Baroness & Destro. I’d love to see the Dreadnoks get introduced and joining Cobra with the intent of getting revenge on Storm Shadow for Zartan’s death. Yes, Storm Shadow is an anti-hero by the movie’s end as they follow the plot-line of Zartan being the one who actually killed the Hard Master.
It’s already being predicted the movie will make about $40 million opening weekend, which is good. Reviews from fans have been good too. I hope we won’t have to wait as long for the third movie.