G.I. Joe is back for Retaliation

Contrary to 80’s and 90’s stereotype beliefs, girls did not just like Barbies, and boys did not just like G.I. Joe. I was a huge fan of Joe from my childhood, and lamented over the end of that period of my life. Snake Eyes and Lady Jaye being my favorite characters, I was excited to see them in the sequel (Yes, I know Snake Eyes was already in the first one, hush).

The sequel boasts more action, more patriotism, more explosions, but less Channing Tatum, much to my disappointment. The release date has been pushed back, adding more of Tatum’s character Duke into the movie, however not much. Let me just say here, if you are going for him, don’t expect much. Duke is funny as always, while being endearingly loyal to his team as well as to his country, but in an attack on the Joes, he dies early on in the movie. It’s not hard to see the scenes that they might have added Duke in, since nearly all of it could have been cut out, but is still there for added emotion, especially when the team loses the Joes in an attack by Cobra.

America is still under the control of the Cobra, with Zartan in disguise as the president. However for the past years Cobra Commander and Destro have been in a maximum maximum security prison thousands of miles underground in a paralyzed state. The team now consists of Duke, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Mouse (Joseph Mazzello). Snake Eyes is no where to be found in the beginning sequences, and only shows up after the attack on the Joes. After a successful mission, the Joes are attacked by Cobra Command and taken out. Duke and Mouse die along with the entire team, leaving only Roadblock, Flint, and Jaye alive. Knowing that the attack could only have come from the highest of commands, they begin to suspect the President.

In the light of recent events, the “president” gets Snake Eyes in custody, blaming him for the attack and takes him to the maximum security prison that Cobra Commander and Destro are at. Getting there we are met by a Walton Goggins prison warden who proceeds to begin the process of imprisoning Snake Eyes. They happen to be in a super secret underground prison near the core of the earth. The ride down the elevator is just like Arkham Asylum (as noted by Sam and I in unison) and we come to the floating bodies of the commander and Destro made docile. Taking Snake Eyes into the glass case, Walton Goggins’ character unveils Snake Eyes only to show us the face of Storm Shadow. Thankfully. Because if it was actually Snake Eyes, I would have been sad that they destroyed the mystery. Anyways, the warden laughs at his prize and takes from him the swords and puts him into stasis for imprisonment. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long. Firefly, a man who has some sort of accent though we have no idea what it is, plans his attack on the prison and frees the Commander and Storm Shadow, but the Commander leaves Destro, killing him in his tank. They almost make it out when the warden manages to release the air pressure on the prison, burning Storm Shadow’s back. After some maneuvering they escape, Storm Shadow goes to some far off Tibetan place to get his back healed.

In Tokyo, we meet up with Snake Eyes and Jinx, who we know as Storm Shadow’s cousin. In a kind of hilarious twist, this movie easily crosses all cultural borders without question, putting the blind master as the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (with the craziest beard I’ve ever seen) and a Cambodian-French Elodie Yung as Jinx. Despite initially laughing at the idea, I realized it kind of follows everything we know as cartoons. Characters are often unconventional and nuances go unexplained, and we are taught to trust their position based on their skill and their loyalty to the team. So the hiccup that Elodie Yung is a Cambodian actress playing cousin to a Korean Lee Byung-hun is accepted and I move on, taking mistakes like that in stride. So Jinx is joining the Joes, but Snake Eyes remains dubious, obviously because of her family relations. They are to retrieve Storm Shadow from his Tibetan healing spa, and get him back to face judgment. In an awesome show of mountain climbing, ninja skills, and manipulation of gravity, the ninjas duel it out, but Snake Eyes and Jinx take Storm Shadow’s body and take it back with them to Tokyo.

The story is kind of confusing, I have to admit. There are multiple plot lines that don’t really fit together. Storm Shadow reveals that he wishes to destroy Zartan, the man who filled him with so much hate and framed him for the killing of his master. Zartan and the Commander reveal that they want… something? It’s not quite clear what they want. All of the nukes gone so they can rule the world being the only ones with the power? There are some severe plot holes that seem to be missing. Lady Jaye has some moments with Bruce Willis’s original G.I. Joe, who we suspected was actually her father, but we’re not actually sure. There are some fun moments as the Rock and Willis use gratuitous action to their benefit and forte, and it’s so obviously gratuitous that it’s fun. I will admit that Firefly is a rather feminine name for a villain, and the character seems more conniving than devious. And of course, it wouldn’t be a G.I. Joe movie if they didn’t destroy some part of the world. In the first one it was the Eiffel Tower, the second one it was basically all of downtown London. In the end Zartan is killed, Firefly is blown up, Storm Shadow remains in a weird place with the group though he was definitely an ally, the Commander flies away, and Roadblock saves the day. Of course, Cobra Commander survived, as he always does, but the saddest part for me is that they can never revisit Duke’s character. However, I guess they can use Flint who seems to have been coming into his own during the movie. As far as character growth, there was very little, other than Lady Jaye and her moment with Joe, but it was still a good time.

All plot faults included and cheesy, I would give this movie a solid C+.