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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/30/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/25/2013
If you're an avid reader of fiction, be that novels, short stories, or even comic books, then you know that there are a lot of talented authors writing a lot of good tales out there. However, if you're like me, you notice that Hollywood doesn't do enough to take advantage of these works. (Who doesn't have a favorite book that they like to see made into a movie?) Instead, we get remakes, reboots, and movies which are carbon copies of other films. But, you know what really doesn't help me to feel confident about a movie? When a toy company is listed in the credits. That's what we get with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Was it wise for them to by-pass all of the great literature out there and make a movie based on a toy?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation takes place after the events of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. With Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) and Destro imprisoned, the elite anti-terrorist force known as G.I. Joe is able to tackle other tasks. As the film opens, the team lead by Duke (Channing Tatum) and consisting of Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palikci), and Mouse (Joseph Mazzello) help a defector to escape from North Korea. Then, The President (Jonathan Pryce) (who is really Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) in disguise) orders the Joes to head for Pakistan to retrieve a nuclear weapon. On the way home, the team is ambushed and many are killed. The survivors must now find a way to clear their name and unmask The President. With the help of Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and an important founding member of G.I. Joe, they hope to complete their mission, but how can soldiers who are wanted for treason get near The President?
When we sat down to watch G.I. Joe: Retaliation, my wife said, "Did I see the first one?" Exactly. That perfectly summarizes my feelings about G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Well, I take that back. I would like to say that I found it forgettable, but in actuality, I remember it being very bad. While I can't recall a lot of specifics from the film, I do know that I found the exo-skeleton testing scene to be ludicrously bad. As someone who has enjoyed the past work of director Stephen Sommers (Yes, even Van Helsing), I was very disappointed by the movie. Given that, I had little hope for the sequel, especially given the resume of Director Jon M. Chu. What's that you say? -- I must be crazy to wonder if the director of Step Up 2 and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never can handle a big-budget action movie?
Chu Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick clearly knew that the four year gap between this new movie and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which wasn't helped when G.I. Joe: Retaliation was pushed back in order to be converted to 3D) meant that the audience would need a recap. But, instead of opening the film with one, they wisely choose to start with an action scene and then remind us of what is happening. This is followed by two scenes which include some good banter between Tatum and Johnson. Now, I'm no fan of Tatum and I don't understand his appeal, but when he plays dumb (as in21 Jump Street), I find him entertaining. Roadblock gets the best of Duke in these scenes and they are quite funny. This serves as a great way to draw the viewer into what will become a convoluted movie. But, in a time when so many movies seem to dare the viewer to stick with them, this is a nice change.
The rest of the movie is certainly chock full of action, but it's decidedly hit or miss. The finale works rather well, save for the speed boat chase, as does the prison scene, which contains a spirited cameo by Walton Goggins. However, it's clear that the fight/chase scene in the mountains is meant to be the film's center-piece, but it simply doesn't work and I wouldn't be surprised if many viewers bail out at this point. This fails for two reasons. First, the entire story takes a complete detour to focus on the ninjas Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). I realize that Snake Eyes was a fan favorite from the comic books and TV show, but I think that the character in the movies is dull and this whole sub-plot which contains an awkward appearance by RZA as a blind master goes nowhere and really slows the movie down. Then, we get a silly scene in which Snake Eyes and Jinx (Elodie Yung) take on hundreds of anonymous ninjas as a body slides down a cable. Why didn't they just slide down the cable as well?
I was somewhat of a fan of the original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero show and I've found that neither of the feature films really do justice to the show. However, I can say that of the two movies, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is better. The ninja slow-down aside, it has some good action sequences and there's a nice balance between the levity of the opening and some somber scenes later on. And the appearance of a well-known star as a mentor doesn't hurt. One other note, the old TV show was famous for being decidedly kid-friendly in its violence, as everyone shot lasers and pilots always parachuted safely to the ground. We don't get that here, and the body-count is ridiculously high for a PG-13 movie.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation never explains why the U.S. President sound British on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, which unfortunately takes away from the seamless nature of the some of the visual effects. The depth is good, even in this 2D version. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very muscular track which really brings the action sequences to life. The front and surround channels work in unison and we clearly hear sounds move from front to back and from right to left, which excellent detail. The subwoofer accents the explosions, offering wall-rumbling bass.
The G.I. Joe: Retaliation Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jon M. Chu and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura. The Disc contains three DELTED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. All three are brief and don't introduce any new ideas or subplots. But, we do get a shot of an assassin pulling back his hood to reveal that he's Snake Eyes. Why would someone who wears a full-head mask wear a hood? "G.I. Joe: Declassified" contains 8 making-of featurettes and runs about 73 minutes. These segments -- "Mission Briefing", "Deployment", "Two Ninjas", "The Desert Attack", "Cobra Strikes", "The Lone Soldiers", "The Monastery" and "Fort Sumter" -- explore many different facets of the film's production. These pieces offer a ton of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage, including rehearsals and stunt training, as well as interviews with the filmmakers and the cast.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.