Even though G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a lot of mindless fun, it suffered from a desire to give soap operatic backstories to characters only meant to exist in a world of action figures, resulting in an occasionally laughable film that never let us truly relish in its campiness. However, the sequel Retaliation fully nails the spirit of the original property in the best way possible.
This classic G.I. Joe story follows its titular heroes, who are framed for stealing nuclear warheads by a Cobra mercenary masquerading as the President. Thanks to director Jon M. Chu’s (Step Up 3D) impeccable eye for stylized action, he’s able to rock a tight, funny script from Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and deliver two hours of nonstop machismo and jingoism. From the self-aware moment that Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum interrupt the intro just to play Call of Duty, I knew immediately that this film was embracing its own stupidity.
It’s those kind of moments that made me love Retaliation. Not only does the ensemble cast make their cheesy dialogue work, but the film establishes early on that its leads can actually die; creating a sense of mortality that the first film was always missing. Sure, this film has issues, like a few bad visual effects and the awful performance of the RZA as Snake Eyes’ master. Even so, the film played so well to my inner-child that I ended up looking past those flaws.
By now, you should know whether this is your thing or not. If you’re hungry for some popcorn entertainment, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is exactly that. It’s nothing but Saturday afternoon matinee fluff, but it’s the best kind of fluff there is.