Back in June of 2012, when Paramount first announced that they were going to be delaying the release of the sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I have to say that I feared the worst. The original film hadn't really done all that well in the domestic box office and I doubt that anyone really believed that malarkey that the studio wanted the extra time to convert the film to 3D. Throw in a director known for his hip-hop dance movies and (gasp!) a Justin Bieber bio-pic, and it's not looking to good for our "Real American Heroes".
But color me red, white, and blue, I was completely wrong. This installment is far better than its predecessor and definitely worth a trip to the cinema. If Jon M. Chu can do this with material like G.I. Joe, I wish him all the best and hope we see more of him in the geeksphere. It almost makes me want to go out and take a look at his previous films.
I watched the first movie over the weekend after I'd come down from the high of watching Retaliation, and I have to say that although I enjoy Stephen Sommers' other movies, but Rise of Cobra was all about the effects. Sure the amp suit chase was loud and exciting, but did it do anything at all for the story? Couldn't they have moved the plot the same way with a car chase? Wouldn't practical effects been just as impressive, if not more so?
That's why I think I enjoyed Retaliation so much more. Although there are the digital effects (you can't escape CGI nowadays, and honestly, I don't think I'd want them to), it looks like a lot of the action here is real life hard work; planning and preparation. Take for instance the requisite foray in to ninjatown. Sure there's alot of frolicking on the mountain tops, but there's also some kick ass wire-work and some fantastic fight choreography between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee).
There also isn't so much high tech weaponry on either side. There's the mandatory oh-my-god-they-blew-up-london Armageddon machine, but you don't see a lot of those ray guns or sonic death rays around. The Joes are using guns, as are the Cobras. Well, except for Firefly (Ray Stevenson), who uses little explosive, well fireflies. See how that worked out?
But it all feels more germane to the plot, which makes it less silly and more fun.
The story is loosely based on the G.I. Joe: Renegades cartoon, where Cobra frames the Joes using a botched covert mission and the media. In the film continuity, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is still impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). He announces that the G.I. Joes have betrayed the world and have to be put down. He launches a strike against them, and kills all but a few of them. Then he proceeds to vie for world domination. You know, bad guy SOP.
Of course this gives the writers an excuse to dump most of the cast from the first film (sadly that includes Rachel Nichols, who was my favorite part of the first movie) and bring in a whole new cast. The only ones to survive the cut are Duke (Channing Tatum), Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, and... well that's it. Cobra Commander is still there as well, but he's no longer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and spends the entire movie in a mask.
To replace the main cast, we get Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing Roadblock, Adrianne Palicki playing Lady Jaye, Elodie Yung playing Jinx, and Bruce Willis playing Gen. Joe Colton. There's also Flint (D.J. Cotrona), but honestly, he does nothing the whole film. I really thought he was going to be the token dead guy.
Anyway, the cast here feels a lot more charismatic and the lines they spout don't feel so blah. I love the bad guys. Firefly, Storm Shadow, Zartan (as the President), and Cobra Commander don't feel as goofy as they did in the first episode. Firefly especially, makes me hope Hot Toys does a version for collectors. Not to mention Lady Jaye.
Holy cow is Adrianne Palicki hot.
Yes, that is a scene in the movie, though it's decidedly PG, so don't break out the tissues yet.
You just know the 4" figures of the character are going to suck, though. Oh, wait. They already do.
But the movie? The movie is awesome.
I love that Willis is in it. I love that The Rock is in it. I love that they've got tanks and guns and remote control bullets and secret lairs and underground prisons and secluded mountain strongholds and super killer satellites. It feels like I'm watching the old 80's cartoon series again, only it doesn't suck like it does when I'm watching the old 80's cartoon again.
Things I don't like would be the fact that 1) Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) isn't back. 2) That a whole mess of Joes (and Cobras) are basically killed off in a way that doesn't allow for comic book resurrections. 3) There seem to be more hip hop references than Joe references (RZA? Wasn't it bad enough that the guy was in The Man with the Iron Fists?). 4) That there wasn't a more cool military tactics and shit.
Still, I loved this movie to pieces and I seriously and planning to watch it again before its run ends, and then buy the original DVD once it's out. It's a super fun romp, that should please most fans of the toys and fans of action movies in general.