It's been nearly six months since I posted something new on this site, but that's not nearly as long as we had to wait for the reboot of the G.I. Joe movie franchise, the postponed G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Was the wait worth it? (For the movie, I ask, not this post. I'm not nearly as cocky as D.J. Cotrona's Flint.
In one sense, I'd say yes. The movie was great to look at, presented characters on both sides of the conflict well, and promised future editions without resorting to a figurative elbow to the ribs. On the other hand, aside from the ninja battle on the side of the mountain, I'm not sure the 3D effects added anything -- and in scenes like the Joint Chiefs sitting around the table at the Pentagon, I think the 3D actually took away from the film. I found myself wanting to lean or crane my neck to look around some of the fuzzy blobs that obscured half of the screen.
Still, it was a vast improvement over G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and will go down as my favorite G.I. Joe film to date.
Adrianne Palicki gave my favorite performance in the film. Yes, she had at least three gratuitous cheesecake scenes (only one of which -- the disrobing from the red dress -- was grown-inducing), but beyond her undeniable attractiveness, I found her to be the deepest character in the film and its most effective. Her linguistic skills was both a key plot point and a faithful homage to her Hasbro file card and established cartoon and Marvel Comics character. And the scene with Bruce Willis during the medal ceremony was by far the most touching in the film.
When I ranked my favorite Cobras at underscoopfire, this guy topped my list. I love Firefly. He's my favorite vintage figure, even more than the heavily accessorized Snow Job, Eels and Snow Serpent (I was a sucker for accessory-packed card bubbles as a kid). But Ray Stevenson's Firefly drove me nuts. I grew up just south of the Mason-Dixon line, but Firefly's accent in this film drove me nuts. I wanted him to stop with the "blow up more things before 9 a.m." line two words in. It was if his voice coach told him, "I know you're obsessed with explosives, but we really need you to sound like Forrest Gump." If that was the instruction, Stevenson followed it perfectly. But as a result, I wanted him to be blown up long before the film's second-to-last scene.
This might not be what you think. Call me a softy, but I went into the film hoping I wasn't going to sit through two hours of blood-spattered, Call of Duty-style imagery. My biggest complaint with Joe fan films are the buckets of blood that get spilled. My on-screen Joe-verse is based on Sunbow, where fatalities only occur over the horizon, out of sight. So I was actually pleased to see bullets take folks down without them turning into life-sized tomatoes, and ninja swords being wielded effectively without ketchup bottle's-worth of crimson being released onto the floor and walls.
The Zartan-Storm Shadow back story that might as well have been told by the Micro Machine guy
The only full-on stabbing I remember was Storm Shadow hurling his sword through Zartan's chest. It was a key moment that happened -- like many things in the movie -- too quickly. I should have been rooting hard for Zartan to get his, but because the back story between the two characters was told so quickly, with so little context and investment, a climactic scene was anything but.
Bear with me for a second: If you ignore stories that have been told in the comics, G.I. Joe: Resolute, G.I. Joe Renegades, one could only assume that Zartan's reason for killing the Hard Master was because Cobra engaged in a nefarious version of the Jedi's recruitment process from Star Wars. It's like Cobra Commander has someone on staff searching the world for the next great Cobra prospect. "Hey, Zartan, I hear there's a fifth-grader in the Himilayas who's great with a sword. See if you can sign him before this year's Cobra entry draft."
And with that, I just told the Zartan-Storm Shadow story in about three times the amount of time the Retaliation screenwriters did.
From the moment I saw his menacing eyes in that watery chamber, I knew I was going to like this Cobra Commander. His life-support mask made me a bigger fan. The voice made me an even bigger fan. And the fact he ruled without getting his hands dirty -- I still am waiting for the day when I see Cobra Commander mix it up on screen -- made me an even bigger fan. Great character, great escape at the end, great to look forward to his return in the next film.
Snake Eyes (his uniform, I mean)
Snake Eyes is supposed to be a lean, mean, ninja commando. For some reason the movie version from the waist down reminded me of a middle linebacker. Either he's constantly doing squats while on his solo missions, or he needs to empty his pockets. There was almost an M.C. Hammer quality to his slacks.
Channing Tatum's character was likeable and was such a good complement to Roadblock that even if he had a role throughout the movie I don't think he would overshadow the rest of the cast. Maybe Retaliation Duke is best in small doses, but I wouldn't have minded seeing him stick it out.
Why couldn't they show him after the attack? There were so many bodies laying around that when Roadblock pulled off his dogtags, I wasn't sure it was Duke lying there.
The abduction of the Chief of Staff
The most underrated scene in the movie.
The scene on the sidewalk with the "brother" in D.C.
So many Hollywood stereotypes at work in this one that I don't want to dignify it with any more words.
The ninja mountain battle
Anyone who had seen any of the 500 trailers or shorts in the past year-plus knew this was coming, yet it still surpassed my expectations.
The subterranean prison
Unless the guy running the German prison was a modern-day Dr. Mindbender, collecting DNA from the great warriors of the world -- In this tank, Cobra Commander! Over here, Destro! My latest edition, Storm Shadow! -- I'm left wondering who the hell he is and what the hell he's doing. Maybe he was in Rise of Cobra and I'm forgetting him, but the back story behind the prison eludes me.
The Cobra helicopter
My favorite vehicle in the movie.
The Tread Ripper
I like my $15 green plastic one better. I know it's probably faster than a HISS, but I'm not sure how Roadblock survived the onslaught riding around in it.
Zartan's face of death
Very cool touch to have the blackened areas around Zartan's eyes once the nanomites crawled away in the fort. Just a hint of the look we know and love.
With a G.I. Joe fan in the director's chair, couldn't we have had a "Yo Joe!" here or there instead?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation had great moments and moments that made me wince. It also had a storyline that made me wonder how much better it might be if its running time was 30 to 50 percent longer. So in a weird way, it left me, as an audience member, wanting more. That's a goal for any form of entertainment. For this film, it's one mission accomplished.