I have been seriously, excitedly anticipating this movie for what feels like forever, after it was stupidly moved from last summer to the end of March. Yes, the first GI Joe sucked, but GI Joe: Retaliation added Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Walton Goggins, and RZA, so I was pretty sure it was gonna be good. And I was mostly right! The story picks up with Channing Tatum in charge of the GI Joes and being best friends with The Rock, but then there's a traitor in the White House and most of the Joes get killed and everything goes to shit. So survivors The Rock (aka "Roadblock"), Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (DJ Cotrona) are left to avenge their comrades' deaths and figure out what the heck is going on with the President (Jonathan Pryce). Surprise! It's Cobra! Drop-dead-sexy ninja Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) busts Cobra Commander out of jail and now he's back to his old tricks: namely, world domination. Meanwhile, martial artists Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) are kind of doing their own thing in Japan.
There's a lot going on and much of it doesn't make particular sense or is just off with the rest of the movie (what the hell was that opening scene in Korea? Like, literally just an excuse to have Channing Tatum be on screen? I'm assuming that's one of the bits they added later but it was weirdly out of context). BUT it looked like everyone was having a hell of a lot of fun, and it trickles out into the audience. Jonathan Pryce is giddy with evilness and it was so nice to see him in a big role, and as an American, no less. Walton Goggins gets to do his smarmy/adorable thing and even sees a little action, while Lee Byung-hun spends a lot of the time shirtless and wet for no apparent reason and NO ONE IS COMPLAINING. The Rock is The Rock, obviously, and here is another example of him stepping into a mediocre franchise and making it way better. I hope he does this for every movie series. Like, maybe he can be the next Superman if Zack Snyder's version sucks?
The action sequences are well-done, and a few are genuinely inventive (I especially dug the mountaineering chase scene- very exciting!). Everyone gets their own thing to do, whether it's driving around a tank or sword-fighting or shooting the hell out of every living thing. The story is all over the place, trying to connect too many characters across multiple locations to make it all fit together, but at least with so much happening it never drags. I liked the inclusion of Bruce Willis as the original "Joe" but I didn't get his weird sexism? Like he would make these nonsensical, inappropriate comments to Adrianne Palicki, whose character obviously didn't like it and she would say so, but then none of her teammates would say anything and there'd be this uncomfortable silence before they just changed subjects. I don't know. I understand if they're showing that his character is antiquated in his views on women in combat, but it was only partially discussed and just made him seem like a possibly senile jerk. Speaking of Adrianne Palicki, this is the first thing I've seen her in (mostly knowing her only as the lady who would have been Wonder Woman) and I liked her a lot, for the most part her character is handled just as another fighter who happens to be a lady and it's not really harped on except when Willis is around. The main thing that bothered me is that this movie falls into the same trap of SO many action movies featuring capable women: the "time to get sexy so she can sneak into a party/lair/evil headquarters" trick. Like first she's shown as totally competent and strong and independent, and that's great, and then they throw her into a revealing, skin-tight dress and push her into enemy territory where she has to use her feminine whiles to get information or plant a tracker or something. It's an annoying ploy that never happens with male action stars and I'm just bored of it.
Anyway. GI Joe: Retaliation is way better than you'd probably think it would be, and it does well to separate itself from its predecessor. I dug the action and loved most of the cast, but the script is too muddled and over-packed to really elevate the film.
Pair This Movie With: Not the first one, because that movie is shitty. I wanted more Lee Byung-hun being a superbabe, and was in the mood for The Good, The Bad, The Weird.