G. I. Joe: Retaliation (Blu-ray)
Paramount / 2013 / 110 mins / PG-13
There seems to be one story that every series feels they have to tell. If it is a science fiction series, there has to be some sort of time travel story or at least the ubiquitous main-characters-age-rapidly story. Soap operas have to break out long forgotten evil twins to nice and sweet characters to mix things up. Action heroes seem to have to have a story where they are stripped of everything they usually rely on. James Bond was stripped of his license to kill and the aid of Q Branch in LICENSE TO KILL and Ethan Hunt was branded a terrorist and the IMF disavowed in the last MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE installment. Now it's time for the Joes to suffer their losses and show the world that they can still be All American Heroes, even when branded the bad guys by the President of the United States himself. G. I. JOE: RETALIATION is the long delayed follow up to 2009's THE RISE OF COBRA.
While on a mission to recover a couple of rogue nuclear warheads, the G.I. Joes are not only framed for the theft of the warheads but also for the assassination of the Pakistani President. After a strike team effectively wipes out most of the Joes by Presidential order, the few survivors must figure out what happened, what Cobra's plans are and most importantly, regain their rightful place as All American Heroes. Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Pakicki) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) soon find themselves up to their night vision goggles in espionage and a free world under Cobra rule. They find help in the form of the original G.I. Joe himself (Bruce Willis) and in one of the most unlikely of places...
It may just be me and my guilty pleasure feelings for THE RISE OF COBRA, but it feels a little too early in the series to have a house-cleaning/restart story. We've only had one adventure with Duke (Channing Tatum, who makes little more than an extended cameo in this film), Scarlett, Ripcord, the Baroness and General Hawk. Why get rid of them so early in the franchise? Not that Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock is a bad replacement for the mostly bland Tatum. Johnson has a massive surplus of on-screen charm and charisma Tatum lacks and his Roadblock is a lot of fun to hang out with. But we just got to know the Joes and their world and now it is all taken away. Keeping Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Snake Eyes was a good move and their story arc is the strongest of this film, but I would have preferred another adventure with the old group before dispatching them. RETALIATION has a very different feel than THE RISE OF COBRA. Fans praised it for being truer to the original animated series, but I still think that could have been accomplished with the Joe's Command Center being in use.
All this quibbling aside, RETALIATION is a perfect popcorn movie. It is a LOT of fun with one giant action set piece hitting after another leaving you with very little time to catch your breath. If the Joes aren't in a spectacular firefight, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are dazzling us with swordplay. It is excellent military escapist fare and a perfect summer flick. Even if they never once say "Yo, Joe!"
It should be no surprise that Paramount delivers a reference quality Blu-ray for G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. The anamorphic 2.40 picture sports razor sharp detail even down to the fabric textures on Snake Eyes' suit and extremely well-saturated colors that burst off the screen.
The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless audio track will give your sound system a thorough work out. Completely immersive and extremely active, this is a demo disc in terms of sound quality.
The supplement package may at first look tiny, but it is very comprehensive and actually left me wanting for nothing extra other than the original theatrical trailers (where are they??)
First up is a commentary track with director John M. Chu and producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura. This is a very nuts-and-bolts track about the practical making of such an elaborate tent pole action movie. Nothing earth-shattering here but completely worth your time.
A trio of "Deleted Scenes" is also worth checking out. Why "Pakistani President Assassinated" was cut is a mystery as it would have thrown us for a nice loop early on and "Arlington" sets up Roadblocks "one in the chamber" line at the end of the film which has no meaning as it is now.
The final supplement is the eight-part documentary, "G. I. Joe: Declassified." This covers a ton of information from the training the actors went through to filming several of the key action pieces to the toy and cartoon origins of the characters. This is really well done and fans of the brand should not miss it.
G.I.JOE: RETALIATION is more fun than it has any right to be. While I still prefer the original RISE OF COBRA, RETALIATION benefits from Johnson's winning persona and a non-stop string of exciting over-the-top action set pieces. Recommended for fans. Highly recommended as a perfect night's rental.