Monday, April 1, 2013

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Spoiler Filled Review: Javi and Jonesy's Take


Directed by: John M. Chu
Written by: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Starring: Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Byung-hun Lee, Ray Stevenson, D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, and Jonathan Pryce
Synopsis: After being almost wiped out, the Joes must come up with a plan to take down the Cobras before they take over the world.

Warning: the discussion below is spoiler filled and should be read after you've seen the film, or if you just don't care about spoilers. 

Javi: A glaring issue with the film was that it was just there. It wasn't so crazy/goofy/bad that it was good. I could argue that it was probably a more boring movie than a "so bad it's so good" type of movie. The action scenes were great, but the problem was that there's nothing to the story. I just can't believe that they spent a year up converting the 3D and didn't think to edit the script at all. 

Jonesy: It doesn't have the charm and cheese of the first movie. I was one of the people who didn't see it in the theaters, and then I watched it once it was available on Netflix Instant, I realized how was silly, fun, and great with a group of friends on a Friday night it was. The only time that I thought RETALIATION was fun was during the ninja mountain fight. The sequence was so engrossing that you forget about the logistics of the ropes, which don't make any sense. But when you stop thinking about the action and start thinking about the script, add in the weird nuclear weapon showdown at the end coupled with seven satellites up in space that can destroy the world which are controlled by Cobra, the script is a mess. How did they come up with the money to launch satellites into space?

Javi: You could make the argument that since Cobra took over M.A.R.S. Industries, they had the resources. As a total side note, I would love to see and hear more about the random army dudes in the Cobra command center who are counting down the destruction of London. Like what choices did they make that lead them to this point to be the jerk that destroys full cities? I'm glad you did bring up the ninja fight. What I have seen, given my limited experience of the franchise, the main conflicts are all about the Joes and Cobra, but it always seems to come back to the ninjas. They come to be the focus of many stories. I just wish that they had been utilized better. I think that it's funny that the only character that actually had any sort of story arc was Storm Shadow. Every other character was just so damn boring like Flint? Who the hell was that guy?

Jonesy: And Jinx was just another girl to have on the roster.

Javi: She had a very clumsy introduction.

Jonesy: Agreed. R.Z.A. (editor's note: Jonesy mispronounces his name as three individual letters please direct all of your trolling to @angjonesy on twitter) introduces her, and it's so awkward, and RZA was just a weird exposition man for no other purpose than to tell Snake Eyes that Jinx is trustworthy. I had also forgotten about the conflict between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow had as kid ninjas.

Javi: The character that I hated the most was Flint. I'm like why did he survive? I wanted more Charming Potato!

Jonesy: I was expecting him to pop back up towards the end. I really enjoyed Johnathan Pryce's performances. He was the president, and he was also the "bad guy," even though it was suppose to be Zartan. He gets to chew the scenery and just gets to have fun.

Javi: Speaking of Arnold Vosloo, aka The Mummy, who played Zartan in his normal face, he had the best job. He was barely in the movie, and yet he was a main villain and probably got a nice little paycheck.

Jonesy: He was only in the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes flashback and at the end. Speaking of not being in the movie very much, I really wish that the marketing had not hyped up Bruce Willis as much as they did in the previews because he was kind of wasted. If he was kept secret, that could've been a nice surprise because he was built up as the "original Joe" but was wasted and only in about 20 minutes of the movie with not much of a purpose.

Javi: To be fair, the character of Joe Colton is indicative of the issues with the franchise anyway, where the Joes are just faceless dudes apart from Snakes Eyes: big dude, a short dude, a white dude, maybe a black dude, and a ninja. Whereas Cobras are the guys with big ol' metal head, the white ninja, Dr. Mindbender, Cobra Commander, and they're all interesting.

Jonesy: Also, what's up with the random old guys that are part of Joe Colton's posse before the final battle starts? They are, once again, characters that are clumsily introduced. Who are they? Are they reserves? I might imagine they're his old war buddies, but that's just reading between the lines of this weak script. And about what you mentioned about Joes verses the Cobras, the bad guys are always way more interesting.

Javi: I hate to make comparisons, but since it's Hasbro franchises, I'm down with it. The argument of the good guys are boring is a little null because with the Transformers franchise, even though most people think the Decepticons are the best, there are really cool Autobots that people find iconic. With G.I. JOE, there are some very shallow characters that have no depth to them beyond a one liner.

Jonesy: Like "Not Brenda"?

Javi: Yeah, Lady Jaye...what was her deal? Daddy issues? Hell, even Duke is just a generic white dude.

Jonesy: In the beginning, I was really into was Mouse, who was the "fish out of water" newbie Joe and would have made a more interesting arc than Flint, but Mouse was out within the first 20 minutes. One of the minor characters I enjoyed Walton Goggins, as the warden. He had real presence and a theatricality about him. Was there anything you enjoyed in the film?

Javi: There were a lot of cool design concepts such as the HISS Tanks.

Jonesy: Were those shown at the end?

Javi: Yeah! Also, the Cobra helicopters? They looked like Fall Of Cybertron Vortex. Also Cobra Commander looked great. And while the actor that portrayed him was different, they managed to get his voice to sound the same as the first film.

Jonesy: Did he have the same mask in the first film?

Javi: No, he had a different mask. If you remember at the beginning of this film, he had a weird mask that was translucent. That's what he had in the last movie.

Jonesy: The main aspect about Cobra Commander that bothered me was they didn't match the mannerisms he had from the first movie. He was jerky and twitching, which was silly and fun to watch, but in this film, he has very little personality and was very stoic. I didn't like that at all.

Javi: It's interesting is that you noticed the issue with the mannerisms of Cobra Commander, and it was such an annoying plot point where the Joe's figure out that Zartan was the President by his mannerisms. I'm very annoyed that they did that because copying people is what Zartan does. He is the master of disguise, and he specifically said that this was his "masterpiece" in the first movie. He spent years to thoroughly study the president to make sure he wasn't discovered. And yet apparently he makes dumb mistakes, and I guess wears really silly masks as an old guy in the beginning of his disguise career.

Jonesy: Oh, you mean from the flashback with Storm Shadow? That looked awful! Are we supposed to think that disguise technology was that bad 20 years before this? And the technology has advanced so dramatically?

Javi: I really hated when something is referred to and there's no build up to it. The HISS Tanks, the mountainside town where they heal Storm Shadow, the healing old lady...where did it all come from? There was zero explanations. Also, whenever they break out Cobra Commander and at the same time, the Joes were recovering from the deadly attack, the Joes are in Pakistan, and Storm Shadow and CC are in Germany. How did one scene happen at night and the other happen during the day, when according to the movie, they're happening simultaneously? I'm not an expert in time zones, but I'm pretty sure Germany and Pakistan aren't that far apart time-zone-wise.

Jonesy: When Storm Shadow breaks into the prison?

Javi: Yeah, I just can't imagine that's the how the actual time zones would look like.

Jonesy: I didn't get the impression that those events were happening in the same day.

Javi: Even if it wasn't taking place during the same day, the movie doesn't do a good enough job of letting you know that. There are a ton of issues with the editing in the film. Another example, how do I know from the movie what the time frame was when Snake Eyes saw Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander escape to when Snake Eyes went to Tokyo, Japan? It reminded me of that famously stupid scene in RETURN OF THE FALLEN where they're in Washington D.C. in one scene, then they're suddenly in this southwestern mountainous region. It was just so terribly jarring.

Jonesy: The time frames didn't bother me as much as the editing during the fight sequences. I had no sense of space during the sequences, nor did I really know who was who because the shots were so quick.  My eyes didn't have time to adjust. I just knew I had to try to keep track of the Rock, Tatum, and the girl.

Javi: It was also weird that the film introduced a super technical bullet without it actually paying off in a significant way. Then again, now we're getting into super picky territory.

Jonesy: By the way, who were the Joes they trying to rescue in the first scene?

Javi: ......Yeah, I think it was just some old guy?

Jonesy: They were just on a random mission, I guess? Again, another point not explained. This movie has too many problems.

Javi: Maybe we needed to drink more? By the way, what did you think of the 3D?

Jonesy: The 3D was fine, especially in the mountain scene and the satellites. But you can tell that most of the film was not shot for 3D. If anything, the re-edits that they went back and filmed only made it much more obvious that this was not supposed to be a 3D movie. The biggest 3D issues were the first 20 minutes where the scenes were really dark, and I couldn't tell what exactly was happening. At least this film proves that you can take the time to up-convert and not totally ruin the film.

Javi: The mountain sequence would look great even without IMAX 3D. Now, going forward, I think now that there has been enough world building, I kind of wish that they would make a 3rd movie.

Jonesy: Maybe if we cause enough grief on social media then Joseph Gordon Levitt would come back to the 3rd movie as Cobra Commander.

Javi: Now, what would be bad ass is if they killed the previous Joe team and start fresh with each movie.

Jonesy: That could be an interesting path to take.

Javi: That would give the option of endless reboots.

Jonesy: That works for the Joes, but what about the bad guys? Cobra Commander can only escape so many times before it's too ridiculous.

Javi: Destro is technically still around, so he might be brought back. This might be a great way to keep the franchise going. Kill the Joes; they have no personality anyways. And no movie is going to give them real character development. As a final thought going back to previous iterations of G.I. Joe, I just finished watching the cartoon G.I. JOE RENEGADES, where Cobra sets itself up as a great corporation where they do chemical research, manufacturing, weapons contracts, research, and anthropological endeavors all in the public eye. The premise of the show is the fact that the Joes are framed by Cobra, they're always on the run, and have to fight an uphill battle for the public to see them as good guys again.

Jonesy: That actually sounds like a film I would watch. Down with big, evil corporations!

Javi: It's on Netfix, so watch the series if you can. Cobra needs to change somehow because there is no way they can really come back with how they were treated in this movie. They were made to look stupid.

Jonesy: Maybe if they came back under a different name in disguise?

Javi: I guess so. Anyway, closing thoughts for me is that I am disappointed in this film. RETALIATION was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it has let me down. If anything, the movie is symbolic of the issue with VFX/3D and technology because if you don't have the story to back up the cool technical stuff, then it still sucks. 

Jonesy: This can't even be thought of as a cheesy, fun film. It's messy with boring characters. And now the green light has been given for a third film, so I hope the filmmakers learn from this one's countless mistakes. Also, bring back Joseph Gordon Levitt!

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