G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and Retaliation (2013)

I'm covering the two G.I. Joe films here. Like many people out there, I have fond memories of the cartoon when I was a kid. I even vaguely remember that Joe was originally a reference to generic soldiers for the US, and the first action figures were relative giants compared to the tiny action figures they have today. The question is: how well will the cartoons designed to sell toys translate into a live action movie with big name stars? Let's see.

The first film has a VERY cartoon feel to it. From the goofy nicknames to the various brightly colored screens and toys that they use, everything is intended to capture the imagination of a child. This would be all well and good if they didn't spout expletives on a regular basis. As is seemingly typical of Joes, they also carve a wide path of destruction and dead bodies.

As is expected of a franchise that made so much money off of toys and cartoons, they make some sly references to them with comments like "kung-fu grip." And the costumes, equipment, and machines that they use appear to have been specifically designed to make good toys to go along with the movie release. From jetpacks to special snow cammo outfits to hypersonic planes to underwater attack fighters, they have more than enough to work with.

The main issue with the movie, however, is that they feel the need to give us all of the complicated backstories for most of the major characters. So, they couldn't do a good enough job on any of them, but they had to do a cursory bit on them. As a result, the whole story come across as fragmented. I guess the idea was probably that kids have short attention spans, and they consequently need a story to be told that jumps around like a Jack Russell Terrier.

So, the one that I'd been waiting for - Cobra Commander - reveals himself at the end... only to be taken into custody with two minutes, never having fired a shot or given an order for someone to be killed. he didn'e even yell something like, "Nooo! I'll get you Joes!" He said something about it not being over or only being the beginning or something, but I was looking forward to the scream of defeat that I remember from the original cartoon so well.

All told, this was an action movie with sc-fi elements and even a few comedy bits. It didn't really have enough time to pull the story together very well, so they didn't. Bless their hearts, they tried, but it wasn't meant to be.

The action was good - if a bit confusing.
Editing had too many quick cuts.
Direction was decent.
Effects were pretty good.
Story was laughable.
Dialogue was generic.
Camerawork was pretty good where the CG didn't force it to be awkward.

3.0/5
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The second movie starts off with the super-secret organization that even the most elite forces didn't know existed (even though they had at least ten other countries contributing funds and soldiers) being addressed by the president publicly. The president orders the destruction of the Joes and the death of all of their members (even though, again, this is a multi-national organization) after they go on a sanctioned mission to invade a sovereign nation to recover a nuclear warhead.

They must have thought that Channing Tatum wasn't man enough to shoulder this movie, because they switch focus pretty early to The Rock. What? Was The Rock even IN the first movie? Well, no, but neither was Bruce Willis, and he's here, too. In fact, the enemies all stay the same, but they swapped out pretty much all of the good guys. Not really sure what their thought process was on this, but I suspect it had something to do with toy sales.

Well, I suspect that Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn't in this movie as Cobra Commander, but it's impossible to tell. It's kind of like the guy who wore the Darth Vader outfit - it doesn't really matter so long as he strides with command and is really tall. It's a good bet that The Rock's salary probably negatively impacted the ability to get many other big names. Although, they got RZA; and what a horrid job he does. He delivers the most overblown performance you can imagine - trying to over-indulge with each line.

So, in the backyard of the White House is a bunker no more than three feet underground. If the White House were attacked by anything significant, that little storm shelter wouldn't hold against anything - yet that is where the evil president has stored someone very valuable. Oh, and ALL of the Secret Service guys are now evil. I've met some of the Secret Service guys, and they seem pretty alright. I can't imagine they'd all be good with the wholesale destruction of the world for no good reason, but that's their line of thinking in this movie.

Again, storyline isn't the thing here. It's about the action. With the addition of The Rock and Bruce, the acting gets a big bump in the right direction, and they are both veterans of good action movies. This movie brings the action, but it still leaves me guessing as to who the target audience might be. I know I liked it well enough for a rental - I suspect college kids and maybe high schoolers are the target, but it's a simple guess.

Action was very good.
Acting was decent enough.
Camera work was better than the last one, and that was pretty good.
Directing was better than the first.
Storyline was better than the first.

Generally, this was an entertaining popcorn-style film.

3.25/5

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