G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review

Film Title

G.I. Joe: Retaliation


It’s been decades, and we still have no official answer as to what comprises the other half of the battle.


Jon M. Chu


Channing Tatum (for 20 minutes), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Elodie Yung, RZA (!), Bruce Willis


It’s been a rough year for the White House. It was invaded by North Koreans in Olympus Has Fallen, by some other people in White House Down, and finally by Cobra in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. I just don’t know what to say. Is Hollywood trying to tell us something, here? Are the studio executives so afraid of their tax rates potentially increasing by 0.1% that they are willing to bankroll any film that features the government being destroyed, even if only for a moment? Because if they are, I have a spec script that features the White House being invaded by rabbits from the Moon who copulate on the Lincoln bust, do burnouts on the South Lawn, and defend their domain with carrot-firing crossbows. I haven’t written a word of it, and just came up with it 10 seconds ago, but I can have it ready by the end of the week. Call me, guys!

Anyway, the White House has just been getting its ass kicked this year. Now, this is the only building in history that has ever gotten its ass kicked by Canada, so part of me knows that I really shouldn’t be surprised. But it just does not defend itself in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Cobra marches up towards the end and rolls out their banners and it just sits there. Come on! At least start doing some “Feed me, Seymour” type stuff to creep them out. How much did we spend on this building again? I just feel bad for it at this point. We need to buy it a pet T-Rex or something.


Why am I talking about this? Well, I find myself on this topic, as always, due to having witnessed cable news television at my parent’s house yesterday. While there, I saw an advertisement where a Congressman implored voters to call their representatives and ask them to defund Obamacare. He stated that it was our only chance to save America. This was followed by an advertisement for the upcoming sentencing, or retrial, or something of Jodi Arias. The entire segment was permeated with the unrelenting, inescapable hype of a Superbowl pregame show. Granted, it was still more subtle than the leadup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but it made me wince just the same. I’ve been mildly depressed all day, the craziness of the television still echoing through my mind, and the fact that I am semi-attempting to stop smoking not helping matters. But I decided to cheer myself up and end my day by settling into a nice movie. I had both Fast 6 and G.I. Joe 2 in front of me.

And I watched this. Why do I do this to myself? I think I truly am crazy.

Anyway, so this movie exists. It’s definitely better than the last G.I. Joe movie, or at least, what I can remember of that movie. In fact, I’d say that it’s more or less a decent PG-13 action movie. No one dies a horrible, bloody death, swords never slice off any appendages, and none of the characters possess either a penis or a vagina, but in the words of Steven Seagal’s character from Half Past Dead, it’s “aight”. The ninja/cliff action sequence was pretty cool, I guess.


Now, I don’t really remember the first entry in this classic saga. I didn’t even see it in its entirety; I was theater hopping that day and hid in a theater showing it while I waited for another movie to start. I wasn’t going to hide in the bathroom for 45 minutes, though, in retrospect, maybe I should have. I recall the goofy robot suits, Paris being destroyed by Team America, some nonsense about the Baroness not actually being the Baroness, the President being replaced with an imposter, and Dennis Quaid. The only plot point that matters in this one is the President thing, but they re-establish that here. It’s like the creators of this one just wanted to forget how terrible that entire movie was. It’s the bold new direction in Hollywood: the simultaneous reboot/sequel. I guess they already covered this ground with The Incredible Hulk, but now they actively tell the preceding team that they sucked while pioneering even more ridiculous sci-fi weaponry. Not only is their stupidity bigger than the original team’s stupidity, but it is more refined, as well.

See, in this new movie, the bad guys’ ultimate bullshit sci-fi weapon is a satellite that drops a tungsten rod from orbit onto a target. They note that the rod does not have to be launched, merely dropped, and “gravity does the rest!” “LOL” is not actually said, but it is strongly implied. Apparently, this causes an explosion that is more powerful than a nuclear bomb and leaves none of the fallout. They demonstrate the weapon on a computer-generated version of London, and it looks pretty fearsome. By contrast, the last movie had some “nanomite” bomb that caused a bunch of nanomachines or whatever to eat Paris. It’s so inefficient to have all those little machines eat the city one tiny bite at a time. The new movie just drops a giant penis from orbit and literally fucks a major city to death. I think I’m going to write my eventual dissertation on the mathematics of this. It’s just fascinating.

In fact, I think G.I. Joe: Retaliation may be the first truly post-modern, post-post-9/11, post-Obama action film. I don’t even know what that means, but it’s true. I know it is. It has to be. But yes, there is this whole meta-level to the movie where it is not so much about the actual story, which is pretty lame, but about the ways in which Hollywood can fuck anything. Hollywood even fucks itself! The tungsten rod is not just fucking London; it’s fucking G.I. Joe 1: The Rise of Cobra! Yes, G.I. Joe 2: The Retaliation of Cobra is a movie that is all about erect penises. That’s it. There’s even a little character bit where Lady Jaye laments the fact that her third-generation military father never respected her service. If only she had a tungsten rod. If only.


You know, I think I may have gone a little off-topic here. It’s late. I’m sorry. Here, let me keep typing.

Cobra Commander and Destro start the movie locked deep underground in a secret prison built off an old East German mineshaft. The warden notes that it’s the deepest shaft the East Germans ever made. In other words, Cobra Commander and Destro are trapped inside the world’s deepest vagina. It’s not as deep and foreboding as the Sarlaac, but if you recall, the Sarlaac resided on Tatooine, not Earth. Anyway, after the escape, Cobra Commander’s plan to take over the world involves the aforementioned tungsten rods. He goes from the world’s deepest pussy to possessing dozens of the world’s longest penises. The point of this paragraph is that I don’t get why Cobra Commander didn’t fire one of his giant tungsten rods into the welcoming folds of the East German mineshaft. I wanted to see the results for scientific reasons, if nothing else.

Destro doesn’t get freed in this movie, by the way. Cobra Commander states that he’s “out of the band”. Destro will get his revenge in the next movie, as did David Lee Roth. The lack of respect is just appalling.

I guess I should take a moment and actually describe the characters in this movie. First off, we have Lady Jaye, who is the “sexy” G.I. Joe. Then there’s Jinx, who is the other “sexy” G.I. Joe. Then there’s a whole bunch of people that I didn’t give a shit about. Bruce Willis shows up for no apparent reason. Channing Tatum shows up, but as with Step Up 2 The Streets, his involvement is kept to a minimum so he can focus on movies where he is allowed to take his shirt off. James Carville shows up. RZA shows up. Basically, anybody who wanted to show up in this movie, showed up in this movie. The guys manning the satellite station at the end were probably from the craft services table. Anyway, the only worthwhile non-Dwayne Johnson, non-Ray Park, non-breast-possessing member of the cast is Jonathan Pryce as both the President and as Zartan, a Cobra operative impersonating the President. Pryce singlehandedly redeems this movie. While he most likely appeared in the previous film solely for the paycheck, he actually seems to have a lot of fun with his characters here. Who can’t love a (fake) President that trolls the leaders of the world into nuclear disarmament? He’s our best foreign policy President since Nixon.


Do I have to talk about the actual plot as well? Oh, Christ. Well, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is about the retaliation of Cobra. Now, while I thought deeply about it during my entire time watching the film, I still cannot figure out for the life of me what Cobra is retaliating for. Is it for the G.I. Joes stopping their plans in the previous movie? Don’t they always do that? I think they just thought the title sounded cool. Whatever. Cobra retaliates, and then the G.I. Joes retaliate in response to Cobra’s retaliation. Your guess is as good as mine as to what this movie was supposed to be about. There was a hilarious moment, though, where they list North Korea as one of the places Cobra is going to blow up at the end. All I could think was: really? You’re going to threaten to blow up North Korea? You might as well just blow up Fresno. Nobody cares, guys.

By the way, this movie follows in the footsteps of Olympus Has Fallen by featuring even more half-assed mythological allusions. The tungsten rod dropping satellites are collectively referred to as “Zeus”, and President Zartan describes his plan to disavow the G.I. Joes as the inevitable result of them getting too close to Mount Olympus. Why does no one ever reference Uranus being castrated and his severed genitalia foaming in the sea to produce Aphrodite? Too soon?

In the end, The Rock saves the day by hitting the abort button on the special satellite uplink briefcase with two seconds remaining. I believe this was actually a closer call than the Olympus Has Fallen finale. I was on the edge of my seat! Though admittedly, my mind was in some state of confusion during the entire sequence involving the recovery of the briefcase. I just kept thinking: Are they joking? Are they seriously going through with this action cliche with a straight face?

Never fear, folks: as it cuts to credits, the movie plays “How You Like Me Now?”, which was also played over the credits of the comedy Horrible Bosses. So, yes, this entire movie was a joke. Hollywood trolled us all, and thus, this movie is redeemed. Great work, gentlemen.


Looking back on the film with this knowledge, one realizes that G.I. Joe: Retaliation may be one of the best comedies in years. It’s the bold new direction in Hollywood comedy: just make a movie so mind-numbingly retarded that there is no rational response to it other than viewing it as a joke. I can’t even get worked up about any of the political aspects of this film. You may have noticed this review’s lack of political ranting if you’ve been reading some of my other reviews. Honestly, there isn’t much to say on this one. This movie is more concerned with ninjas, phallic sci-fi weaponry, and Lady Jaye’s cleavage than any sort of political statement. The patriotism of the G.I. Joes and the requisite American exceptionalism are almost afterthoughts. There are some half-hearted bitchslaps leveled at North Korea, a line where Firefly complains about taxes, and a waterboarding joke, but that’s about it.

Anyway, I think I need to stop typing. I fear I’ve said too much. Let’s just get ready for G.I. Joe 3, where Channing Tatum fights Destro in Hell. If you need help writing it, just call me, Hollywood. I can expedite the script if you didn’t like the rabbit thing.

About Vandel

I am an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake.