What is wrong with action movies this year? Last year, when an action movie was dumb, it had the decency to make up for it with mind-blowing, bone-crunchingly awesome stunts and action sequences (cough, "The Raid: Redemption").
So far this year, though, all the big blockbuster action movies – like "A Good Day to Die Hard" and its slightly more tolerable cousin "Olympus Has Fallen" – act as though they have a license to kill brain cells. Worst of all, they only provide marginally diverting action to make up for it. Now there’s the long awaited "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," the most mind-numbing of the bunch.
And no, the 3-D conversion that delayed the film for almost a year does not make the proceedings any better.
"Retaliation" takes place a little while after the events of 2009’s "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," which ended with Cobra Commander and metal-head Destro captured, the president replaced by the shape-shifting Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), the Joes – led by Duke (Channing Tatum) – temporarily victorious. They apparently suffered several retirements, as most of the Joes from the last film (Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) are nowhere to be found. Their toys must not have sold well.
Instead, newcomers Roadblock (The Rock), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) join Duke and the masked ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park). Considering how little character or personality they have, I’d just call them The Rock, Girl and Guy Who Isn’t The Rock. I hope you like following these bland future action figures, because they’re all we get after the devious fake president (Jonathan Pryce, one of the few cast members just having a good time) wipes out the Joes – including Duke.
That’s right; the rumors of bonus Tatum being added were wrong. He lasts about 15 minutes, shares a few forced but mildly diverting moments of male bonding with The Rock … and then gets vanquished.
Thus the stage is set for revenge, with the remaining Joes teaming up with the original G.I. Joe (Bruce Willis, either bored or exhausted from starring in his sixth movie in less than a year) to travel the globe to expose the fake president before he, Cobra Commander and new baddie Firefly (Ray Stevenson) take over the world with the help of their super mega death satellite – which, of course, comes with a self-destruct switch. Apparently the rest of the world leaders are in on the plan too, as they seem far too willing to send nuclear missiles flying willy-nilly across the globe with their shiny nuclear button suitcases.
Meanwhile, Snake Eyes and new character Jinx (Elodie Yung) are up in the mountains because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to have a ninja wirefight on the side of a cliff. That’s as good a reason I can give you. There’s something about past ninja sins, a dead master, RZA and villain Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) needing to fix his back, but it’s padding dedicated to non-characters that seem about as alive as plastic toys.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – the duo behind the actually quite clever zombie comedy "Zombieland" – load "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" with an excess of characters but a lack of anything fun or interesting for them to do or say. The Rock is locked onto glum revenge mode, and everyone else is just a vehicle for action, sloppy exposition or, if you’re Lady Jaye, sexy outfits. It’s a movie overstuffed with nothing.
Director Jon M. Chu tries to bring the movie to life with the action, and he almost manages to do it with some of the set piece moments, like the aforementioned mountainside ninja battle and a late gun-punch fight. At the same time, however, there’s just so little to care about or get attached to, both in terms of story and characters, that it falls as flat as one of the wire-fu ninjas with his rope cut. It’s hard to feel much is really at stake when even blowing up London causes little more than a shrug.
Then again, a shrug is all that "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" seems to be going for. Instead of dumb fun, the film is fully dedicated to dumb mediocrity and assumes that a few sequences of merely competent action will make up for neglecting everything else. That’s how you get a story in which the president can launch a doom satellite into space and seemingly replace the entire military with his personal goons without anyone noticing. Well, Lady Jaye does … when she notices his fingers folded differently and his use of the word "soda" instead of "pop."
It’s a frustratingly joyless and charisma-free project, content to play down to the low expectations set by the previous film and the Hasbro logo at the beginning of the credits. This is normally around the time when I say that there’s enough explosions and fight scenes to satisfy undemanding fans, but when the final product is this devoid of substance, they should be demanding more.
Like the rest of this latest batch of action movies, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" finds plenty of ways to blow stuff up. Now if only they could find a reason for audiences to care.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published July 24, 2015
At first glance, Ellington Ratliff may seem like the odd man in the pop rock band R5. He's the only one who's not a member of the Lynch family. He's the only one with a first name that doesn't begin with R (Riker, Rocky, Ross and Rydel make up the rest), and he's the only bandmate not born and raised in Colorado. Instead, Ratliff was born out in Los Angeles and split time in Wisconsin, making the band's Riverside gig Friday night a return of sorts.
Published July 23, 2015
If the last two days have proven anything, it's that Milwaukee will freaking lose their mind over the mere idea of a lion. At least, local movie fans Stephen Milek and Christopher Kai House certainly hope that is the case, as the two film buffs attempt to bring the notoriously insane 1981 thriller/borderline snuff film "Roar" to town.
Published July 22, 2015
Bookended by AJ Bombers and Water Street Brewery, Water Street is famous for three Bs: bars, burgers and bros. The tightly packed combination of those things has made the area a popular nighttime hot spot. Yet amongst all of the bars and clubs is something unexpected: A. Werner Silversmith, a buried treasure - quite literally considering its glass cases and shelves containing shimmering, beautifully repaired silver pieces - hiding in plain sight.
Published July 20, 2015
Brooklyn-based indie band Lazyeyes guitarist and singer Jason Abrishami has never been to Milwaukee - let alone any part of the Midwest really. He admits he hasn't even heard that much about the Cream City, but he'll learn about the city firsthand Wednesday night when the band and its shoegaze-laced dream rock makes its maiden trip to the city via a gig at The Mad Planet.
Published July 19, 2015
Tarsem Singh is a man who spent about four years and much of his own money traveling the globe's most outrageously beautiful locales in order to make his magnum opus "The Fall." So how'd he end up standing behind the camera of "Self/Less," an utterly anonymous and impact-free immortality action-thriller that - much like the fresh if not quite new bodies being peddled in the film - seems "alive only in the most basic sense"?
Published July 18, 2015
What if? It's two simple words, not even adding up 10 letters, but that seemingly innocent question has likely haunted every single person that's walked this planet at some point or another. And it's a question that fascinates Milwaukee native Cynthia Swanson, so much so that she made that idea the cornerstone for her debut novel, "The Bookseller."
Published July 17, 2015
Every band has at least a small group of devoted fans cheering it on and supporting it on its way to the spotlight. The retro "nu-wop" family band The Bronx Wanderers, coming to Festa Italiana this weekend, is no different - except some of those devoted fans just happen to be entertainment icons from their hometown neighborhood, including Dion DiMucci, Tony Orlando and Oscar-nominated actors Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello.
Published July 15, 2015
When Festa Italiana starts up this Friday at Henry Maier Festival Park, many will flock down to the lakefront to gulp down some real authentic Italian food and wine. Yet some of the most revered tastes of Italian culture coming to town this weekend are wholly inedible: the lovingly crafted and almost identical replicas of the country's most famous sites - this year including a 50-foot duplicate of the iconic Trevi Fountain.
Published July 12, 2015
Whenever some pop cultural hallmark gets a shiny new Hollywood remake or reboot, the Internet's response is always the same, to the point that you might as well give it its own key on the keyboard: "They're destroying my childhood!" In all cases, it's complete hyperbolic fanboy spazzing - all, except for maybe the case of "Terminator: Genisys" (the silly bonus y nicely echoing my main line of thought while watching the movie).
Published July 11, 2015
Channing Tatum must've heard your laments concerning the first "Magic Mike" film and brought most of the gang back together for "Magic Mike XXL," the best possible version of the sexy, silly male stripper movie audiences thought they were getting the first time though.