G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
The greatest American heroes are back
I watched so much G.I.Joe as a kid that I even did one of those mail-in "Get yourself as a character" toy deals from breakfast cereals (or wherever it was). Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if I one day came across that double family-size box full of the little brigands. When they put out the first, I already had seen enough movie adaptations of things to know to set my expectations to mediocre at best - and when all I asked for was a cool ninja fight between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, they tripled down on my expectations. So then they make a sequel, and I set my expectations at the same levels as before - could this sequel live up to terms of engagement, or will it have to slither away in shame?
The Joes have gone on to do quite a bit of hero actions since they busted Cobra and crew at the end of the last movie - and their numbers have swelled quite nicely. With new gadgets and weaponry to go with these new members, they've been thwarting the actions of evil under the president's command - including their most recent assignment of getting some nuclear armaments away from some could-be terrorists. Unfortunately for the Joes, the president isn't who everyone thinks and has plans of setting them up in their actions, sending out a night raid to explode the heck out of their camp and wipe them out. A handful survive after diving into a well, and now find themselves in a strange situation.
Meanwhile, Snake Eyes is brought to the prison housing Cobra Commander and Destro. A seemingly not-so-elaborate science wall is thrown at us about how they keep their prisoners so docile, but when they de-mask Snake to find out it's actually that other popular ninja Storm Shadow, they should understand their day is about to get worse. As Storm Shadow foils science with ninja "magic", another cobra commando named Firefly demonstrates his explosive personality by literally causing as many explosions as he can with every single thing in his possession outside to work his way in. With Commander saved, Shadow and he meet up with Firefly to leave, but a surviving guard causes an explosion that injures Shadow, causing him to need seek healing over at a mountain.
The remaining Joes need to find someone they trust, and need to figure out just who called the shots that decimated their numbers. After returning to civilization and keeping everything secret, they start digging into the president, finding some odd peculiarities. They reach out to any other survivors on a secured channel, finding out that Snake Eyes is on the other side of the world pursuing Storm Shadow. In the mean time, they go after the original Joe from whom their unit gets it's name, enlisting his help as much as they can. This allows the group to confirm that the president is actually Zoltan, and are now left with figuring out what their plan is and just how they can stop him.
Plot-wise, it's nice to see they followed through with the presidential switcheroo they pulled at the end of the first. On the other hand, it's also sad to see that the only returning character besides the villains and ninjas have red flags thrown up for the entire first twenty or so minutes. Due to all those red flags, it comes as no surprise when he gets blown up before the movie is over - on the one hand disappointing that it was so easy to see coming, but also on the table of have a likeable Joe get nixed off. Past all of that, there's also some ninja sub-plot going on, where the ninja clan is trying to bring in Storm Shadow and try him for the death of their master - if that's who actually did it. It's a nice nod to some nostalgia from other Joe stuff, but also (more importantly in my opinion) sets up for some great ninja action scenes.
Those action scenes, including the normal Joe ones, are all pretty well done. They can be a bit fast - particularly as far as the 3D version goes to get the most of it - but don't outwardly cut so many times as to get really confusing as to whats going on (for the most part). Some fun stunt work, and a nice mix of gunfights and hand-to-hand brawling get thrown in amongst the more plot relevant items, and there's more than enough explosions to make you think Micheal Bay had something to do with this one. Costume work also improves as far as I'm concerned, ditching the rather-creepy mouth on the Snake Eyes mask, and revealing a Cobra Commander design that's much easier to associate with for fans of the older Joe.
The cast does a fine job with what it's given, although it is (again) sad to see the main return-Joe get cut short. It's a strange thing to just nix off so many characters - including some that we just got introduced to - but I guess when you have a cast the size of the GI Joe library you might as well make use of them. These characters aren't necessarily one-to-one to what they used to be either - in case you were wondering. The audio mix is pretty good, backing up the audio of the actors pretty well. The 3D effects are...average. Nothing really flying out at you besides particle effects, which is a shame considering the staff used during one ninja fight would have been the perfect moment to make someone want to duck - but part of that might just be due to the sheer speed in which most action scenes play out.
I don't know why the live action G.I. Joe films insist on blowing up European countries, but I do admit it's a nice refresher from watching the golden gate bridge get wrecked constantly. Outfits look good, action is intense and quick, plot is alright enough to get by on the movie, and the actors are not bad to boot. There some moments in the film that definitely feel as though maybe they weren't thought out all that much, but with a standard action-movie mindset used to watch a summer blockbuster for maximum enjoyment, it's fun enough to watch at least once. I'd wager it's probably just as effective to watch it without 3D and save yourself the silly pair of glasses, but for those that love the modern less-gimmicky 3D that you most times barely notice, it'd be right up their alley.