The Difficult Second Movie - G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

Da'Mon Guy retaliates...

Some sequels jettison a lot of the original movies concept, cast and characters, and often this has a negative effect, leaving you with a watered down, cheaper looking version of the previous installment. Occasionally, though, it turns out to be exactly what the franchise needed.

2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation largely opened to negative reviews, but I would argue against them as the film delivers an explosive, action packed happenstance that aptly captures the true essence of the mythology of G.I. Joe. It rights a lot of the wrongs that were perpetrated on the popular 80’s characters by the disappointing travesty from 2009 (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra), and surpasses that film in entertainment value within the first 20 minutes.

Despite having risen in Hollywood's ranks in the in-between years, Channing Tatum's character, Duke, is killed off in the opening section, and makes way for Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson to lead this chapter. With an action star now driving the action itself is amped up ten fold, yet Retaliation also delivers a pragmatic, more realistic feel. It concentrates on just what a Joe movie should be - the battle between Joe and Cobra. How Cobra devises a great plan, then pushes the Joe's to the brink, but in the end they prevail. It sheds the hi-tech hoopla for a more traditional action story in which we see the Joes as a serious military unit and not some hyper realistic aberration of one. Gone are the tech suits, black costumes, and over the top ridiculousness, instead we get a great throwback to the characters and the comics of the most popular time in the long tenured history of the characters.

One of the best aspects of Retaliation, and one largely overlooked by a lot of those negative reviews, is that this film incorporates core stories from the Joe mythos into the movie. The ninjas were a vital component to the popularity of G.I. Joe, with the Arishkage clan a huge part of the Joe comics in the 80’s. The Snake-Eyes vs. Storm Shadow dynamic is as essential to the Joe universe, and so Retaliation hits a home run by not only including it but making it an essential element.

The are many hidden treats factored into the film that only hardcore fans of the 80’s cartoons would likely pick up on. Things such as Roadblock’s constant usage of heavy machine guns (because the character’s original position on the team was the heavy machine gunner), the mentioning of Roadblock’s cooking background, the tattoo on Storm Shadow’s forearm, and the MMS missile system (one of the original toys in the 80’s toy line) placed in the background of one of the scenes.

The casting is terrific. The Rock was cooking! Johnson was fantastic as Roadblock. He was just what the series needed. Tough, charismatic, and spot on. He embodied exactly what the head of the Joe team should be. The limited time he and Tatum had on screen together was one of the best sections of the film, they make a great pair and have great chemistry. The rest of the cast was great as well. Ray Stevenson, as Firefly, was a great villain, and Adrianne Palicki hit a home run as Lady Jaye.

And then, they add Bruce Willis to the mix!

As the original G.I. Joe, Willis delivers one of his best performances in many a year, largely because they just let him come in and be Bruce Willis, complete with his trademark vintage wise cracking one liners.

G.I. Joe is and always has been about action, and Retaliation brings this to the forefront. It should maybe have been titled G.I. Joe: Liberation, as this movie liberated fans from the horrific experience of Rise of Cobra. It's the film that hardcore Joe fans like myself had waited for. But hardcore fan or not, ignore what the critics said, because if you're looking for an entertaining balls-to-the-wall action film then you could do a lot, lot worse than G.I. Joe: Retaliation.


Da’Mon Guy is a writer and artist. He’s a graduate of Coppin State University and an avid, life-long lover of film. Da'Mon has been actively writing movie reviews since 2011, for a number of publications. Check out more of his work at, where he has published over 400 reviews. Visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter
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