G.I. Joe has been a beloved Hasbro toy and cartoon property for decades. With two warring factions of military (the Joes) and terrorists (Cobra), the roster had a wide scope of colourful characters and boyhood fantasies realized. In 2009, Hasbro and Paramount Pictures released G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra in an effort to capitalize on the success of Transformers.
Directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), the film captured an appropriate tone of fun but fans were dismayed by its campy sci-fi approach and critics hammered the film upon release. With the sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation hopes to make a course correction by getting more gritty with the action and adding/removing elements to give it more creditability.
This time under the direction of Jon Chu (Step Up Revolution), Retaliation picks up where the first film left off as Cobra agent Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is posing as the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce). Seizing the right opportunity, Zartan uses his positional power to decimate the elite Joe division under the leadership of Duke (Channing Tatum) and bring Cobra Commander back into power.
A handful of surviving Joe’s including Roadblock (Fast Five’s Dwayne Johnson) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) recruit the unlikeliest of allies (including Bruce Willis as retired Joe Colton) to thwart Cobra’s plans for world domination. G.I. Joe: Retaliation now hits on Blu-ray/DVD home video July 30th, 2013.
With Retaliation, you’ll notice almost immediately the tweaks made to improve the series over the first instalment Rise Of Cobra. Some actors/characters are discarded altogether from the first movie, but others who were stronger highlights before are retained in order to tell the sequel story. Retaliation’s look and tone is also modified to be a more ‘gritty’ and authentic in the action sense and less sci-fi/campy than Rise.
Along with some excellent costume changes and designs that honour the earlier cartoons and toys (i.e. Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes), director Jon M. Chu certainly accomplishes a more entertaining film than Stephen Sommers did in 2009. With that said, as improved as Retaliation is, it’s still not the great Joe movie fans will long remember.
While the sequel still maintains a mood of fun in line with the property and a better realistic tone, there’s still a light-hearted nonchalance with the events of the film that prevent a viewer from taking Retaliation too seriously (best example would be RZA’s laughable appearance as Snake Eyes’ blind ninja master) and that is it’s most glaring flaw.
On Blu-ray the film’s technical presentation is nothing short of phenomenal. Retaliation possesses an excellent 1080p high-definition picture image which is strong on clarity, black levels and colour, while it’s sound mode of English Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD will rock a sound system to no end through rip-roaring gunfire from speaker to speaker.
A good collection of bonus features accompany the edition as well. Viewers can listen to an interesting commentary by Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and also engage in several behind-the-scenes featurettes that cover all the interesting aspects of the sequel’s approach; from a major character’s death early on to the reasoning behind the costume tweaks and the new cast members. A handful of deleted scenes round out the options, but there’s little value in the few chosen and it’s easy to see why they were cut.
A standard DVD disc which comes with the normal Dolby Digital 5.1 audio option and a digital download copy code are packed in the 2-disc edition along with the Blu-ray for multiple viewing options. In the end, Retaliation is a decent G.I. Joe film that will most likely please fans to a point and it does manage to best it’s predecessor with some significant improvements. The Blu-ray package serves up some serious package value by delivering the goods in presentation and extra material.
One can hope that if the franchise continues, it will continue to go up in quality. Retaliation is a good step forward but the series needs more legitimate depth if it wants to cement it’s place in legendary Joe canon.