G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Of course it feels like a comic book. It’s based on a comic book series. It’s not animated, though, only very much CGI-enhanced, especially the part about blowing up half of London.
Dwayne Johnson (formerly a professional wrestler known as “The Rock”) plays Roadblock, the sergeant of the G.I. Joe squad, that special unit designed to go in fast, hit the target hard, and get out of there quickly. They’re almost invincible when the mission is clearly-defined and their specific engagement is well-prepared. Ah, but what happens when they are betrayed from within?
It seems that the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce, who is actually Welsh) has been captured and imprisoned without anyone knowing it, and a clever body double substituted, inhabited by the evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo). His ultimate aim, though, is to take over the world. So first he calls a press conference to announce that the G.I. Joe team had turned traitorous, and had to be eliminated “with extreme prejudice.” Then he calls a summit of all the leaders of all countries with nuclear arsenals, whether or not that admission has been made public. Once convened with the other world leaders, he plays a terrible game of chicken: he launches his own nuclear missiles, which forces everyone else to do the same, in self-defense. Then he calls for the self-destruction of all the launched missiles, and everyone else gladly follows suit, to avoid complete apocalypse. But then our dastardly but distinguished-looking President sarcastically thanks them all for eliminating their nuclear deterrent, which means that he can now rule over them all. And just to show he means business, he launches a specially-equipped (from an orbiting satellite) non-nuclear, but equally devastating, attack against London.
Meanwhile, a few of the G.I. Joes has managed to escape the sneak attack from their own countrymen by diving into a convenient water well. So Roadblock and his rogue band, which includes one recruit from Zartan’s Cobra Force, must somehow figure out a way to stop the fake President from taking over the world.
Sure, plenty of combat violence, which feels more like video-game-type destruction. There are some intentionally human-interest moments, such as showing Roadblock as a loving family man. One of the female members of the squad gets to dress up and use her feminine wiles, but she’s hardly the helpless swooning beauty, more like the combat-ready femme fatale. Yes, Bruce Willis even makes an appearance, as the former commanding general of the G.I. Joe unit, but just because he’s officially retired doesn’t mean he wouldn’t still like to kick some terrorist butt and take names. The only unusual plot twist here is that some of our heroes actually perish in the process, as if they’re not all invincible, after all. Only steadfastly heroic.
This film delivers exactly what it promises: mindless action-figure entertainment.
To expect any more of it would be asking too much, so we won’t.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas