Film Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Also known as: G.I. Joe 2 (working title)
Release Date: March 11th, 2013 (Seoul premiere)
Directed by: John M. Chu
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, D. J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Arnold Vosloo, Walton Goggins, Elodie Yung, Rza, Matt Gerald, James Lew, James Carville (cameo)

Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Skydance Media, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“I came here when I was fourteen, with a life expectancy of thirteen. I was bounced around from home to home until this… became my home. Guys would line up outside that door to fight me. They whooped my skinny ass so much I started to enjoy it. Until one winter, I grew eight inches, gained sixty pounds, punched a guy so hard he couldn’t move his arm to tap out. Then when the Joes came recruiting to the hood, I’d already beaten down half of it. I became a Joe to serve. In the field. So if we’re fighting uphill, we take the hill.” – Roadblock

I really wish this movie would have done much better at the box office because it course corrected in a great way and fixed the mess that was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

On one hand, this is a sequel but on the other hand, it is also a soft reboot. It doesn’t necessarily ignore that the terrible first film exists, it just buries it and moves on. But as awesome as this turned out, for the most part, the damage from the first picture was so severe that this Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis action extravaganza couldn’t save the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen.

That being said, it still isn’t a perfect G.I. Joe film but it felt like a good bridge between the shit this crawled out of and the great movie that could have followed, based off of what this picture set up for a future story.

To start, Dwayne Johnson was genius casting and this should have been the perfect franchise for him to lead. While he isn’t exactly who I would’ve envisioned for Roadblock, he definitely filled the shoes of leadership after Duke presumably died and General Hawk also presumably died or went on vacation somewhere.

Other than Duke and Snake Eyes, there aren’t any other G.I. Joe members from the first movie present. I’d like to think that maybe some of them would’ve been back in a third film, as none of the actors were necessarily bad, it was just the first movie that was a massive pile of shit.

The film does bring back Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow and Zartan on the Cobra side of the equation and we do get a brief glimpse of Destro but he’s essentially left out of the main plot, in what I would presume means that he would’ve been back in a third film with his Iron Grenadiers in an effort to start a Cobra Civil War, which was a great event in two different G.I. Joe comic book series.

While I could speculate on what the future of this franchise could have been for quite awhile, this is a review of this film and not a wish list for a movie that will never happen.

So getting back to the film, it flows nicely and I like that it was kept pretty grounded and didn’t try to overdo things like its predecessor that tried to be more like Iron Man and Transformers than G.I. Joe.

My only real complaints about the film are the same that I have with most modern big budget blockbusters of recent years. The musical scores are dull and not memorable or iconic, the fight scenes are hard to follow due to super fast edits and shaky cams, and the film’s visual look is boring, sterile and generic. These are all things that could’ve been easily tweaked and would have made this a much better picture.

Now I mostly like the story, other than I’m tired of killer satellites as weapons of mass destruction. This is a trope that has been done to death more times than a beaver has built a dam. Although, I will give the writers props on coming up with a fairly original version of a killer satellite.

Unlike the first movie, I loved the look of the characters, especially Cobra Commander. I don’t know what the fuck he was supposed to be in the first film but he looked like Doctor Satan from House of 1000 Corpses trying to cosplay as Glacier from World Championship Wrestling in the ’90s. Now Cobra Commander looks right. In fact, by the end of the film, he looked fucking perfect.

They also refined the look of Snake Eyes and got rid of his weird rubber lips while making Storm Shadow look more badass. Plus, the introduction of Firefly was great, he looked great and he was played by Ray Stevenson, who is pretty damn great in everything. I was kind of pissed that he got killed but this is a comic book movie and they could easily bring him back if they made a third picture.

For an old school G.I. Joe fan, this is a movie that just felt right. Especially, after the first one was a massive misfire that insulted the fans and confused the normies. It gave me hope because it showed that Hasbro and the studio listened to the fans’ criticisms of the first movie. Less than ten years later, studios just blame fans as being “toxic” while dismissing their criticisms because apparently fans are idiots and studios are run by geniuses that think that failure somehow means success.

In the end, I wish that this would’ve done better and that it would’ve kept the G.I. Joe franchise on the big screen for years to come. Granted, this could’ve easily just gone the route of Transformers and gone right back to being an embarrassing piece of shit.

I guess we’ll never know.

But I also guess we’ll see how Hasbro and the studio handles the material once it is rebooted. Rumor has it that G.I. Joe will be part of a larger connected universe with Transformers, M.A.S.K. and other toy franchises but fuck all that. I just want them to make a good, consistent G.I. Joe movie series before they try to go too big and ruin the whole thing for another generation.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the early days of the original Marvel Comics run, as well as the first two seasons of the ’80s G.I. Joe cartoon.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 10

Published: December 22nd, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Geof Isherwood, Tony Salmons, Herb Trimpe
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 252 Pages

Review:

After the last volume kind of picked things up a bit, this collection really shifts things into high gear, as the original Cobra Commander returns to power and gets his revenge on those within Cobra who he deems as traitors.

This series of ten issues also features the “Snake Eyes Trilogy” storyline, which sees things drastically change for the popular ninja hero, as well as the Baroness, who has dedicated her life to destroying the man. This also changes things for Destro, as well as Storm Shadow and Scarlett.

There’s also a side plot about two of the Joes being brainwashed and under the control of Cobra.

Needless to say, a lot happens in these ten issues and there really isn’t a dull moment.

Larry Hama, even by this point, didn’t seem to tire of these stories and these characters. This caps off with the 100th issue and I have to say that Hama, over the first hundred comics, has done a stupendous job in developing these characters and making many of them feel unique and real.

The art in some of the issues here is a change up from the norm. Most of this does look consistent but other artists came in for an issue or two and altered the visual style a bit. None of it was bad but it was a bit unusual, after having read this series for so long and it having a pretty consistent look.

Ten volumes into the collected classic Marvel series and this is still one of my favorite reads out of all the comics I have picked up over the years. I never got this far when the series was current but I can see now that I truly missed out on these great, later stories.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 9

Published: September 1st, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Don Hudson, Marshall Rogers, Paul Ryan, Tony Salmons, Ron Wagner
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

This era of the comic book lines up with the DiC era of the cartoon series. It features those versions of the character designs as well as the newer characters that came out around that time. However, while the DiC era of the cartoon was total shit, the comic book is damn solid and I wish I hadn’t checked out of G.I. Joe by this point, as a kid. Had I just been reading these stories, I probably would’ve been loyal for a bit longer, even if I had reached middle school age.

What I like about Larry Hama’s comic stories is that Cobra has different factions after the Cobra Civil War. Cobra Commander is an impostor, Zartan knows this while using the info to make the Dreadnoks influence stronger and Destro and his Iron Grenadiers are pretty much a faction separate from the main body of Cobra, who are at odds with them and G.I. Joe. There are a lot of layers and new angles to the G.I. Joe universe that make this a pretty exciting and fresh time in Hama’s legendary run on the title.

Also, this collection of issues feature the original 1960s G.I. Joe (Joe Colton) for the first time in this continuity. This would kind of open the doors for that character to be used somewhat frequently, as he has been used multiple times in the comics and even appeared in the second live action movie, played by Bruce Willis.

This collection probably also introduces the most major changes in the series. It debuts the Battle Force 2000 team, Python Patrol and introduced Darklon, who I never knew was Destro’s cousin, and his army. This also sees power shifts happen in Cobra that will help set the stage in a post-Cobra Civil War world.

I dug the hell out of this volume and I honestly assumed that the series would start suffering from redundancy and Larry Hama possibly getting bored with the material. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this wasn’t the case.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 8

Published: May 19th, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Marshall Rogers, Ron Wagner, Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

This is the collection that primarily features the original Cobra Civil War. As the original Cobra Commander has been killed and replaced by Fred VII, working with the Baroness, tensions rise and we see factions break off in an effort to gain control of the Cobra organization. Even G.I. Joe gets involved in an effort to sway the conflict into something that benefits them. Unfortunately, for the Joes, the end result isn’t the one they were hoping for and this story sees the death of Serpentor.

This volume also takes place in the very middle of the original Marvel run, as it is collected into fifteen volumes. The placement of this story wasn’t planned out to be in the middle from a long-term perspective but it kind of feels like it is in the right place, as the rest of the run is greatly effected and altered by what happened here.

Overall, this isn’t the best G.I. Joe story of Hama’s long run but it is the one I remember the most from my childhood. It’s a big event, the biggest in the franchise during its heyday, and it is mostly full of action, war and war strategy. I loved it when I was a kid because it was larger than life and the most epic story the G.I. Joe comic told. It featured a ton of characters and almost every important member of Cobra.

Apart from that, I really like the volumes that build towards this conflict better and it is hard to focus on story and character building when the majority of the pages deal with action and war. But, at the same time, this didn’t need to focus on world building, as Hama did a stupendous job of that before this book.

While this isn’t my favorite collection, it may be the most important as it gives closure to some things and sort of reinvents the wheel, giving the franchise more longevity and new territory to explore.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Vids I Dig 207: Toy Galaxy: Porkchop Sandwiches!: The History of the ‘G.I. Joe’ PSA Parodies

From Toy Galaxy’s YouTube description: Where were you when you first heard the term Porkchop Sandwiches?

One of the first viral video sensations on the internet holds a place close to our heart because it involves GI Joe. Back in the early 2000’s a bunch of re-edits of original GI Joe cartoon PSA’s were uploaded to the internet and they got a lot of attention.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The Atlantis Factor (NES)

Where the first G.I. Joe game for the Nintendo was almost shit, this one actually succeeds at being total shit.

The main reason for this being terrible is that I got stuck at a point really early in the game and couldn’t advance. I’m not sure if it was a glitch but there’s a point in the early level with the space shuttle where I couldn’t get the game to advance.

I tried replaying it, starting over, and I kept getting to that same problem. So fuck this game.

Also, it’s just a rehash of the game we already played except it just adds some new characters to play with. However, the interface and how everything works is stupid and bizarre.

I can only add Joes to my team as I find them in the field? G.I. Joe has like 200 members. You mean to tell me that I can’t just grab three Joes to go on a mission? Especially since the first playable character is General f’n Hawk?!

I also hated the map system that looked like it was ripped off from Bionic Commando or Super Mario Bros. 3. It didn’t need to exist and the game could’ve just had simple levels that went in a simple order like the first game.

I think they were trying to make the game better but their attempts at refining it made it worse.

It’s 2019 now. I’m still waiting for a good G.I. Joe game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, which is mostly just more of the same.

Vids I Dig 183: The Attic Dwellers: ‘Rad’ the Movie – ‘G.I. Joe’ Comics

From The Attic Dwellers’ YouTube description: THIS WEEK: Tig & Eric discuss The Movie RAD with Brainy Brian – Check Out Eric’s Awesome G.I. Joe Comic Collection – Who is the Phantom Slide Whistler? – He Man Review Trailer from What Were You Watching – Enjoy the Blood & Gourd Comic Trailer – Strange Muses from Chris Lundy’s Brain & MORE!!!

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (NES)

Hasbro really missed the boat in not getting a G.I. Joe game out for the original Nintendo a few years earlier than this.

The main reason is that by the time that this was developed, G.I. Joe was already passed its peek and the toys and figures were starting to get weird, uninspiring designs that were made even worse by garish color schemes and baffling designs.

This game is littered with what was the most up-to-date versions of G.I. Joe characters and vehicles.

Point being, this would have been a lot better had it been released in the early era, around season one in the TV show continuity. This way all the Joes and members of Cobra had their more classic look and the boss battles would have been made up of the cool iconic Cobra vehicles every boy in the ’80s loved, as opposed to these fluorescent, bizarrely designed messes that can’t come close to being as cool as the H.I.S.S. Tank, the Moccasin, the F.A.N.G. or the Cobra Rattler. Hell, even if this was made to tie to the second season era, we could’ve gotten the Night Raven or the Thunder Machine.

Instead, we got a game that represented the DiC era of the cartoon, which is where everything turned to shit.

I mean, do you really want to fight Raptor, Road Pig, Metalhead and Voltar? Or would you rather fight Storm Shadow, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Major Bludd, the Baroness and Zartan? Gold headed Destro? Fuck you. Battle armor Cobra Commander? Fuck you too.

The game is made worse by the fact that it is also full of garish colors and clunky looking graphics. Some of the key characters aren’t even the right color. For instance, Metalhead is purple when the character actually wears mostly black with red and yellow accents.

The game mechanics aren’t great either. The controls aren’t horrible but they’re a bit wonky and sometimes seem unresponsive.

Also, the level design is really basic, even in the maze-like fortresses where you have to strategically place bombs.

The sprites are also really tiny and kind of blocky looking.

Ultimately, this is a game that deserved to be better and had it been, it would’ve made Hasbro a lot more money.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel, which is mostly just more of the same.