Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce, D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Byung-hun Lee, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
The story of G.I. Joe: Retaliation is one that seems ripped from the pages or frames of the most sensationalist comic or cartoon you could find. For better or for worse, this film’s script feels as if it was furiously transcribed from the crazed ramblings of a violent pre-teen on a sugar high, playing with his G.I. Joe action figures, as Fox News plays in the background. On the one hand this film’s goofy and they know it story mentally returns you to when you were seven and playing with your action figures and watching Saturday morning cartoons. It’s over the top, silly, full of crazy gadgets and enjoyable on a very superficial yet visceral level. While it’s a clichéd saying in this case it is true, it makes you feel like a kid again and I can imagine many seven to twelve year old boys declaring this their favourite movie of all time.
However this cartoonish story and tone is uneasily combined with plot points that address genuine international tensions. This is one of many recent Hollywood films that seems determined to return to the good old days of the Cold War and the masterpiece jingoistic cinema it produced. North Korea are commonly presented as an adversary and butt of the jokes in this film, something that wouldn’t bother me as much if it didn’t stink of being a wing of the military-industrial complex propaganda machine that seems hell-bent on presenting North Korea as a genuine threat to the U.S.A. Furthermore, a plot point in the film revolves around the Joes retrieving a nuclear weapon from Pakistan due to fears about who it might fall to now that the Pakistani leader has been assassinated. Nuclear weapons retrieval from Pakistan is not the sort of story that should be in such a film, with such a tone and such ambitions. Watching this film with an old politics professor would be an interesting experience, as this film’s portrayal of the international political landscape is infuriating, offensive and stupid to the point that you think and hope this is some elaborate satire. Going back to the earlier analogy, it’s how that crazed, violent kid on the sugar high playing with his action figures with Fox News as his soundtrack would see the political world. A scene involving a nuclear summit has potential for Dr. Strangelove levels of satire, however while Dr. Strangelove has you laughing at the characters, in this case you’re laughing at the film and the fact that this is their third act climax and is meant to generate tension. I can’t believe I actually just wrote sentences, which compared and contrasted this film, with Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove…
However watching this film with a hardcore feminist would be equally amusing, due to this film’s hypocritical and all over the place portrayal of its principal female character. One scene she is complaining about simply passing a pen to the character played by Bruce Willis (Which by the way, glorified cameo), lamenting how the woman has to be the secretary. The next scene she is quite literally showing off her body in order to capture somebody, because three members of an elite intelligence and fighting force couldn’t think of any other way to get their target. Her principal contributions to the action is wearing skimpy outfits, she gets to talk about being a strong independent woman but when it really comes down to it, the fighting gets left to the boys.
Moving away from the antagonistic and idiotic portrayal of the political world and the hypocritical portrayal of women, even within this film’s own suspension of disbelief universe, there are gaping plot holes. If you even stopped for a second to truly consider this film’s plot and the events that take place it would blow your mind…not out of its genius but out of its stupidity. The film also contains many bizarre pop-culture references to things such as Angry Birds, Call of Duty, Bono, Miley Cyrus, Ryan Seacrest and Jay-Z. However the pop-culture references are not the most bizarre thing in this film. While some of the dialogue is fun and cheesy, such as a villain saying, “You’re out of the band” other lines left me dumbfounded. I kid you not, the following line was seriously written and said out loud…”They call it waterboarding but…I never get bored” two middle fingers precede or follow such a line…this is meant to be a kids film by the way.
However the most bizarre element of this film and one of the most bizarre things I have seen in a film for quite some time…is the performance of RZA. Watching him in this film is like watching an exotic animal in a zoo…you just sit or stand there and think, how does this thing work? How does it exist? Like so many things in this film you cannot quite comprehend how grown adults could actually conceive such things, perpetrate such things, look at such things and release such things. Although I have to say, I’m glad they did. From the story to the dialogue to the performances, bizarre really is the word that sums this film up.
However moving from the negatives into the positives. The Rock and Channing Tatum have some good, albeit a little forced, chemistry and camaraderie together and it’s a shame that the film didn’t exploit it more (The film makes the wise decision to do away with two of its most likable characters and maintain two of its most boring) However The Rock shows what a charismatic actor and presence he really is, containing just the right attitude to suck you into this film’s tone and style…if that’s not too kind a word for this film’s construction. However style is exactly the word I would use for the director Jon M. Chu. The action sequences in this film are nothing short of stunning, with me at many times having my jaw dropped, exclaiming to my friend, “That was awesome” it was in these moments of visual brilliance that the film returned me to being a giddy seven year old. A mountain sequence halfway through the film is a prime example of this, with it also showcasing this film’s fantastic 3D, which had me flinching and reacting in a way no 3D had done before.
The film kept me entertained and engaged throughout, with the film keeping a smile on my face either at the film’s expense or alongside it. Ultimately Retaliation, despite its awfulness, was an incredibly enjoyable experience. There are scenes and elements, which are genuinely awe-inspiring and endearing, with it containing some stunning sequences which suggest Jon M. Chu has enormous potential and ought to be given better scripts in the future. However despite this being a mainly negative review, the flaws I mentioned actually contributed to my enjoyment of the film. While objectively, in the critical cold light of day this film deserves a good thrashing, I had so much fun watching it and it is legitimately a well-made, fun action film that may well go down in history and remain in my memory precisely because of its bizarre and maddening flaws. I can understand somebody despising this film, yet I can also understand somebody loving this film. While in my Spring Breakers review I stated we might have an early contender for the year’s most divisive, here we have an early contender for 2013’s biggest guilty pleasure.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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