And Dwayne Johnson does it again...
It's looking like The Rock has not only made a comeback but he's decided to go around stealing franchises. To some extent that's what he did with The Scorpion King and Journey 2 but as of late, with Fast Five and now G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it looks like we'll be seeing a whole lot of him in the near future.
Sadly, no word on a Southland Tales spin-off yet...
This sequel to the wildly ridiculous but strangely enjoyable first G.I. Joe film, The Rise Of Cobra, follows the story some time later, not right after. Yes Jonathan Pryce's evil twin is still the President, yes Channing Tatum is still around but Dwayne Johnson's now part of the gang, everyone's following the President's crazy orders, Cobra and Destro have been captured and are now kept in glass coffins in some impossible-to-reach location, Bruce Willis is... Joe? Basically this movie is one cast member and plot thread away from being a complete reboot. Hell, it essentially reboots itself as it's happening!
Tatum, essentially the closest thing we have to a main character, is killed early-on and Johnson (aka Roadblock) happily takes over the movie and, by extension, the entire Hasbro-produced franchise. This works quite well as a dramatic twist but it kind of sucks if you liked that character, I can imagine. Also don't expect Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans or Joseph Gordon-Levitt to pop-up, Retaliation assumes they never existed. The film introduces and reintroduces new characters and, Rock aside, you don't really get much time to bond with them/care about them since this is a G.I. Joe film and big, nonsense action sequences need to occur every 5 seconds. As you might have guessed, Cobra breaks out (sorry Destro), the President is suspected of being a fake, Bruce Willis comes in about two-thirds of the way in to pick up his paycheck and give the crew weapons for the final battle, Snake Eyes keeps his mouth shut... yada yada yada.
Whereas the first film took you by surprise by being batshit insane, this sequel will leave you somewhat underwhelmed. It is action-packed but apart from a fun mountain-set fight involving Snake Eyes and a dude in a body-bag, none of the action is actually memorable or unique in any way. The first film was well and truly a cartoon, and that's what made it interesting, this sequel is just a generic action flick which happens to have some mildly cartoonish features to it. With a far too convoluted plot and a serious lack of joy to its approach, G.I. Joe: Retaliation does have its moments but fails to capture the bonkers simplicity which gave the original its charm. It's not bad, it's just a bit more bland than it should be. It has enough mindless action to keep you relatively entertained throughout, though.
Overall, if you enjoyed the first film, this sequel will most certainly not blow you away and you'll be left feeling a tad short-changed. If you're in it just to see things blowing up and follow a plot worthy of those old Inspector Gadget cartoons then you're in safe territory: it's still better than Michael Bay's movies.
Not great then but entertaining enough.
Dwayne Johnson might need to pick his replacement soon though, I think, because another sequel is surely underway...