New “GI Joe” is Lifeless and Plastic

“Knowing is half the battle,” the GI Joes would say. Wise words from a show designed to sell action figures. It’s still good advice, since the best way
to appreciate “GI Joe: Retaliation” is to go in knowing that, like the
cartoon, this is a movie based around toys.

The sequel to 2009’s terrible “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” this film honors the previous movie’s storyline but ditches its sci-fi tone for a more grounded, militaristic feel. The change in tone works towards the film’s advantage; unlike the last one, this does feel more like a “GI Joe” movie. So much so that, just like the cartoon, it’s filled with wooden characters that are basically walking action figures and a plot that feels like it was made by a 10-year-old.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis replace most of the
last film’s cast, with the exception of Channing Tatum’s Duke

and Ray Park’s silent ninja Snake Eyes. While Johnson is a welcome addition, Willis is only here for the

paycheck, and coupled with the last “Die Hard” movie it’s easy to see he’s become a sellout in his old age.

None of the other Joes do anything worthwhile in the
film, but at the very least the villains are done right. Ray Stevenson’s

Firefly, Jonathan Pryce’s Zartan disguised as the President and Luke Bracey’s Cobra Commander are all deliciously over-the-top cartoon baddies that are a treat to watch.

Other than that, the action is mediocre, the plot is ridiculous and the acting is at times unbelievably bad. What would you expect from a film

adapting a 1980s kids show? If you grew up with “GI Joe,” this might be worth a watch. For everyone else, you’re better off playing with your action

figures.