Despite its numerous flaws, I honestly thought G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra dished out a decent amount of entertainment. That said, I understand why many of you out there loathe that film with a passion, and luckily for you, you can go into this one pretending it never even happened. Yes, Channing Tatum returns as Duke and it does indeed involve a few basic elements from the previous flick (no accelerator suits this time around!), but director John M. Chu's movie feels like a fresh start for the franchise and the result is hugely entertaining.
The film has two main plots which eventually merge for one final action sequence. The first involves Zartan posing as the U.S. President as he attempts to eliminate all of the Joes and make the world bow before Cobra Commander. Roadblock (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) and a couple others survive the attack and attempt to figure out what's really going on. Meanwhile, the second plot is loosely based on the classic and popular 'Silent Interlude' tale which involves lots and lots of ninja awesomeness. Naturally, this focus turns to Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (just pretend he didn't bite it in the first one) and has plenty of Red Ninjas at the receiving end of blades. This part of the story ties to a super silly aspect with the Blind Master (RZA). If you can overlook the overflowing amount of goofiness with this part, then it's a fairly interesting development for Storm Shadow -- even if it does abruptly throw us into the middle of a story.
One of the many complaints people had with Rise of the Cobra was Tatum's wooden acting, but ever since 21 Jump Street the dude has really won me over. He has great chemistry with Dwayne and the two have some legitimately hysterical interactions. Don't let The Rock's intimidating size fool you, he's a lovable and beyond energetic character. He manages brings the perfect mesh of charisma and badassery to Roadblock. Additionally, all of the supporting cast (Bruce Willis, D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Byung-hun Lee, Jonathan Pryce, Walton Goggins) do an able job with their roles as well. Ray Stevenson trying to pull off a southern accent was a little distracting and inconsistent but it's a moot point because the man is always superb. The movie as a whole is packed with tons of solid comedy, too. I found myself laughing out loud like a fool at least once every fifteen minutes or so. There's a series of especially hilarious moments during a meeting between world leaders in the final act as well.
While Retaliation is sure to keep you laughing, the real highlight is the incredible amount of over the top action. There's just about everything a Joe fan could love here: a brutal Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow encounter (it's longer than the previously released clip!), cool technology and vehicles at their disposal and plenty of shootouts and brawls. One fight between Roadblock and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) is ruined by quick cuts and a shaky camera, but everything else is topnotch and a total blast. As expected, the cliffside battle will likely be a favorite for many.
3D tends to be hit or miss. For every experience like Avatar, there's a handful of films that add 3D just to get a few extra bucks and ultimately don't contribute anything special to the viewing. Retaliation was delayed to allegedly add the feature, and thankfully the conversion is thoroughly amusing. It may sound cheesy, but having ninjas, projectiles and so much more abruptly launch at you is pretty exciting stuff. A 3D ticket is certainly worth it if you have a few extra bucks to spare.
You can really tell director Jon M. Chu cares about the franchise -- it basically feels like a love letter and it's like he's having fun playing with all of his favorite characters. Yes, the main narrative is a complete mess at times and there's some cringeworthy lines here and there, but overall G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a ridiculously entertaining ride. Leave your brain at the door and you're sure to have a great time.