GI Joe Retaliation is More Awesome than Could Reasonably Have Been Expected

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By any reasonable measure, GI Joe Retaliation is a bad movie. Plot inconsistencies abound, characters (I use the term loosely) change accents and motivations from scene to scene and the dialogue ranges from inane to idiotic. Despite, or even due to its stupidity, GI Joe 2 is a supremely entertaining movie. It is carried by coherent, entertaining action scenes and the sheer idiotic audacity of its plot.

Picking up exactly one thread from the previous movie, GI Joe 2 starts with Zartan impersonating the President. Despite posing as the President from precisely the same time as they were captured, he doesn’t know where Cobra Commander and Destro are being held. After torturing the President to get this information, he then frames the Joes for trying to steal a nuclear warhead, and uses his new strike team “Cobra” to take them out. No one finds anything strange about this. SO to be clear, this movie starts with Cobra in the White House and then it gets worse for the Joes. Pretty soon, there are only a handful of Joes still active. Those few must work from the shadows to stop the fiendish Cobra plot that is somehow worse than actually taking control of the USA. Somehow, the plot they’ve crafted uses “Cobra takes over US” as a step one and ramps up from there.

The clear highlight of the film is the ninja battle that takes place at a temple jutting from the side of a mountain. The scene is about 10 minutes long, contains no dialogue and features increasingly awesome rappelling ninja fights that culminates with Snake Eyes outrunning an avalanche. It starts with the requisite Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight, with Snake’s goal being to capture, not kill his opponent. Once he is captured, the goal becomes to escape the mountainside temple, against a force of dozens of anonymous red ninjas. It is exquisite.

The performances are all over the place, with Ray Park’s pantomime as Snake Eyes, Dwayne Johnson’s steady earnestness, Firefly seemingly unsure of his accent from line to line let alone scene to scene, and Bruce Willis owing postage for a performance as mailed in as his is.

GI Joe Retaliation is perfect in its stupidity. The inarguable fact that it is dumb quickly ceases to be a flaw and becomes instead a challenge. Each act of stupidity must be trumped by an even more idiotic act. And somehow they managed to keep upping the ante. The absurdity continues to rise until it hits critical mass near the end. Honestly, I loved every second of it.

My 10 Favorite Games: The Prelude

Lately, I haven’t felt any burning desire to write on my blog here. I have a few posts all but finished sitting on my computer. I just can’t force myself to finish them and get them posted. What was supposed to be a fun hoppy has started to feel kind of like and obligation. So I took a step back and thought about what I really wanted to write about. And what I want to write about are video games, specifically video games that I really like. So for the next month or so, I am going to be writing about my 10 favorite games.

Now this is not a list of the 10 games I consider to be the best, though that list would contain several of the games on this list. These are my personal favorite games, games that despite their flaws I end up coming back to time and again. Making this list was surprisingly difficult. I have played a lot of games, and there are plenty that I really like. My first draft, including any game at all that came to mind when thinking about my favorite games, was about 40 games long. Many of them were pretty easy to eliminate from contention. Most of those were games I played recently, with memories fresh enough that I put them on the list, even if I will likely never play them again. Getting the list down from 20 to 10 is where it got difficult. That is why I am doing this post. Because there are a lot of games that aren’t going to be on my list that I really want to at least mention.

Plenty of games got left off due to my arbitrary rule of no more than game per series, a rule I broke at least twice in the final list. However, unless I wanted my list to be almost entirely Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, I had to try and restrict those series somehow. So Final Fantasy 9 and Final Fantasy 12 got left off the list even if they probably should have been. I played FF9 just before my freshman year in high school, most of it after grueling two-a-day summer football practices. It kind of set the tone for most of my high school free time. I played a lot of sports and I played a lot of video games. At least until I got my driver’s license. FF12 helped bring me back to video games after I drifted away during the last year or two of high school and first year or so of college. It also was the best representation of the world of Ivalice that I fell in love with in FFTactics, another game that narrowly got left off the list. Nearly every Zelda game could have been on my list, but I forced myself to cut it down to two. The one that I feel the most conflicted about is Wind Waker. Despite its lack of things I tend to value in Zelda games, dungeons and puzzles, the look and world of Wind Waker won me over completely. I love that game. I love sailing its endless seas and just plain running around as the most charming Link ever. As for Mario, again most of the series could be in my top ten. Super Mario World deserves special mention, because it blew my mind back in the day. I had seen nothing like the change from the NES to SNES, and SMW was the game that showed me those changes. It helps that it is one of the best games ever made as well.

Then there are the last few games that I really wanted on the list, but ended up being the last few cuts. Games like Okami, which is beautiful and massive and engrossing. It is the only Zelda like game that is even in the same neighborhood of quality as a real Zelda game. The two games that were the hardest to eliminate were a pair of RPGs, Lunar 2 Eternal Blue and Earthbound. Lunar 2, which I played on the Playstation, was a breath of earnestness in a post-FFVII sea of cynicism (I don’t really blame FFVII for this, but it was the trendsetter). It wore its heart on its sleeve, told a fairly standard JRPG adventure story with a tight, old-school battle system. Though its translation could be goofy and inappropriate, it worked on the whole to make an engrossing world. Though I didn’t play the original Lunar until much later, Lunar 2 really made me care about its world and characters. I think it helped that I was just the right age for it. Unlike many PS1 PRGs, it had a tone more like a 16-bit game. Which is because it originally was, but I didn’t know that at the time. I can’t really point to anything it does better than most other games, but I love it anyway. It is the perfect video game comfort food.

Earthbound is absolutely number 11 on this list. Really, had it made the list, it might have moved higher than the 10 slot. But I couldn’t remove the last inclusion, which was a second Zelda game, if I really intended this to be my favorite games list. Earthbound, though, fell out because I haven’t played it in more than 10 years. A friend of mine had a copy, but I haven’t had access to it for a long time. I did play it through twice as a kid. I have also tried to play it on an emulator, giving up, or accidentally losing my save, around Threed every time. Still, this game meant so much to my childhood that even though I haven’t really touched it in years, it still really felt like it belonged on my Ten Favorite games list. Before this game, and even after it, most RPGs were all set in vaguely medieval worlds. Since they all descend from Dungeons and Dragons to some extent, they all carried that aesthetic. Even the supposedly sci-fi RPGs tend to end up with the main character trapped on a medieval world. Earthbound was set in the then contemporary late ’90s. The protagonists fought with baseball bats, yoyos and bottle rockets. They used teddy bears to deflect blows. And despite how out there the world of Earthbound got, it was always grounded in this sort of realism. It was different, but somehow familiar and comfortable. The closest thing to a downside the game has is that is played just like Dragon Quest (Another series of games that nearly has multiple entries even though it ended up with none), with battles being just a touch too slow and a touch too random. Still, despite the long time between playthroughs, I still remember the majority of this game. I remember tricks and enemy names and strategies and that stupid dream segment that I hate so much.

Yeah, so I am going to be writing about the games that did make the list starting later this week. Up first is Number 10: Chrono Cross