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.