Unlike most critics, I loved the first G.I. Joe movie. Yes, that was the movie full of cheesy lines and starred the pre-21 Jump Street Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans. But with the funny banter between the Joes and the special-effects-heavy action sequences, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra became my favorite bad movie of all time. When I heard that The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) AND Bruce Willis were cast in the sequel, I was ecstatic. I thought there was no way this movie could be anything but entertaining. Yet, by the end of G. I. Joe: Retaliation I was more mentally exhausted than when I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a movie that almost gave my friend a seizure when he saw it the day after coming home from a three month backpacking trip. New director Jon Chu wanted the new G.I. Joe movie to be more realistic (Like Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise), but just because a movie is dark and gritty doesn’t mean it will be any good.

The most frustrating part of the newest G.I. Joe film is that it actually started off pretty well. Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock’s (Johnson) opening scenes showcased the comedic chemistry between the two characters in a way that resembled the partnership of Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Johnson again) in The Other Guys. Their romp through the North Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) captured the fun and energetic atmosphere that I loved about the first movie. But Retaliation has to turn dark and Duke is killed off early along with most of the other Joes, leaving behind Roadblock, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and two other characters that could well be robots in Flint (D. J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). You find yet again that Johnson can’t carry a movie by himself, and similar to how Hancock was ruined by sobering up Will Smith’s character, after Duke’s death the movie slowly devolves into an incoherent mess.

It’s interesting that while Chu wanted G.I. Joe: Retaliation to be more gritty and realistic, the plot somehow turned out to be even more ridiculous than the first movie. At least in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra the story went from point A to point B, with the Joes constantly chasing the Cobra faction and their nanotech warheads. There’s no such luck in G.I. Joe: Retaliation as we are whisked from point A to C to D and then back to B. The movie revolves around a competition between the Joes and the Cobras in how much money they can cause in damages. Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), the imposter president of America (Jonathan Pryce) and the Cobras plan to achieve world domination through a crazy nuclear weapons summit, while the Joes aim to stop them. This all goes on while halfway across the world, the RZA as a blind kung-fu master sends Snake Eyes and Jinx (another new character, played by Elodie Yung) on a mission to participate in as many beautifully choreographed ninja battles on the side of a mountain as possible in order to capture Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). None of this actually makes much sense, but at least it’s dark and gritty…

To make matters worse, Bruce Willis appears later in the movie as the original G.I. Joe, giving us a glimpse of what could have been – a buddy soldier style of movie starring Magic Mike, The Rock, and John McClane. But Tatum’s character apparently had to die because the film’s producers didn’t think he was a bankable actor at the time and also wanted the movie to “shock” the audience. “We wanted the audience, for the sake of storytelling, to know that the Joes were all vulnerable," Chu told Showbiz. "Nobody was safe and anybody could die at any moment.” They essentially wanted the G.I. Joe franchise to be like Game of Thrones except they failed to realize that killing off main characters works in the signature HBO series because that world is full of interesting characters. In Retaliation, we are left with Flint and Lady Jaye. Flint might as well have been invisible throughout the entire movie as Snake-Eyes manages to exhibit more emotion than him even without the use of speech or facial expressions. Lady Jaye does little more than reinforce the stereotype that women in action movies are used as eye-candy for a male audience.

Like Ray Stevenson’s absurd American accent, Retaliation was incredibly unreal and beyond the scope of its advanced technology. When the Joes are infiltrating the North Korean DMZ, Roadblock puts on some finger device that melts through the fence. Couldn’t they just use wire-cutters? It seems like the orange glow from melting the fence would attract more attention in a dark environment (not to mention the risk of burning yourself). Later on, Roadblock drives a tank-like vehicle that looks like it was hodgepodged together from spare parts in Robot Wars. Yet this flimsy looking vehicle is able to destroy a multitude of modern tanks while barely taking any damage. Last but not least is the self-destruction of America/Cobra’s Zeus satellite weapons system. Satellites aren’t nuclear bombs… Couldn’t these vastly expensive machines simply be reprogrammed? I’m sure the American taxpayers in the G.I. Joe world are pissed. Just like anyone who paid money to see this movie.

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