G.I. Joe: Retaliation

By Emanuel Levy

A follow-up to the awful “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” which was poorly directed by Stephen (“Van Helsing”) Sommers, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is at once a sequel and a reboot of the tale, based on the Hasbro popular toys.

Trailer: www.emanuellevy.com/?attachment_id=62685

One notch above the 2009 picture, which was dismissed by most critics and grossed only $150 million domestically (and an equal amount internationally), “G.I Joe: Retaliation” displays some new characters and actors, prime among them is the likable star Dwayne Johnson.

Paramount is releasing this largely boy-will-be boys picture on Thursday, March 28 (not on Friday) to cash on spring break from schools, and to avoid competition with the new romantic melodrama, “The Host,” based on Stephenie Meyer’s novel, which opens a day later. The addition of 3D should make the new picture more accessible to a new generation of viewers.

You may recall that the first film ended with the suggestion that there may be an imposter in the oval office. Thus, in this version, directed by Jon M. Chu, from a screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the G.I. Joes are fighting their mortal enemy Cobra, and are also forced to deal with threats from within the government that might risk their very existence.

Returning from the first installment is Channing Tatum as Duke, the young all-American soldier who leads his team with confidence, precision and pride. Dedicated and loyal, Duke, who will do anything to protect the soldiers under him, strives to bring out the best in each one of them. Tatum is riding high at the moment, circling around stardom, after hot performance in Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.””

While Duke is the head of the elite unit, the group’s spine is Roadblock, his second in command. Dwayne Johnson is well cast as a man who helps lead the team with experience, honor, and dedication to his country.

The relationship between Roadblock and Duke is based on mutual respect and extensive experience. While Duke gives the commands and serves as the quarterback, he relies on Roadblock’s strengths to back him up.

Another beloved character of the G.I. Joe mythology introduced in the film is Flint (played by newcomer D.J. Cotrona), a strong-willed soldier

who has a rebellious streak. A renegade, he doesn’t want to follow party line, which is a problem in an organization such as the G.I. Joe.

Very much in the vein of “The Transformers” series, but slightly more enjoyable and less pretentious, “J.I. Joe: Retaliation” lacks any story. The plot, such as it is, consists of a string of disjoined set-pieces, all noisy, and some better executed than others.

Jon Chu had previously helmed the successful Justin Bieber movie “Never Say Never.” Unlike Sommers, who helmed the 2009 flick, Chu is familiar with and likes the Hasbro’s cartoon and comic books; he claims to have grown up with “G. I. Joe” products. Under his helm, the flimsy tale benefits from the various exotic locations, from Tokyo to Pakistan to The Himalayas.

Almost a critic-proof movie, “J.I. Joe: Retaliation” should score big at the box-office, both statewide and internationally. Which means that there WILL be another segment.