Maybe it’s not entirely fair to criticize a movie based on a cartoon for being cartoonish, but G.I. Joe: Retaliation is so ludicrous that it might not even convince a sugar-addled 10-year-old on a Saturday morning. The sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features an almost entirely new cast, anchored by Dwayne Johnson and Adrianne Palicki as new Joes Roadblock and Lady Jaye. The evil Cobra has installed an impostor as the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce, expanding a small role from the original into a full-on villain) and wiped out nearly all of the Joes (including the majority of the characters from the first movie), so the remaining few must go on the run to clear their names and save the world.
That description makes the plot sound coherent, but the movie jumps haphazardly from one plot point to another. Originally set to open last summer, Retaliation was delayed in order to add two useless elements: 3D and more early scenes featuring Channing Tatum as Duke. It’s not clear what other modifications might have been made, but the narrative threads that are picked up and discarded seemingly at random (including Bruce Willis in a small role as the very first Joe) point to some serious post-production alterations. Director Jon M. Chu does manage to stage one fantastic set piece, a breathtaking action sequence that takes place on the side of a mountain; of course, it’s almost completely irrelevant to the story.