“You know, they say this is a thankless job. But yesterday, I hung out with Bono. My new secret service, they want to burn the constitution, literally. Do you know my favorite bit? I get to blow stuff up.”

G.I. Joe is the codename for America’s daring, highly trained, special mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world. In the second GI Joe film of the 21st Century, it looks like GI Joe has failed its mission.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Directed by John M. Chu 
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

After 2009’s ridiculous G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, I would have been OK with the franchise going away from a live action approach for a generation or so. That movie took facets of the 1980s toy property and jumbled it all up so that it resembled something a G.I. Joe fan would remember, but it was just off enough that it felt wrong.

Where the first movie failed, the second movie somewhat redeems the film franchise, though it still had its flaws. About the highest compliment that I could pay to RETALIATION is that the plot feels like something out of the original cartoon, or Larry Hama’s REAL AMERICAN HERO comic book. Zartan has taken the place of the American President and denounced special forces team G.I Joe as traitors. The difference from what would happen in the cartoon in the movie comes when President Zartan orders an airstrike on a Joe mission team that kills all but three Joes – ROADBLOCK (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona). No one ever died in the cartoon.

Unless, of course, you count the season 5 episode of COMMUNITY where Jeff ODs on some over the counter meds and imagines himself and the gang in an episode of G.I. Joe and he kills Destro. That was really it, though. Even when they tried to kill Duke in the animated movie, they got cold feet and said he was just “in a coma.” Duke isn’t so lucky in RETALIATION. Channing Tatum gets killed off in the first third of the flick, which is fine. The other three are more than capable of picking up the slack. And honestly, The Rock has so much more charisma than Tatum, making the film all about Roadblock was probably a good idea.

Add in Bruce Willis as the original Joe, and the movie starts to lighten up. The scene in his house where he unveils all the hidden weapons was just so cartoony and fun.

Surprisingly, the movie also has a somewhat comics-accurate subplot going with Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes and the Arashikage clan where the pair trained. Storm Shadow was blamed for killing the Hard Master, but it was actually Zartan, using Storm Shadow’s shunning to bring him in to Cobra. In RETALIATION, Storm Shadow joins the Joes in taking down Cobra, who use having Zartan in the White House as a way to exert dominance over the rest of the world.

Honestly, G.I. JOE RETALIATION is a surprisingly fun movie that was a stark improvement over its predecessor. I would be in on a sequel.