- You've Been Retaliated, Bitch: Bruce Willis shows up for his paycheck.
There are some things that cartoons can get away with that live-action movies simply cannot. I'm talking here about dumb glosses over logic that children can forgive or never notice: Super-villains being sent to prison wearing their colorful costumes rather than prison uniforms, for instance, or prison wardens referring to an inmate as "Cobra Commander" or "Snake Eyes" or "Storm Shadow." GI Joe: Retaliation desperately wants to be a real-life cartoon; it wants to get away with dumb kiddie cartoon storytelling tricks, but reality keeps getting in the way. You can't help but feel embarrassed for the adults onscreen, until you remember that they made six or seven figures for starring in this thing that nobody cares about, and then you just feel bad for yourself.
The movie's early 2012 release date was pushed back a full year, ostensibly to make time for a 3D conversion, so you've probably seen an advertisement establishing the premise of Retaliation at some point during the last year-and-a-half. The GI Joe team is brutally ambushed by the US government, a trio of soldiers (including The Rock) escapes and are branded traitors, and Cobra flags fly on the White House. The only person the Rock's team can trust is a retired soldier, a badass played by, obviously, Bruce Willis. That's all you need to know, and that's all there is.
The movie does have some dumb laughs. Jonathan Pryce plays the President of the United States (he's billed as "President" in the credits) and a Cobra agent who is impersonating the President, and the scenes where Pryce gets to play evil are examples of entertaining real-life-cartoon moments. Walton Goggins and the RZA score some satisfying cameos. The moment where the Joes arm themselves is probably as blatant and adoring a scene of gun-worship as you'll see in a movie theater for the next couple years, given the current political climate. The Rock is as, well, Rock-ish as ever. But if you're coming to Retaliation to watch a Bruce Willis or Channing Tatum movie, you shouldn't bother; both actors are only in the film long enough to land a paycheck. There's nothing noteworthy in the visuals or the effects or the plot to demand your time, and the 3D is worse than useless.
2013, so far, has buried us in a mountain of dreadful movie product. and some critics are likely to see Retaliation as an example of so-bad-it's-good fodder, simply because this drought has gone on for so long that they've forgotten what a good action movie looks like. Don't believe them. This is just as embarrassing a moviegoing experience as you'd expect. Now, after the string of barely tolerable effects-laden blockbusters and mean, dumb action "thrillers" we've endured for the last three months, is the point where we have to turn our eyes to Hollywood and implore, with a desperate pitch to our voice, "Is this really all you've got?"