Because I am an idiot who will see any film featuring the Rock, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, or Bill Clinton's former presidential campaign manager James Carville, I went to go see G.I. Joe: Retaliation last night! They did not screen this film for critics! Now I know why!
1. The movie actually starts out kind of great! Okay, not great, but good. Good enough, anyway. Despite a prologue that has literally nothing to do with anything that follows, we get to see the Rock and Chatum pallin' around and being soldier buddies. They even play videogames together! It's charming and funny and it—again—has nothing to do with the rest of the film's weirdly convoluted plot, but it makes one thing very clear: The Rock and Chatum should be in some other movie together. One where they have more than 10 minutes together before Chatum dies. Also, one that is not called G.I. Joe. Oh, right, spoiler: Chatum dies. This is barely a spoiler, though: It happens so early that basically everyone in this movie has a bigger part than Chatum.
2. Like Bill Clinton's former presidential campaign manager James Carville, for example! It is unclear why James Carville is in this movie. He plays himself. His performance is okay.
3. This film features the Rock quoting Jay-Z, which is a really great sentence that I'm really happy to have just typed. Oh, hey, look, Paramount was kind enough to put this scene on YouTube! Thanks Paramount! This is the second-best scene in the movie.
Also, after the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, the Rock basically doesn't make a single joke or smile or quote Jay-Z. He just shuffles around as a giant muscle mountain, glowering at things and being strong. Ironically, this is not how you play to the Rock's strengths.
4. The first-best scene in the movie is an extended action sequence involving ninjas on a cliff face! Like most great action sequences, it's basically a violent dance number, which is perhaps why it's the only scene in the movie where director Jon M. Chu—the man behind Step Up 2: The Streets—really nails it. This part of the movie will make you sad that the other parts of the movie aren't this much fun.
5. This is a movie that exists in some sort of cartoony netherworld that might be kind of reality, but mostly isn't? In the G.I. Joe cartoon, the characters' guns shot lasers, but in Retaliation, they shoot bullets, which, turns out, makes a pretty big tonal difference. There's one scene that's supposed to be funny: Old man soldier Bruce Willis, who could not give less of a shit that he is in this movie, gives our heroes a tour of his house, which is crammed with weaponry, from grenades hidden in the kitchen fruit bowl to automatic weapons stacked behind the spice rack to about 15 arsenals tucked into his hide-a-bed. But the scene's creepy and weird and a little bit sad, like one of Wayne LaPierre's wet dreams or an NPR report on the Lanzas' home decor. This is a movie that features (A) ninjas doing acrobatics on a cliff face, and also (B) a joke about how fun it is to waterboard people. ("I don't know whey they call it waterboarding, because I'm never bored!"). So that's kind of weird? This movie would be a good double feature with Zero Dark Thirty.
6. The film's only female character, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) complains numerous times that how she's not treated the same way as her fellow soldiers, who happen to have dicks. In news that may or may not be related, at least two of G.I. Joe: Retaliation's plot points rely entirely on Palicki showing off her tits and/or ass.
7. RZA is in this! Okay! Playing some sort of generic ninja master who may also be blind? I am not sure. Pretty sure he was blind, though. Look, the entire ninja subplot of this movie does not make much sense, and he's involved with it... somehow. He is in those parts of the movie. Anyway, screenwriting tip: I'm pretty sure if you just write "kung fu" at any point in your script, RZA will show up and be in your movie. Gratis.
8. This movie does not make sense. Like, even on a movies-made-by-Hasbro-like-say-Transformers-or-Battleship level, this movie does not make sense. For example: I'm not mistaken, this film's heroes allow the entire city of London to be blown up just because they would rather be out driving around in some wacky tanks. Nice work, real American heroes.
9. A follow-up to the thing I just said: G.I. Joe: Retaliation has so much plot. Waaay more plot than is necessary! It actually makes a pretty strong argument for non-narrative film to, you know, be a thing again? Wait. Non-narrative film has never been a thing, except for obnoxious film nerds. But you know what? It probably could be. Non-narrative film could be hugely popular with mass audiences, provided the film still contained amazing things like the Rock, Chatum, and ninjas doing ninja crap. No one is going to G.I. Joe: Retaliation for the story, which means—honestly—would they be upset if there wasn't one? No! THey'd probably be relieved! This movie would've been way better—for everyone involved—if the script was just a loose collection of action sequences interspersed with some jokes about how in love with each other BFFs Chatum and the Rock are. Instead you have to sit through a reeeeaaally complicated plan involving nuclear disarmament, and there are all of these boring things that happen that are just... there's no need for a plot in a movie like this. There isn't. No one gives a shit about G.I. Joe's "mythology." They want to see ninjas doing ninja crap and the Rock shooting stuff. Just give it to them. Save yourself the trouble. Save us the trouble.
10. I take it back: The best scene in this movie is actually the end credits sequence, which is set to "How You Like Me Now?" and features action scenes from the movie you just watched, inspired with shots of the actors silently smiling and laughing as their names come up onscreen. It's basically an opening credit sequence from an '80s sitcom, and it's so much more fun than the rest of the movie. (With the possible exception of that ninja sequence.) I'm telling you: Non-narrative cinema. Once the sort of people who make G.I. Joe movies finally figure out they can get away without plot, they're going to go for it. And culture as a whole will probably be worse for it. But movies like G.I. Joe: Retaliation will be so, so much better for it.
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