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Hold your Retaliation

(Global Times)

08:56, April 18, 2013

G.I. Joe Retaliation'srelease was delayed for a year for its conversion to 3D, which is a shame, because the 3D effects don't add much to this standard macho action flick. Aside from a few high-tech, miniature, mechanical fireflies that jump out from the screen, the 3D proved merely an annoyance, particularly as the surface of my glasses had residual popcorn stains.

Retaliation carries on where 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra left off. The US president is being impersonated by an evil villain and his power-hungry crew, called Cobra. After imprisoning the real president, the fake leader (both played convincingly by Jonathan Pryce) orders that the Joes be wiped out. By a lucky escape, three Joes manage to survive: knock-out Lady Jayne (Adrianne Palicki) who, despite always being in combat, has perfect hair at all times, the handsome but monotone Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Roadblock, played by none other than Dwayne Johnson, better known as the Rock.

What will happen now that the country is in the hands of an evil dictator, and who will save the world?

The Joes are up to the challenge, assisted by retired Joe founder General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis) who offers the trio access to his vast personal treasure chest of guns and weapons, hidden in various cupboards and pantries of his otherwise quaint house.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (best known for the last two Step Up films), Retaliation is based on Hasbro's G.I. Joe action figures and comics. If you haven't read the series or played with the toys, you don't need to imagine much. Joes are government issued (G.I.) combatants who attack quickly, viciously and thrillingly. You must root for them, even if their characters flat line for most of the film. It's the typical testosterone-fueled action film where good kicks evil's butt.

That said, Retaliation should do well in China, as 3D films usually do, but also because it seems finely crafted to appeal to Asian markets. First, there is the Asian male protagonist: hottie South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow. The long, gratuitous shirtless scene - in which the very toned, very tan and very oily Storm Shadow finds himself brooding about, bare chested - was met by ripples of pleased giggles in the theater.

Then, there are the ninja elements. Oh right, G.I. Joe movies have a bunch of ninjas in them. These nimble fighters provide the most stunning scenes in the film. One sequence, for example, has opposing ninjas fighting on a mountainside, where they jump on zip-line cords and zoom from snowy mountains so fast, you wish this scene could be turned into an amusement park ride.

There are also the sequences that almost seem like a farce, where you want to turn to the person next to you and laugh, "Is this for real?" No spoilers, but one particular moment includes a very low-tech, implausible wiping out of an entire city, as ordered by the fake president.

If you were to try and read deeper into such scenes, you could argue that power control is one of the film's main themes. The US (led by the fake prez) acts as a bully, forcing every other country to give up its nuclear weapons. It's a rich and timely plot point.

The line between good fun and slightly disturbing blurs with the pornographic way in which guns and artillery become fetishized. When the three Joes are led through General Colton's house, it's as if they are kids led by Willy Wonka, discovering mounds of shiny toys and candy.

Unfortunately, such themes of bullying and weapon fetish only receive surface-level exploration. It's like trying to find meaning in Transformers - really, why bother? Expect no more than a violence-packed, Hollywood 3D fiasco and the 150 minutes will fly by as quickly and spectacularly as those ninjas on the mountain.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiXiang、Ye Xin)

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