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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (3D Blu-ray Review)

25 Jul, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 7/30/13
Box Office $122.52 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $54.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce, Adrianne Palicki, Byung-hun Lee, Ray Park, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Joseph Mazzello, Walton Goggins, The RZA, Bruce Willis.

When G.I. Joe: Retaliation was pushed from a summer 2012 theatrical release to spring 2013, speculation over the precise reason ran rampant over the Internet. Officially, it was for minor reshoots and to convert the film to 3D. But then there were the rumors about altering the story to expand Channing Tatum’s involvement with the plot, after several of his films became huge hits (and certainly at least one trailer suggested this might be the case).

Most of these rumors turned out to be unfounded. Tatum reprises his role as G.I. Joe team leader Duke, and shot a few new scenes to play up Duke’s friendship with fellow Joe Roadblock, played by Dwayne Johnson, who is the real focus of the film (having The Rock star in a “G.I. Joe” movie is only fitting, given the historical connection between the franchise and pro-wrestling).

Picking up where 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra left off, the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce) has been secretly captured by the terrorist organization Cobra and replaced by master of disguise Zartan, who frames the Joes as a rogue organization and has them wiped out. Roadblock and a few other surviving Joes enlist the help of a retired general (Bruce Willis) to expose Zartan and stop Cobra Commander’s latest world domination scheme.

True to the DNA of the franchise, the film displays a wild mix of combat styles, incorporating everything from basic military technology to advanced sci-fi concepts, with wild shifts in tone from gung ho gunfights to ninja swordplay on a remote mountain. I can imagine this could seem very bizarre to viewers unfamiliar with the franchise.

So much was made on the Internet of Retaliation being more of a reboot than a sequel, but the truth is that the plot is a direct continuation from the first film, so seeing the earlier installment really helps the follow-up make more sense. This is especially true in regards to the ninja storyline involving Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee).

On the other hand, Retaliation is much smaller in scope than Rise of Cobra, which felt much more like an epic Joe adventure akin to the 1980s comic book or cartoon series. The characters are little more than chess pieces for action setpieces, and scenes that should carry greater weight, such as the destruction of major world cities, are presented almost as an afterthought.

And the 3D does little to enhance the viewing experience, as most of the major effects sequences don’t really jump off the screen in any meaningful way.

However, the Blu-ray presentation is rather nice. First up, you get a clever bit of business with the menus, which let you choose whether you want a Joe or Cobra motif in the background. Then, in addition to the film, the Blu-ray offers a nice package of bonus materials, especially more than an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes (without delving into the reshoots), that showcase story development, visual effects and the actors undergoing military training to prepare for the action scenes. The commentary with director Jon M. Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura focuses more on the technical aspects of the production.

Finally, the disc includes three deleted scenes that are pretty good and offer a deeper connection to the first film.

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