If at first you don’t succeed, churn out a sequel.
The original G.I. Joe film, subtitled ‘The Rise Of Cobra’, opened at the peak of the 2009 summer blockbuster season to a blitzkrieg of largely negative reviews.
Aimed predominantly at teenage boys with limited attention spans, the all-guns-blazing romp based on the popular line of military action figures stormed past $300m in worldwide box office takings.
Money talks louder than a flimsy script, weak characterisation and clumsy digital effects, so director Jon M Chu (‘Step Up 3D’) locks and loads for this bigger-budget sequel, which raises the action ante with eye-popping set pieces and bruising showdowns.
‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ is slicker and more entertaining than its predecessor, although the bar wasn’t set particularly high.
Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick sensibly kill off swathes of their cast in the explosive opening sequence in order to focus attention on a handful of undernourished characters.
Once the dust settles, we learn that arch-villain Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is in stasis in a subterranean prison and his henchman Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is installed in the White House, impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce).
Zartan frames the G.I. Joes as traitors to the American cause and wipes out most of the brave men and women in order to clear the way for the rise of the Cobra terrorist network.
Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) survive the bloodbath and quickly realise that the order to terminate must have come from the upper echelons of power.
“There’s only one man who could authorise an attack like that,” growls Roadblock, “and I voted for him.”
So the Joes march back to American soil and seek help from legendary retired operative General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis).
Meanwhile, evil agent Firefly (Ray Stevenson) masterminds Cobra Commander’s escape and mute swordsman Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and ninja Jinx (Elodie Yung) travel to the Himalayas to capture heinous henchman Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun).
‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ is preoccupied with spectacle over substance but does deliver a few pulse-racing thrills and spills that make good use of the 3D.
The cliff-hanging Himalayas sword fight incorporates vertiginous shots of bodies tumbling to terra firma, and when Firefly unleashes a swarm of tiny mechanised insects, they buzz about the screen, apparently close enough to swat.
Johnson, Channing Tatum, Willis and co flex their pecs, discharge hundreds of bullets and perform gravity-defying leaps in the name of world peace.
Star Rating: 2½