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G.I. Joe: Retaliation Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) movie poster G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Theatrical Release: March 28, 2013 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon M. Chu / Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Cast: D.J. Cotrona (Flint/Dashiell R. Faireborn), Byung-Hun Lee (Storm Shadow/Tommy Arashikage), Adrianne Palicki (Lady Jaye Burnett), Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Jonathan Pryce (President of the United States), RZA (Blind Master), Ray Stevenson (Firefly), Channing Tatum (Duke/Conrad S. Hauser), Elodie Yung (Jinx/Kim Arashikage), Bruce Willis (General Joe Colton), Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock/Marvin F. Hinton), Walton Goggins (Warden Nigel James), Luke Bracey (Cobra Commander/Rexford Lewis), Robert Baker (voice of Cobra Commander), DeRay Davis (Stoop), Joe Mazzello (Mouse), Arnold Vosloo (Zartan)

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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra wasn't the Transformers-sized hit as which it was envisioned, but it made enough money globally for Hasbro and Paramount to attempt a sequel.
Given the 2009 film's tepid reception, the producers figured they could take their time and mix things up in an effort to get this back on track as the action tentpole franchise as which 1980s toy lines are now supposed to live on.

Most of the cast and crew have been overhauled for G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Noted franchise reviver Dwayne Johnson has been brought in to breathe new life. Also joining the fray: Step Up sequel director and Justin Bieber documentarian Jon M. Chu and Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. And, of course, this, being a pricey 2013 movie, is in 3D, albeit the conversion kind that has largely extinguished any excitement Avatar brought to that cyclical fad of an evolving format. The leap to 3D was cited as the reason the film was dubiously delayed nine months from its scheduled June theatrical release to the less competitive end of March.

All those changes do not seem to have had the intended effect domestically, where Retaliation grossed $122.5 million, a soft sum even by March standards that was $7.5 M beneath the film's reported production budget. North American critics and moviegoers appeared to be as unimpressed, maybe even slightly more so, than they were by the original movie. Alas, overseas audiences continue to be an invaluable aid to Hollywood's film industry. Their apparent lack of discernment, love of 3D, and inability to resist an established brand helped Retaliation gross $250 M in international markets, two-thirds of the film's overall gross and a steep increase over its predecessor's $152 M foreign haul. While this unwanted yet inevitable sequel probably still can't be considered a commercial success, worldwide returns make it impossible to call it a flop.

In "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", a surprise air strike takes out all the G.I. Joes but Flint (D.J. Cotrona), Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki).

Although heavily marketed, Channing Tatum's return amounts to little more than a cameo. His Duke leads a unit of the loyal, dutiful G.I. Joes and is close personal friends with Roadblock (Johnson). The Joes' status as patriotic military heroes takes a hit when the unnamed U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce) blames them for the assassination of Pakistan's president. In fact, the real president (also Pryce) is in captivity while baddie Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) convincingly stands in for him. While publically preaching nuclear disarmament, Zartan really wants to use force to combat the world. A surprise attack on the Joes is part of the plan and wipes out all but three soldiers: Roadblock, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona).

The three surviving Joes put their backs together and climb out of the well that has saved their lives. Then, they secretly set up shop in an abandoned rec center in Roadblock's tough urban hometown, where they try to determine whether they have any living allies to turn to. Roadblock leads the gang to his best idea: retired General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), the decorated namesake of the unit. Colton is uniquely prepared for such a situation; his kitchen cupboards and drawers open to reveal a vast arsenal of weapons.

Those aligned with Zartan help their leader, Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey and the voice of Robert Baker, replacing Joseph Gordon-Levitt), break out of a high security prison, while the fake President prepares to drop nuclear weapons on the entire world. It's up to the three Joes, General Colton, and their unlikely allies to save the day and the planet.

Snake Eyes is framed for the assassination and arrested, but inside his helmet is really Storm Shadow (South Korean actor Byung-Hun Lee). Bruce Willis joins the series as General Joe Colton, the reclusive, retired namesake of the G.I. Joes.

Retaliation is the sixth live-action feature to hail from Hasbro Films. Movies have been a highly lucrative but creatively destitute outlet for the 90-year-old toy and board game company.
I maintain that the three Transformers movies represent the absolute worst cinema ever rewarded to such an extreme. Making Battleship as an alien invasion flick seemed so terrible an idea that the movie was actually refreshingly watchable. But reimagining a generation's playthings as loud, stupid, effects-driven, actiony entertainment is not a noble or admirable enterprise. Even if we haven't seen many movies model themselves closely after Hasbro's hits, the industry has regrettably moved to making a few really huge brand-based movies instead of many varied, original ones. Paramount Pictures has embodied that change wholeheartedly, but one can only grimace at the prospect of the enduring, accomplished studio seeing Hasbro as viable a successor to their Marvel and DreamWorks partnerships that have expired.

Retaliation opens looking like a Michael Bay movie down to shaky compositions and a reliance on the visual contrast of blues and oranges. The movie ends up being slightly better than Bay's worst (and highest-grossing) efforts. That is largely because this film at least involves human characters. One-dimensional at best though they may be, they at least have proportions comparable to ours, easily located faces, and somewhat relatable values and motivations. Dialogue is mostly just a way to move us from one action sequence to another. While Chu doesn't have any experience in the genre, the substantial budget helps him string together adequate set pieces with polished production values and passable visual effects.

Is it easy to confuse one masked character with another? Sure, especially if you didn't grow up with and stay invested in this franchise. I did the former, but not the latter. So while I can remember admiring Flint enough to write his name on a radiator and lament the unusual disappearance of the file card that came with his action figure, I couldn't tell you anything regarding the universe or connect my young appreciation of the cartoon to any predilection whatsoever for the military or action entertainment.

The sequel's foreign grosses were enough to get Paramount and Hasbro to start thinking about a third installment to the series, which Chu supposedly again will direct with a number of cast members returning. Meanwhile, Retaliation hits home video tomorrow in a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, and the three-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack reviewed here.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Blu-ray Film only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 30, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $54.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($39.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Unsurprisingly but satisfyingly, G.I. Joe: Retaliation sports an outstanding Blu-ray presentation, looking sharp, pristine, and vibrant in 2.40:1. The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is even more remarkable, as the lively, immersive mix keeps us tastefully engaged throughout the film. This is unquestionably demo-quality material, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

The assassination on which the film hedges (and by which it was banned in Pakistan) is the first of three deleted scenes preserved. The cast of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" undergoes weapons training in a "Declassified" making-of segment.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features, all exclusive to the standard Blu-ray, begin with an audio commentary by director Jon M. Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. They fill the air with screen-specific remarks about the details they have sweated. Though little they say is particularly unusual or enlightening,
their comments on the 3D delay approach candor. One comes away from this track convinced that the two have good intentions, but haven't cracked the case of how to make this material widely appealing and exciting.

Next up come three short deleted scenes (3:59), which depict the Pakistan President's assassination, young interns catching the fake President's eye, and the three surviving Joes making a corny visit to the Arlington National Cemetery.

Finally, "G.I. Joe: Declassified" (1:12:56) is an 8-part making-of documentary taking you inside the sequel's production. It offers measured second-guessing of the original film, discussion of how Chu came to this movie from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, spelling out the goals for this sequel, and talk of having New Orleans stand in for the rest of the world. The pieces go into detail regarding all the facets, from military-advised weapons training to costume design to cinematography to previsualizations to visual effects to stunts. The documentary benefits from occasional looks at other elements in the G.I. Joe universe, like commercials and cartoons. On the one hand, it's unlikely this is a movie you want to spend 73 minutes hearing about. On the other, you'll wish your favorite movie had such a comprehensive documentary on its making.

Jon M. Chu remembers his past, wearing an LXD hat as he directs "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." Blu-ray and DVD cleverly give you the choice of G.I. Joe-themed and Cobra-themed menu designs.

The DVD included in this combo pack is the same one sold on its own.
Per Paramount's questionable new standard, the DVD's only extras are promotional trailers.

The Blu-ray opens with streaming trailers, which differ every time and theoretically at least will continue to be updated to stay fresh in the future. The DVD's hard-coded previews promote Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, Jack Reacher, and Regal Crown Club before the menu loads. The menu's listing places trailers for Pain & Gain, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and EPIX in front of the repeated others.

After a cool loading icon alternates between the shields of the Joes and Cobra, the Blu-ray gives you the choice of menu schemes inspired by one of those rival organizations. The clips and music differ depending on your selection (which the DVD also offers), although each simply plays clips in pop-up screens from a high-tech, three-dimensional interface.

The three discs fit into a standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase, which is topped by a lenticular slipcover and holds two inserts with unique codes. One will net you a downloadable digital copy and UltraViolet, while the other will get you completely free personalized dog tags in 4-6 weeks, a pretty cool touch.

Double the Pryce, double the fun: Jonathan Pryce does double duty, playing both the President of the United States and Zartan's convincing impersonation. Flint and Storm Shadow are reluctant to join forces.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The easiest way to enjoy G.I. Joe: Retaliation is by entering with low expectations and proceeding to think of comparable films worse than it. For instance, while this sequel doesn't really excel in acting, story, logic, or excitement, at least it's coherent and watchable, not a Transformers-style sensory assault.

Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack delivers a dynamite feature presentation and comprehensive supplements. If you're a fan, this set will satisfy its way to a spot in your collection. But it's more likely that this is a series where a single viewing of each installment is more than enough.

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Reviewed July 29, 2013.



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