We're All New To This
This was a film slated for release last Summer, before it was unceremoniously pulled out with some controversy surrounding the decision of post-converting it to 3D. Was it for an increase in box office revenue? Was it because Channing Tatum was such a star that limiting his role in this film will spell disaster? Theories are abound and only time will tell whether this move into the 3D format will result in a decent box office return, but as far as giving Tatum's rising star an acknowledgement, well, that didn't happen. Which is a pity because he would have served as one of the few who had remained from the Joe's first cinematic outing, but perhaps had smelt a stinker that he wanted out from, pronto.
This time round, like what the Fast and Furious franchise did in introducing a heavy-weight character with Dwayne Johnson's presence, GI Joe had decided it will now pass the baton given its exodus of stars, and have The Rock carry the film on his broad shoulders. As Roadblock, he plays the reluctant leader, preferring to let Tatum's Duke continue in taking the lead, until he had to step up with two other remaining survivors Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) into wondering just who had sucker punched the entire elite force. They're up against Cobra Commander - a pity that Joseph Gordon Levitt is no longer involved, but face it, with his entire face covered even I could have played the role - Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), the usual Cobra suspects who now have control over the White House and the Presidency (Jonathan Pryce) thanks to nano-technology boosted face masks, and the heroes have to seek out old timer and the original Joe (Bruce Willis) whose retirement plan granted him a house full of weaponry that would make him a grade A terrorist should he go rogue.
Then it dawned upon you that this film could have had its plug pulled, in order to give more air time to Lee Byung-Hun as Storm Shadow, because out of the blue you suddenly have the Storm Shadow-Snake Eyes (Ray Park) arc thrust to the forefront as the second parallel narrative, and naturally an increase in Lee's minutes in the film in order to boost the movie's standing in the Asian territories. Smart move by scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick in linking the two GI Joe movies through the two character's rivalry, and offering that chance of redemption, sort of like giving one side the advantage since he's having a bigger fan base that can be milked.
So while it's practical and pragmatic, in comes the usual formula of set action pieces that look great, but didn't offer much, since it's nothing more than the usual fire fight, sword fight, and plenty of shoot-em-up accuracy issues that plague cartoons from time immemorial. Granted that part of the fun is to witness the GI Joes and Cobra sides go at each other with weapons uninvented and near impossible even in today's context, it turned out to be nothing more than a live action film of the cartoon it is based on, with an eye out for revenue through its merchandising and toys. You can just about predict everything from start to end since there's little story, and the dramatic moments were so painful to watch that you'd wish things start blowing up on screen just to keep the narrative going.
And while it had an ensemble cast to boast of, comparable to the first film, everyone seemed to be sleepwalking their way to their paycheck. Bruce Willis plays Bruce Willis, smirking his presence as the General retired from active duty to make menial contribution to the plot, if not to boost the star power for the film. Adrianne Palicki and D.J. Cotrona were forgettable as well, while The Rock thankfully had that final fisticuffs scene that wowed a little as Roadblock and Firefly go up against each other in close quartered combat with fists and firearms, which was a lift from its immediate preceding sequence involving his piloting a pumped up tank-busting buggy.
It may have been a tad interesting if Cobra's threat in the trailer was right from the onset, rather than a passing thought for the finale - it was a maniacal and implausible doomsday scenario - and like most American action blockbusters, perhaps offensive as well in giving the middle finger to other countries through its use of technology to annihilate rival cities. Paris got chomped down by the nanomites in the first film, and now London got obliterated without emotion. Take your pick in which other global city will be next in going down the CG way when the GI Joes return for another outing, if the box office return permits it.