Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." (Jaimie Trueblood / Paramount…)
Four years after the release of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" and nine months after its own delay from last summer until now, the sequel and franchise reboot "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" has finally arrived. Newly spruced up with 3-D effects, "Retaliation" stars Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis as elite commandos battling a terrorist organization and threats from inside the U.S. government.
According to most reviewers, however, neither the new story nor the 3-D pyrotechnics amount to more than run-of-the-mill action fare.
For the Times' Betsy Sharkey, the film brings fast food to mind. "To borrow from Jack in the Box," she writes, "'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' is one hot mess." She adds, "Converting to 3-D during the delay didn't improve things either. … All the new bells and whistles in the world, and all the stylized stunts can't mask the movie's problems." On the plus side, "humor, when it works, offers 'Retaliation' some redemption," and among the cast, "Adrianne Palicki's Lady Jaye does a surprisingly good job of holding her own against all the testosterone."
PHOTOS: Scenes from 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'
The Boston Globe's Tom Russo wr ites that director Jon M. Chu, whose credits include "Step Up 3D" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," "manages to make dull work of all the pop combat." He adds, "One of the few things giving the movie a spark, ironically, is the fun being had by a slumming Jonathan Pryce as the president’s nanotechnologically disguised, evil-doppelganger replacement." But aside from Pryce's antics and a neat zipline chase scene, Russo says, "Good luck recalling any other would-be set pieces a couple of days after you’ve seen 'Retaliation.' "
In a brief, unenthusiastic review in the New York Times, Neil Genzlinger writes, "there should be a 'Fans Only' sign at the door of every theater." The film does hold a few surprises, he concedes, but otherwise "the movie’s other main attributes are noise and heavy weaponry." And here are his assessments of some of the G.I. Joe characters: "a bit disappointing," "boring," "isn't given enough to do" and "just about right."
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal doesn't have much to say about the film either, writing, "I won't pretend that I had a great time watching 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation.' " He does, however, express snarky relief upon discovering "that hearing loss from countless explosions, not to mention brain damage from dim dialogue, could still be obviated by an inexpensive system of passive defense, i.e. earplugs."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune finds the film's wall-to-wall mayhem tiresome. "The directive behind this sequel, clearly, was non-stop action," he writes. "Let's think about that phrase a second. Do we really want our action movies to deliver action that does not stop? Ever?" Phillips also says the film "has some trouble with tone," bouncing from wisecracks one moment to international devastation the next.
The Associated Press' Christy Lemire cuts "Retaliation" a little slack. She writes, "Nothing matters really. This is a movie based on a Hasbro toy, after all — it's all spectacle and bombast. But at least 'G.I. Joe' is aware of its vapidity compared to, say, last week's 'Olympus Has Fallen.' … That's not to say that this 'G.I. Joe' is good, aside from a couple of dazzling action set pieces, but at least it's efficient in its muscular mindlessness."
USA Today's Scott Bowles offers one of the more positive reviews: "Not that the bar was raised that high four years ago," Bowles says, "but 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' marks a vast improvement over its toy-inspired predecessor." Faring especially well is Johnson, "who was born to play a G.I. Joe. It's been years since his college football and pro wrestling days, but Johnson remains a Mack Truck with a mischievous grin, and his 'hoorah' sounds like it could come from a soldier."
While "dialogue is stiff, action is relentless, and the franchise remains built for the people who play with G.I. Joe dolls," the film might generate "enough momentum to spawn a formidable action franchise." The battle may have just begun.
Paramount delays 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' release until 2013
'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' should shoot its way to box-office win
'G.I. Joe: Retaliation': 4 minutes to screen with ‘Hansel & Gretel’