Friday, March 29, 2013

GI Joe : Retaliation

I don't know why my wife and I were so excited by the thought of going to see GI Joe : Retaliation. The mere presence of punctuation in the title should have warned us off, along with the wholly negative experience I had of watching the previous instalment, back in 2009. But dumbly, we believed the trailers and thought we'd enjoy it. It had The Rock in it - how could it be bad?

It also had Bruce Willis in it, which also fails to redeem it (unlike his great turn in Red, but similar to The Execrables/Expendables 2), but Joseph Gordon Levitt and Christopher Eccleston both avoided reprising their roles. Good for them: there would have been reprisals if they had. Channing Tatum was around for the first 20 minutes and then got blown up, although because of the cinematography you can't be sure if he actually survived to show up in next year's GI Joe; Perfunctory or whatever the punctuation-laced follow-up turns out to be.

There's not much plot, there's scanty characterisation and there's lots of inconsequential violence. Literally. People get shot, stabbed and blown up left right and centre, but you never see any consequences. For a film with so many deaths, there's a glaring absence of corpses, just red-suited Evil Tibetan Ninjas falling to their deaths (how does that play in China?) and sterile plasticness throughout. It's like it was designed with children's toys in mind.

Oh. Yes, it is. Whoops.

Still, despite being a film about children's toys, I don't think it was suitable fodder for the army of six year olds in the cinema with us. A bit like the violent idiocy of Transformers 3, only a person with the mind of a small child would be capable of enjoying this film, and tragically it's small children who should be protected from this garbage.

On the plus side, no mercy is shown to leading characters, or at least Channing Tatum gets offed quickly so he can go back to making films about male strippers. There's also an avant garde dismissal of cohesive plots: a man is smuggled out of the Korean DMZ at the start, and is then NEVER SEEN AGAIN. Is that a commentary on the lack of character arcs, or just forgetfulness? Or did they assume the attention span of six year olds means the audience wouldn't notice?

I may be bitter, because the only capital city that is utterly destroyed is London. Perhaps it should be a compliment that it was the most recognisable place to get wiped out, or perhaps focus groups told the filmmakers that you don't want to offend the Indian market by destroying Delhi, or that nobody could distinguish a desolated Pyongyang from the current version.
Really, I think the director had his wallet stolen on the London Underground and was holding a grudge.

After two hours of clattering, banging, and The Rock quoting Jay-Z lyrics like they were the word of God, we left. Hope, joy and interest had vanished long before. I rather felt I wasted the day off.

(To celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus, everyone gets Good Friday off in Singapore, but Easter Monday isn't a holiday. One could make inferences about the Singaporean government and what it thinks should be commemorated, but I suspect it's to give parity in holidays among different religions: after all, Christmas Day is a holiday too. I'm not very religiously observant but I do like long weekends. Next time, I'm not going to spend any time in a cinema watching a film with a semi-colon in the title.)


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