Making the Grades
Action figures have long been a staple of boyhood and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghost Busters and Power Ranger figures have all benefited from their own promotional movies. But toymaker Hasbro has upped the ante over the last few years with their Transformers and G.I. Joe characters. However while Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), Duke (Channing Tatum) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) may be characters based on comic books and toys, they are anything but child friendly in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
The script, at least what there is of it, appears to be aimed at 12-year-olds. But the violence in the film is clearly more suited for a much older audience. The explosions start with the film’s opening scenes when the G.I. Joes are sent in to recover a nuclear bomb. There is nothing subtle about their mission, which involves enough ammunition to arm a small country. Yet instead of exit assistance from their desert location, the group is mercilessly gunned down after completing their assignment. Only Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye manage to walk away from the burning carnage.
Worse still, the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) blames the Joes for inciting international anger by killing the Pakistani president. Determined to reinstate the reputation of the Joes and kill the man who ordered their massacre, Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye head home. (Only in movie land are they able to inexplicably transport themselves from a desert hideout in the Middle East to an inner city street in Washington D.C. without a hitch, while the entire U.S. Military attempts to hunt them down.)
Meanwhile Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) stage a prison break from a high security, subterranean jail where Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is contained in a special holding unit overseen by Warden Nigel James (Walton Goggins). Sounding like Darth Vader and sporting a similar face-shielding mask, Cobra Commander has created a space-based weapon he plans to use to control the world. In the interim, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) continues to impersonate the U.S. President while the real politician is held in a secure bunker at the presidential retreat.
If this seems like a lot of characters to keep straight (for those uneducated in the comic franchise), there are more including retired General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis) and martial arts masters Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) who team up with the remaining G.I. Joes.
While Lady Jaye wears a seductive red dress that draws lustful looks from security staff, the film’s main content concerns revolve around the relentless violence involving stashes of guns, explosions, swords and fierce hand-to-hand combat. Although most of it is bloodless, some scenes depict raw and gory wounds along with bodies strewn on the ground.
Even though there is little to recommend this film for family viewers, the one redeeming point may be the surviving members of the slaughtered detail who are intent on clearing the names of their dead comrades and restoring order in the White House. While the internecine bloodletting can’t be excused, at least it’s good guys trying to restore their honor rather than some convicted criminal being called up to save the country.
That said, parents should think twice (or more) before shelling out money for this high action movie. Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum may have their own action figures based on their characters in G.I. Joe: Retaliation but the film’s violence will likely play havoc with the young viewers these toys are aimed at.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
This script includes some jabs toward North Korea. Do you think entertainment like this makes any difference to real-world political relationships? During the Cold War literally hundreds of movies featured countries behind the Iron Curtain as enemies—is today any different?
G.I. Joe is based on a toy marketed by Hasbro. Is this movie appropriate for children of the age most likely to play with the toy? Do you think the film should be scripted with those younger viewers in mind? Can you think of other toys matched with movies that are appropriate or inappropriate for their target audience? Do you think this is responsible marketing?