G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Blu-ray Review)

“They” say that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is coined the savior of franchises as of late with his propelling inclusion in the almighty, righteous Fast Five and now the sequel to 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, aptly titled G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Now I may be in the minority here, but I don’t feel the 2009 entry entirely needed saving.  Sure it’s goofy and ridiculous, but that ‘s exactly the right kind of fun we want with these G.I. Joe films, isn’t it?  However, what it all boils down to is the fact that I welcome the man with open arms because I waited my entire life to see the Joes get a real live action adventure on the big screen and if it means bringing someone in to save the franchise, then so be it.  With that being said, The Rock is a much welcome addition to the already ensemble cast that sees Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Byung-hun Lee reprising their roles from the first film.  Where’s Sienna Miller and Ray Nichols?  Good question!  Come on in.  The water’s great.  Let’s dive deeper into this proverbial shark tank and take a closer look at G.I. Joe: Retaliation now that it’s getting the Blu-ray treatment and find out just where our beloved (okay…my beloved) Baroness and Scarlett went to.  Yo Joe!

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As I eluded to above, I had my reservations about this second installment right from the start when I found out that Scarlett, Baroness, Destro and the rest of the Joes I loved from the first one would not be returning.  Then came the BIG announcement…the film was getting delayed 9 months for a post 3-D conversion.  N-I-N-E MONTHS!?  Really?  We all know what happened, don’t we?  Let’s be honest with ourselves here.  Channing Tatum’s popularity exploded after 2009’s Joe flick and Paramount thinks it’s a good idea to kill off all the Joes (well not all) and start fresh.  Wrong!  They had to be sh1tting their pants when they realized what they did with Tatum’s character and the now lucrative box office draw he now tentpoles.  It was back to the drawing board while they fixed what they could with some reshoots I’m sure because after all when you looked at the finished product last March in the theater, the 3-D wasn’t all that.  It barely existed.  Boo!

So with all those reasons listed above and more, I had every right to be nervous about this picture.  While the the first film wasn’t anything to write home about, this one sounded like an absolute train wreck.  In fact, I sat out all press screenings and even the opening weekend until my peers chimed in on their thoughts about the film.  If it wasn’t for Aaron Neuwirth’s encouraging text messages to me that I should check it out, I probably would have not.  However, I’m so glad I caved in and overcame my biased animosity as I actually had a lot of fun with this one.  It’s not as goofy as the first entry, but it’s a hell of a good time to be had…an explosive one to say the least.  And Cobra Commander even wears the real helmet we all grew up with and loved.  So tell me…what’s not to love?

I already mentioned some of the ensemble cast that returned above, but with the exception of The Rock I did not mention everyone else.  Let’s take a look at the rest of the well rounded cast so you can clearly see how they made it such an explosive good time.  First up, this man needs no introduction.  He’s the “Die Hard” battery of action films.  Of course, I’m talking about Mr. Bruce Willis tackling the role of General Joseph Colton, aka the original Joe.  Newcomer Adrianne Palicki enters the frame with all her “distracting” abilities as Lady Jaye.  Hip hop superstar RZA lays down arms as the Blind Master.  And last, but certainly not least, The Punisher and Titus Pullo of the hit HBO series Rome serves up the dynamite as COBRA’s elusive Firefly.  Rounding out the rest of the new cast includes Elodie Yung as Jinx, D.J. Cotrona as Flint, Luke Bracey as the supreme Cobra Commander (voiced by Robert Baker and still referred to as Rex Lewis), Joseph Mazello as Mouse and Matt Gerald as Zandar, whom I missed the first time I saw this film.  And of course there’s always Dwayn Johnson (The Rock) as Roadblock, but does he really need to be brought up again here?  Doesn’t the guy always deliver the goods?  I thought so!

This time around Retaliation was written by Zombieland scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (what a great job that would be playing with my fanatical childhood franchise like that).  Struck down by Paramount from returning to the director’s chair, Stephen Sommers sits this one out as Jon M. Chu (yes…from the Justin Bieber movie) takes his place.  At least one thing holds true in all of this convoluted production mess, Retaliation is STILL a direct sequel to the 2009 film.  Thank the Lord for that!

So I guess now we venture into some spoiler-laden territories.  I apologize, but there’s really no other way around this (WARNING YOU NOW).  Based on the events that unfolded in the 2009 film, the Joes are framed by Zartan (Vosloo) who is now impersonating the POTUS (Jonathan Pryce).  The entire Joes team is ambushed and eliminated by a military strike.  Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye are among the only supposed survivors.  Meanwhile, Storm Shadow (Lee) and Firefly break Cobra Commander out of his cold entanglement in maximum security prison.  It’s there where we actually do see a glimpse of my beloved Destro, but he’s out of the band so to speak.  During the rescue attempt, Storm Shadow is badly burnt and injured and retreats to a secret temple in the Himalayas to recover.  With knowledge of this, the Blind Master recruits Snake Eyes (Park) and his apprentice Jinx and sends them to bring back Storm Shadow so he may answer and be held accountable for the death of the Hard Master (think back to the first film here).

While all the above is going on, the POTUS announces to his citizens the Joes betrayal of their country and that COBRA will be replacing them as America’s main protective unit…usher the incredibly gorgeous COBRA logo flags now adorning the White House.  The surviving Joes manage to smuggle themselves into the country and recruit the help of General Joseph Colton to ask for his assistance in arranging a way to get them close to the POTUS so they can prove whether or not he is real or if he is…Zartan!  So I think you know where I’m going with all this.  You know there’s going to be another action sequence/showdown between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, albeit a very awesome one that includes leaping from mountains and combatting various aerial ninjas, as well as the takedown of COBRA and trying to expose them to the world for the fraud they are.  Will the highly outnumbered Joes be successful?  Will The Rock’s extraordinary charisma be enough to save this franchise?  Will Bruce Willis take this role more seriously than he did in A Good Day to Die Hard?  These questions and more I will leave wide-open as I encourage you to pop this one in your Blu-ray drives on July 30th.

It’s not going to land on anyone’s Top 10 lists this year (at least I don’t think so), but in my opinion Retaliation is a worthy sequel to 2009’s campy entry.  It plays out a lot more serious (if you can believe that) and straightforward than the original, taking no prisoners, but at the same time it is still self aware and has fun with itself.  The stakes are a bit higher/more desperate and the action pieces are as I keep saying are a bit more “explosive.”  I guess you can say that Retaliation packs a much grittier punch this time around as opposed to the goofier sic-fi world of The Rise of Cobra, and that’s definitely a good thing!  It’s not perfect, but it’s a fun time for me and that’s what I’m grading it on here…the FUN FACTOR.  So listen…I could go on and on about this film and where I think it should go now that there’s news that a third film has been given the go ahead and that  Chu will be returning as director AND there’s even a juicy rumor that the Baroness might return (hell to the yeah), but I think the main reason you are all here reading this piece is not to hear me ramble on and on, but rather to find out about the Blu-ray and its associated specs, baby!  So let’s declassify this Blu-ray combo set and get this party started!

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Whether you’re a fan of the film or not, there’s no denying the beauty of the Panavision presentation on display here beautifully captured and rendered in a pristine 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode that Paramount is famous for delivering on the HD format.  Everything is just in check here from the deep, inky blacks to the vibrant, razor sharp images.  The picture is crystal clear with no dirt, debris or nasty artifacts present at all.  The skin tones are all natural and every pore, hair follicle and leather grain in Storm Shadow’s jacket to the mesh in Snake Eyes armor is accounted for and gorgeously brought to life on my favorite High Definition format.  I can’t wait to see how this holds up on the included iTunes HD Digital Copy.  You can see every individual bead of sweat that trickles down Roadblock’s noggin.  My only complaint are the fake digital explosions here and there, but that’s no fault of the video.  If you want Transformers-like perfection in your video image, then look no further than here.  Paramount hardly ever disappoints.

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Along with the perfect video, you’ll also be hard pressed to find any problems whatsoever with the English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless audio surround track here.  It puts the P in perfection.  Where do I even start?  How do you nitpick perfection?  You can’t!  Everything and I mean everything is on display here and intricately captured and recreated in your surround field from the sniper rifles, sirens, sprays of gun fire, missiles, helicopter air strikes, jets screaming by, loading of guns to the rousing score and ambient effects that engulf you.  Absolute t1ts!  And my biggest nitpick always is thankfully not an issue here either.  The dialogue is ALWAYS loud, clear and intelligible throughout.  Absolute perfection.  Yo Joe!  Thanks Paramount!

In addition you will also find the following selectable audio presentations on the Blu-ray disc: French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

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Much to my surprise, the supplemental package is actually quite generous in this Blu-ray release!  There’s over an hour worth of behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentary and more.  Thank you Paramount!  So why waste anymore time?  Let’s take a closer look at everything you’ll find here.  Ready Comrade?

So when you first pop in the Blu-ray disc one of the first images you’ll be presented with after the Paramount HD logo screen is the screen shot I have attached below (my apologies for the quality of the image).  It asks you which side will you choose, the Joes or COBRA?  The selections will be the same no matter what your choices are, however, the scenery will be quite different.  If you select the Joes, you will see the menu selections below a GI Joe hero montage of shots and a blue themed background.  On the flip side, if you choose COBRA, you will see the opposite, the menu selections below a COBRA villain montage of shots and a red themed background.  Guess what side I prefer?


  • Feature Film in High Definition (HD, 1 HR 50 mins.)
  • Commentary by Director Jon M. Chu and Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura – I’m listening to this now as I’m writing this section.  While it started out pretty quiet, it has gotten quite chatty as we move past the opening first scene.  It’s interesting as you’ll see a lot more it below, all the things Chu and Lorenzo had to do to stretch the dollar and achieve all that goes down in the film.  It’s actually quite amazing and while I was skeptical of Chu at first, the guy has real talent.  They both made something out of nothing down in Louisiana.  Kudos!  If you are a fan of the film, this one’s a no-brainer.  I love it!  They also talk about the 3D conversion and how it benefits the film.  I won’t say anything more than that.
  • GI Joe: Declassified (HD, 1 HR, 12 mins.) – This one is divided into 8 segments listed below.  You can choose play all or select the below featurettes individually.
  1. Mission Briefing (HD, 10:02) – We have A LOT going down in this extra.  We take a look at the pre-production, revisualization, storyboards, design, sets, green screens, weapons, vehicles, costume fittings and so much more as both Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander (both in full costume) show off their mad dance skills.  Lorenzo talks about how the studio first introduced him to Chu and how he was known simply as a fanboy.  That he is!  They also go over the challenges of shooting this ENTIRE feature in New Orleans.  How the hell they pulled that off is amazing to me because it’s very hard to make anything shot in New Orleans not look like it.  God bless the film tax credits, huh?  Hasbro also gave input into how they wanted the movie to be played out too.  So as you can see, A LOT truly does happen here in this mere ten-minute featurette.
  2. Deployment (HD, 8:06) – As the filming begins, we take a closer, more intimate look at the stunts, military advisors for weapon training and authenticity, fight sequences, costumes and more.
  3. Two Ninjas (HD, 7:34) – Here we focus on the two GI Joe ninjas, Snake Eyes and Jinx, and the filming/set construction of the dojo scene.  Ray Park talks about how he hoped so much that he would be back as Snake Eyes ever since the first film.  He also talks about his only request….a new suit so he can move opposed to the first film.  Elodie Yung also talks about her black belt experience.
  4. The Desert Attack (HD, 8:25) – This is where the Joes get ambushed!  In reality, this mock desert scene is actually nothing more than an old gravel mine in Louisiana.  They just made it a pit of sand.  This was also the first day of the shoot in the hot and muggy month of August where the temperatures reached 115 degrees.  How’s that for authenticity?
  5. COBRA Strikes (HD, 8:57) – Here we have highlights and a closer look at the villains Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and his new mask and Zartan.
  6. The Lone Soldiers (HD, 7:43) – Here we have a behind-the-scenes look at the heroes Roadblock, Flint, Lady Jaye and even the introduction of Bruce Willis’ character, General Joseph Colton.  Bruce said it was an honor playing him.  And yes…HE DID SHOW UP!
  7. The Monastery (HD, 9:56) – This is easily one of the coolest scenes of the movie with NINJAS!  Here we examine the Himalayan escape sequence under a microscope.  It’s also funny to learn that the medicine woman treating Storm Shadow is also the real mother of one of the red ninjas.  Nice!
  8. Fort Sumter (HD, 12:09) – And finally we are treated to an all-access view of the epic climax where it was actually filmed at the historic Fort Pike near the water in Louisiana.  Like I said, they made something out of nothing with this film.  Tax credits, yo!
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) – If you are into deleted scenes, there’s three of them here: Pakistan President Assassination, Interns and Arlington.
  • Trailer (HD) – There’s an HD trailer of Star Trek Into Darkness that’s played (easily skippable) before the Blu-ray disc’s main menu shows up.
  • DVD – The feature film is also presented in standard definition on a separate DVD disc in the package.
  • UltraViolet – Here’s the version of the digital copy I don’t really care for, but nonetheless, there’s a code for it in the package.
  • Digital Copy – Now we’re talking!  Special features and more!  The iTunes compatible Digital Copy is presented in HD via the redeemable code found in the packaging.
  • Free Personalized Dog Tags – When you buy the Blu-ray Combo Pack, there’s a redeemable code via a special website to receive free personalized dog tags.  How cool is that?!

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So all in all, I was very pleased with G.I. Joe: Retaliation as a standalone film, not to mention this spectacular Blu-ray release from Paramount that boasts stunning High-Definition video and bombastic lossless audio as well as surplus of extras that will keep you busy for a couple hours.  Cobra Commander is back and some of the action figures we used to play with and snap the rubber bands out of their waists are living and breathing on the big screen…well whatever size your HDTV viewing screen that is.  How can you go wrong?  I realize that I may be one of the few reviewers out there who have awarded Retaliation such a generous score in the Film department, but I can’t help it…I had and still have FUN with it!!!  Even after my third viewing of the movie, I’m still engrossed, engaged and able to have fun with it.  That’s all that matters to me!  It’s my childhood after all.  However, before I bid you a farewell I’ll leave you this one last juicy rumor bouncing around out there.  Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has stated that he is open to doing a G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover.  Now tell me…how cool would that be?  The Rock turned down offers for Transformers 4 (probably a wise choice considering how that franchise went down hill from the first film), but maybe he may be the savior of the Transformers after all.  Ever think about that?  LOL.  It’s something to contemplate about, huh?  Well anyway, enjoy this one!  You can pre-order your Blu-ray copy here (many thanks for your support if you do) or find it at all retailers on July 30th.  You can also bt the first to own the action extravaganza on Digital July 16th!  Enjoy!


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