G.I. Joe: Retaliation. A toy story gone wrong.

gijoe-1353372167Hasbro Films has been remarkably consistent. Their ability to turn out crap movie after crap movie, all of which have been based on beloved product lines, is astonishing. They are sort of like the anti-Pixar.

Okay, the first Transformers wasn’t all that terrible. The moment when that rollerblading Decepticon, or whatever it was, rammed into that city bus… that moment still makes the nose-picking, destruction-craving 12 year old boy in me stand up and cheer. Michael Bay’s gift for poppy visuals wasn’t overwhelmed in the first movie by his occasional sub-juvenile taste and sense of humor. That would occur in all it’s offensive glory in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The two Amos n’ Andy Autobots… good lord. But as over-the-top and obnoxious as that movie was, it wasn’t boring. It had that horrid, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it freak show vibe that makes you feel really bad for having sit through the entire thing. So that problem was rectified in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which wasn’t as offensive, but was long and loud and pretty dull.

Then, there’s Battleship, released last year and forgotten shortly thereafter. At least if you were lucky. Battleship, directed by Peter Berg, displayed a lack of craft in action film-making that made Michael Bay’s work in the Transformers movies look like they were made by Akira Kurosawa by comparison.

And apparently, there’s a level of depth to the game Battleship that I don’t remember when I played as a kid. You see, in the movie, the battleship is fighting alien invaders that have emerged from the ocean. When I was playing the game, I never knew there was an extra-terrestrial foe we had to vanquish. I thought I just had to guess coordinates and take out other battleships and what not. That’s what I get for not reading the instructions. I lost all that nuance that would have made the game Battleship and, who knows, my entire childhood, all the more brighter.

Now comes G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The first one, like Battleship, was just terrible. I don’t remember anything about the plot, and I was hoping my ignorance wouldn’t hinder any possible enjoyment from the sequel. But I needn’t worry. The fact that many of the original’s cast (Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon Levitt) aren’t even in the sequel did provide some comfort that, perhaps, this series will be going in a new and more entertaining direction. And they brought in Dwayne Johnson.

I like Dwayne Johnson. He’s a tough guy who doesn’t have to pose or flare his nostrils or talk in a loooooow voice to prove he’s a tough guy. I mean, look at him. And, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday, he has a sense of humor about his own persona. But unlike Schwarzenegger, he has the ability to be casual about it and doesn’t have to get all meta like Arnold eventually did. And when Johnson was brought into the Fast and the Furious series in Fast Five, he injected a sense of urgency and energy in that movie. Unfortunately, he’s not enough to save this movie from utter mediocrity.

And poor Jonathan Pryce. He’s back again as the President of the United States with the Slightly British Accent, and his doppelganger, a master of disguise working for COBRA and their plan involving multiple satellites and giant rods dropped at supersonic speeds from space to destroy the world! Or something like that. It seems like an incredibly expensive venture. Did COBRA use Kickstarter to fund all of this?

Watching Pryce, I couldn’t help but think of his role as Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Brazil. Particularly, the end of that movie, as Lowry sits in the chair, tortured to the point of catatonia, humming the song Brazil to himself. I bet Pryce wishes he was back in that chair. It couldn’t have been worse than this.

Oh, and Bruce Willis has been brought in. He plays a retired general for whom the G.I. Joe program was named after. And he owns a stockpile of weapons so huge, they’re LITERALLY stashed away behind every cabinet and drawer and closet and drawer and couch pillow and shoebox in his house. As one of the characters notes in the movie, we should indeed fear our neighbors. After this movie, and A Good Day to Die Hard, and The Expendables 2, I think Willis owes us another Moonrise Kingdom-like effort, and soon.

Full disclosure…. Instead of keeping the items in their original containers as a child and, twenty years later, making a mint off of them on Ebay as an adult, I played with my Battleship board game and Transformers and G.I. Joe action figures. And I still mourn the destruction of my REALLY hard-to-find COBRA Ninja action figure brought upon by the dog/mongrel our family owned at the time. Those toys provided a whole lot of fun back in the day. But these movies by Hasbro Films aren’t invoking any sort of nostalgia for those days of 1980’s yore. They don’t do much of anything except give me a headache and make me regret spending my money on seeing them.

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