Meanwhile, back in America, our freedom is threatened by the mole scheme of evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who has been acting like United States president (Jonathan Pryce) for some time while his Cobra bosses Commander and Destro remain in captivity. While looking and sounding exactly like the president (thanks to nanobots, which were featured in Rise of Cobra), Zartan frames Snake Eyes (Ray Park) for killing the Pakistani president and calls a strike on the Joes at their base overseas which leaves many of them dead, including Duke. (NOTE: This is featured prominently in the arc of many trailers, so that non-spoiler is essentially fair game.)
Following through on his desire to get revenge on the Joes for locking him up, Commander uses Zartan’s position of power to begin an evil scheme that threatens to kill everyone with nuclear war and would give him ample opportunity for world domination.
In order to stop Cobra, Roadblock and crew return to the United States, hoping to expose Zartan as a fake President. They turn for help to General Joseph Colton, (Bruce Willis), who can provide them with the artillery and manpower to help stop Zartan and all of Cobra from unleashing chaos.Taking over the film after the always likable Tatum leaves the picture, Johnson continues to have solid charisma as an all-American hero, one with a sense of humor and who is certainly believable carrying a Schwarzenegger-sized gun. The largest show stealer however is Jonathan Pryce, who has many of the film’s best pieces of dialogue; he steals the show like Sam Rockwell did in Iron Man 2.Other appearances in this character-heavy movie are a bit less successful, as Cotrona and Palicki are bland sidekicks compared to their charismatic leader Johnson (and compared to original sidekicks Marlon Wayans and Rachel Nichols in Rise of Cobra); the presence of RZA as Blind Master only seeks to make an awkward joke out of his kung fu pretentiousness.
It is safe to say this, this sequel is indeed more “intimate” than Rise of Cobra, in that this movie avoids a massive set piece (like Cobra’s Ice Battle Bonanza) in its fulfillment of title-promised retaliation. Indeed, the conflicts that lead to the main action sequences here are more personal, as Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are hashing out more bad blood and Roadblock gunning up to get revenge for the death of Duke and others. So yes, this is a more intimate G.I. Joe movie, but that doesn’t mean this is G.I. Joe: Amour. Nope, this franchise still functions most of all on its emotions towards firepower and explosions; while there may not be a super-battle that rips from Thunderball and Star Wars at the same time (like the aforementioned Ice Bonanza), plenty of doors, buildings and maybe a few hundred square miles are explosively erased from existence.Even more than its action potential, Retaliation is in control of its silliness. Every plot hole, super plot hole, mega plot hole, mega super mega plot hole and straight up dumb scene feels intentional, securing this movie as an idiotic delight made by relatively smart filmmakers. Like his work with the two Step Up dance films, Chu understands what elements are most important to deliver on when it comes to storytelling made for sequences, and what can be left for those who chose to foolishly expect more. It remains to be seen whether these filmmakers could make a solid movie that relies on logic to propel an actual plot, but working for G.I. Joe, they are certainly smart enough to execute this dumb mission well.
After all, if this movie actually wanted to be good, it would probably be much worse.