The first movie in this toy-based series - 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - was such a forgettable mess that I've never picked up a copy for my library, which if you've seen some of the crap I've got speaks volumes. So the existence of a sequel and it's last-minute delay in release from last summer, allegedly for reshoots to capitalize on Channing Tatum's sudden star status, raised little interest. The only reason I schlepped out to the theater was because free admission coupons came with some Blu-rays I'd picked up on sale; so why not?
If you did see the first movie (or have forgotten it), it doesn't really matter because other than Tatum's Duke and Jonathan Pryce returning as the President, no one from that cast is in this one. Joining the team with Tatum are The Rock, Adrianne Palicki and some other dude. After a mission recovering loose nukes in Pakistan, the President orders all the Joes executed for treason, leading to Tatum being killed (sorry, ladies!) and the remaining three to fight for survival, find out what happened and clear their names.
It turns out that the President has been replaced by an agent of Cobra and he's working with Cobra Commander (no longer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose career apparently has been moving upscale) to enact a scheme to blackmail all the world's nuclear powers to disarm and swear allegiance to Cobra. Or something.
To say that G.I. Joe: Retaliation is better than the first is no great accomplishment. It's a decent, disposable, dumb action movie but I don't know if the audience is expected to come in with an encyclopedic knowledge of the cartoons and lore of the franchise, but when Snake Eyes (good guy) is captured and taken to a ridiculous subterranean prison to be held with Cobra Commander and Destro (bad guys) and discovered to actually be Storm Shadow (bad guy) and still incarcerated in this ludicrous space suit in a tube of water setup, I was like, "Huh? What?" That the fake President is able to do most of the incredibly illegal, unconstitutional, and generally bad things he does without any checks or balances strains even the low credibility threshold this sort of stuff gets away with.
There are some decent action sequences, but the fights are shot too close-up, making it just look like a mess, not calculated mayhem. More surprising is the quality of some of the banter in the scenes between Tatum and The Rock; genuine laugh lines. Too bad some of that wit couldn't have provided a little plot wisdom.
Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.