‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Breakdown Analysis: What Worked & Didn’t


(Source ScreenRant.com)


G.I. Joe: Retaliation came out in theaters on Friday, and although I’ve known for a while that it wouldn’t exactly be the sequel I wanted; it would be more of a reboot with 80% new cast, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and have to say I can’t wait for the next one (these days it’s not a question of “is there’s going to be a sequel?”, it’s “how many sequels are there going to be?”).gijoe-retaliation-international-russian-banner-raw-image

Ok, let’s take a step back and talk about why we all saw a trailer for the G.I. Joe sequel just about a year ago, but had to wait an entire year to watch it… G.I. Joe: Retaliation was supposed to come out last year, more specifically June 29, 2012, but the studio delayed it until March 29, 2013 (yesterday), and at the time, they gave two reasons for the delay: they wanted to avoid The Avengers box office flow over (smart move, seeing as it became the third highest grossing movie to date), and they wanted to convert some scenes into 3D (because 3D movie tickets cost more to see, meaning the movie could be more profitable in foreign theaters)… and if you’ve seen the movie, there were some fantastic scenes that were in 3D, so I guess those two points are 100% valid. But, they are only 2 of the 3 reasons that the movie was delayed just under a year. 

*Just a side note, the 3D conversion costs somewhere between $10-$15 million

The third reason being that just about 6 weeks before the June 29th, 2012 release date, the studio got scores from their test screenings ranging from “mediocre to bad” and the only thing the test audience liked about the film was the buddy-buddy relationship between Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson. But, there was one problem: Tatum’s character got killed off in the first couple minutes. Now it’s a bit unusual, but not uncommon, for movies to have the main character killed off so a new character can be the hero, but the problem here was two different situations that worked out well together: the studio thought Tatum wasn’t a big enough star to carry the franchise on for a couple more sequels, and Tatum wanted to make other movies to better his career, so originally, Tatum’s part was about 10 minutes of the 110 min, but now it’s about 30 minutes.

*another side note, the reshoots, that only took a little over a week, cost just about $5 million… This makes you think if it was worth it, for those couple extra scenes with Tatum. But according to the latest box-office count, the G.I. Joe sequel is on top with just over $140 million on it’s opening weekend alone. Since the movies budget was a little less than $130 million.
“This trouble for G.I. Joe: Retaliation has a similar parallel to the rumors in 2009 that stated G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobradirector Stephen Sommers was fired from post-production by Paramount after test screenings for that film resulted in the lowest scores in the studio’s history. Those rumors were shot down (but weren’t completely eradicated, given the film’s lukewarm reception); however, things look a lot worse for G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” from ScreenRant.com

The studio decided that they wanted to write a script where Dwayne Johnson would be the star, and almost reboot the franchise with him at the lead, because while they were in pre-production and just about 3/4 of the way done filming, the studio still believed that having Tatum as the lead would have bombed at the box office. Wrong. Just about the time they finished up filming and started promoting the movie, Tatum’s career took off, starring in 21 Jump Street in March of 2012 was a smart move, and if you were naive like me, and saw the original G.I. Joe 2 trailer and saw Dwayne leading the Joes with Bruce Willis, and thought Tatum was just captured or something, then we would have probably had the same reaction the test screening audience did: if Tatum’s character has to die, we want to see more of him and the Rock being buds before he goes…
So naturally, after the studio did the screen tests and got the feedback, they brought Tatum back for a couple more scenes. T
he studio decided to delay the movie 9 months to film about a week or so of reshoots, and then convert the film into 3D, so understand which one is the real reason for such a delay and which one is the harmless white lie… If you have seen the movie, you can understand that Tatum’s character had to die for the “Joe’s” to take revenge on Cobra. I mean, the scene where the three remaining “Joe’s” break into Bruce Willis’ house, and Dwayne Johnson puts all the dog tags (close to 30 of them) on the table, the only person they mention they need to avenge by name is Duke (Tatum) but follow it with “and our other brothers”. Basically, Duke’s death was necessary to motivate Roadblock (Johnson) to avenge him, and I guess the way the movie was, originally (before reshoots), the audience didn’t feel the connection between them, so it didn’t feel like Roadblock was avenging his best friends death, it felt like Roadblock was just taking over as team leader, and not much else. Ok, On December 12th, 2011, Machinima released the first trailer for the movie (watch it here) and if you’ve seen the movie and the trailer, you can probably guess, like I tried to, which scenes were filmed after the movie got delayed because of what scenes were in the trailer (above) and which scenes feel like they were added in afterwards… my guess would be:

1) the opening scene in North Korea where Duke, Roadblock, and Flint get through the gate, and rescue a man, who wasn’t being guarded, but was hiding in a truck under a blanket (weird right?), while Mouse and Jaye provide cover fire with sniper rifles, and then Flint changes the Korean flag with the Joes’ flag.
—–>The reason I think this scene was filmed after the movie got delayed is because it has no real relevance to the main story-line, besides one point: it shows that the Joes work together well, but (another reason it was probably filmed later), you don’t have all the Joes, which makes me think they couldn’t get all the “extra-red-shirt” Joes back, so they just got the main 5. Plus the scene where all the Joes go get the rocket proves they work well together, and it has relevance to the rest of the movie.
2) The scene where Duke and Roadblock are playing a video game in Roadblock’s house.
—–> There’s two reasons I think it was filmed later, the first being that it was a very small scene, it took up about 5-6 minutes, but probably only took them less than an hour to film, and the second reason is again relevance to actual story: it kind of has none; this scene only gets mentioned once throughout the movie, and the scene it gets mentioned in is another scene I think they filmed after they decided to delay the movies release.
When asked about this scene, Dwayne Johnson said:

“All the dialog between Channing and I, it was all adlibbed.  In that scene, it’s like Call of Duty, just completely adlibbed and I wasn’t quite too sure how I was going to play anyway and how good I was going to be at it and him too.  Clearly he sucked at it and I was trying not to suck so bad but yet trying to give him shit at the same time.  It was a lot of fun.  That chemistry between Channing and I, not only did it jump off on screen but when he did that and he did it to be nice and genuine and authentic and real.  He wound up like out of this whole thing.  We’re like brothers now.  You can imagine what it was like onset and again, we needed that to go where we were going in the movie.  It had to feel real and the bond had to feel real.”

3) The scene where Duke and Roadblock are betting who can shoot a candle out on top of a cupcake at the other side of a shooting range
—–> This is probably another last-minute add-on scene because like the previous scenes mentioned, it adds just about nothing to the actual story (besides concreting their bromance), and it took up a good couple minutes, but it probably didn’t take that long to film.

That would be my guess of which scenes were filmed after the movies release date delay, and although they seem out of place, somehow, it made the movie more likeable, I think.

But let’s get on to what worked, and what didn’t with the G.I. Joe sequel:

The things that worked well in G.I. Joe: Retaliation:

1) Bringing back the sibling-rivalry of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, because ninja-brotherly fighting is awesome


2) Bringing Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis into the series. No explanation needed. G.I.-Joe-2-Retaliation-3D-starring-Dwayne-Johnson-and-Bruce-Willis gi-joe-johnson1 gi-joe-retaliation-new

It’s been done before where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been brought into a popular series that needs some revival, and it has worked so far.

3) Forgetting about Destro

I could barely understand a word he said in G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, which didn’t make his threats that scary… so I’m glad Cobra decided he was “out of the band”, as he said in “Retaliation”. But here’s the thing I don’t get, in “Rise of Cobra”, Cobra saves Destro (I think) 3 times so they could team up later on, but then they get caught… And in G.I. Joe 2, Cobra let’s Destro die… so why save him and inject him with the nanomytes to change his face into the Destro “mask”.


The thing that doesn’t make sense is that Destro is a skimpy little guy… and not even good at fighting and can’t even get a girl to be on his team without brainwashing… just sad.

4. The Cliff-side battle with Snake Eyes and Jinx vs. flying ninjas…

Just watch the fight here


It’s just about the coolest scene in the movie…

5. Bring Ray Stevenson as FireFly


Ray Stevenson is one of those actors that I enjoy seeing even as a bad guy and good guy, where as, when Dwayne Johnson usually always plays a good guy, and there’s a reason…  He played a bad guy in Get Smart, he wasn’t very convincing…



But Stevenson pulls it off, and has a couple really good scenes including two where he’s fighting Roadblock (Johnson) the better one’s near the end, but his coolest scene is where he breaks into the prison where Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and Destro are being held, and blows up the gate with his motorcycle… yea I know sounds weird, but watch the trailer and you’ll understand.

Things that didn’t work:

1) The posters

This is the most common poster and you’ve probably already seen it before:

GI joe poster 1

And this is the secondary poster:

GI joe poster 4

Not as common, but still relevant. Now my problem with these posters is Roadblock, Snake Eyes, and Jaye all just switched spots with someone… but they used the same exact image. Whereas they used a different image for Bruce Willis… oh wait, they just used some of the character posters (below) to balance out the enormous Dwayne Johnson image, that even when they make him smaller, by making his entire body be shown, instead of just his head, is still bigger than everyone else.

GI joe poster 5

So for the first poster, they used the Snake Eyes, and Duke character posters, and for the second, they used the Snake Eyes, Joe, and Cobra character posters…

Just recycling their images every poster…

GI joe poster 3

Again, repeating images of Joe, Jinx and Cobra, just used in a different spot on the poster…

And the same with this poster:

GI joe poster 2

And finally on this banner:


2) Not bringing back (just about) 80% of the cast and expecting us to forget they existed…

It’s almost as if the studio looked at G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and decided: “let’s make a sequel but just bring back the two ninjas, and the president, but with the main good guy and bad guy, let’s kill one of them off fast, and recast the other entirely”…

Just about every character type represented in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was replaced…
Gi Joe character comparison copy

a) The “Comic Relief” and “Muscle”

In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, you have Marlon Wayans playing Ripcord (the comic relief)  and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje playing Heavy Duty (the muscle) turn into Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), where he’s the biggest, strongest, fighter in the movie with a couple funny lines, but no where near as many comic moments as Marlon Wayans, which by-the-way made G.I. Joe 1 worth watching.

I mean they weren’t even trying that hard to make Roadblock different from Heavy Duty…



Roadblock is even Duke (Tatum)’s new best friend and there’s no mention of what happened with Ripcord (Wayans). When asked about the G.I. Joe sequel, Marlon Wayans had this to say:

“I’m not in it. Rip Cord steps on a landmine. They blew his black a** up,” said Wayans in a half joking manner. “The last one they realized the black guy was the hero of the movie. So, they said ‘You know what? We’re going to do the sequel just so we can fix that. Let’s kill the black guy’.” 

And when asked if he was happy to be written out of the sequel, he said this:

“I always say to people that there are lessons and blessings,” he explained. “It’s one of the greatest blessings ever for me to be written out of that franchise because it gives me a chance to be creative. I hold my head up. I don’t sulk. I put my head down and made my first movie.”

**Wayans is referring to his movie Haunted House, which came out in theaters a couple weeks ago.

b) The “attractive girl who’s also a bad*ss” and the “computer nerd”


In “The Rise of Cobra” you have Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) but in “Retaliation”, you have Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) who is the combination of Breaker and Scarlett, figuring out that the President isn’t really the President by using computer programs to determine his changing in patterns in speaking and holding his hand positions…


c) The “General”

In G.I. Joe, Dennis Quaid shows up to play the General Hawk, but he gets replaced by Bruce Willis who plays General Joe Colton “the original G.I. Joe” and the reason they’re called “Joes”

gijoe37 V2_GIJoe2_CharacterBanners_Bruce_fin8online_1334814637-000

d) The “All-American soldier”

In The Rise of Cobra, Channing Tatum is the”hero”, and in “Retaliation” technically, Dwayne Johnson is, but the “All-American boy” is D.J. Cotrona who plays Flint.

channing_tatum_gi_joe_hotnessD.J. Cotrona as Flint in ``G.I. Joe: Retaliation.''

e) Cobra Commander

In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Joseph Gordon-Levitt played “Rex” (top) who after an explosion, and an explanation from Dr. Mindbender about nano-mites, he becomes The Doctor (bottom).


He masks his identity with the Darth Vader-like mask, and a black wig, but he reveals himself to Duke in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra009ROC_Joseph_Gordon_Levitt_004

At the end of G.I. Joe, he comes out saying that they shall now call him Cobra Commander, and then he shows his new mask off…
Cobra Commander Rise of Cobra
but then he’s stuck in a prison with no escape, until about 20 minutes into the sequel when Storm Shadow breaks him out, he has a completely different mask…

and uniform… and a different actor playing him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career, like Channing Tatum’s, took off after G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, except JGL’s took off right after, whereas Tatum’s took a while longer… JGL went from big role to big role after G.I. Joe, with: Inception, Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper and then Lincoln.

f) The “Master”

First we had Gerald Okamura as the Hard Master then we had RZA as the Blind Master…



And the kicker is at the end of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, General Hawk says that they should be permanent.


Ripcord: “Man, we look good.”
General Hawk: “Yeah, well, you better get used to it. Heavy Duty thinks you guys ought to stick around permanently.”
Duke: “So, you’re asking us, right?”
Ripcord: “Yeah, ’cause he didn’t sound like he was asking.”
Duke: “Cause you gotta be asked to join the G.I. Joes.”
General Hawk: “I’m asking.”
Duke: “Well, I’m in.”
Ripcord: “How do you feel about this?”
Scarlet: “I feel very em…emotional.”

Check out these concept designs for the movie via io9!

3) The constant plot continuity errors that could have been fixed easily

a) First off, in The Rise of Cobra, Duke and Rex are in Africa to retrieve some files, and Duke tells Rex to go into a building to get them, and hegives Rex 5 minutes to get out of the building but the air strike comes early, and blows up the building after just about 35 seconds, where as in a later flashback, Joseph Gordon Levitt talks with Mind Bender for almost a minute and 20 seconds. **Now this isn’t about Retaliation but it’s relevant to it, just bare with me.** Duke runs towards the building and is at the door and it left with minor facial bleeding when the entire building is blown up by air strike (whereas Rex’s entire head is burnt and he has to talk through a mask…), but in G.I. Joe 2, a car is blown up behind duke when he is on the ground a couple feet away and he dies…? Stick to the same logic please…

b) Cobra Commander developed all these weapons in the first movie, that could devour mass, and these guns that blast people away with energy or something…


And they decide to just forget that technology… and never use it again. They even build a new gun, that shoots from outerspace via a satellite, and burrows into the ground below London, England and blows up from under the ground… just watch the trailer again.
(Skip to 40 seconds in)

c) Storm Shadow died in the last movie…

I don’t know how many of you have recently watched the first movie, but the bad guy ninja dies… So that’s a serious continuity error, I’d say. Then again, if you want to look at it like how he fixed himself when an explosion caused his entire back to melt (in “Retaliation”): he gets help from an old Asian lady, who’s a healer in the Himalayan mountains. But my response to you would be, well, if you remember, Storm Shadow died while falling into the water after falling off a platform of an underwater base in the Arctic… so… how did anyone find him? Also, I don’t think getting stabbed, cut, electrocuted and subsequently drowned could possibly be healed by some paste applied by an old lady…

d) The fourth thing is that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra set up a couple different characters to be more important in the sequel but that didn’t happen…

—> Dr. Mindbender

He showed up for about 30 seconds, just enough time for him to be significant in the next movie, but he never showed up again…

—> Destro
Like I mentioned earlier, Cobra Commander saved Destro several times during the first movie, and then he just leaves him in prison in the next movie. He even game him the permanent metal face, so why all the trouble just so he can leave him in prison (That’s Destro in the white glass prison above), and then to die? He could have just left him to die in G.I. Joe 1…

—-> Ana / Baroness

I’m guessing she kind of goes hand in hand with Destro and since she got “cured” at the end of the first G.I. Joe, and Duke was dying quickly, there was no reason for her character to make an appearance.

—-> Sgt. Stone

aka Brendan Fraser



Apparently, he begged the producers for a cameo, because he was a fan of G.I. Joe even as a kid, but his character only showed up for 1 quick scene that apparently only took a morning to shoot…

Then never showed up again.

Like many other characters.

Deep in thought-zen master talking ** Maybe there is a deeper meaning behind all the characters not being in the sequel, and the main hero dying in the first couple minutes; maybe the message is that being a soldier of any kind isn’t safe, people are lost, and you have to keep strong to keep going on… or maybe that’s just BS, and they just couldn’t afford some of the actors, wanted a different look and feel for the franchise or they didn’t think it would have sold so many tickets with the original cast… all are possibilities…

e) Zartan comes off looking foolish…

In “The Rise of Cobra”, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), “The Master of Disguise”, gets turned into the President of the United States, but before The Doctor uses the nano-mites he asks:

“Are you ready, Mr. Zartan?”
Zartan: “Oh I’m ready, doctor. This is going to be the achievement of a lifetime.”
The Doctor: “Yes, as a master of disguise you have no equal, my friend.”
Zartan(confident) “Eighteen months of studying my target, learning mannerisms but the devil is in the details.”
But then Zartan messes up some hand gestures, and some common phrases the President always uses, and the entire visage falls apart. Which makes no sense, if he had studied the President for 18 months, he wouldn’t have messed up such simple things… 

f) They changed the origin story of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to make the sequel make sense, but it didn’t really make sense at all… Let’s take a step back and look at what they did. There are so many problems with this. First, they made Storm Shadow a good guy, by not making him the killer of their Grand Master, but they forgot that he died… also, when they explained that Zartan killed the Grand Master to trick Storm Shadow to come to the “bad side”, it wouldn’t all of a sudden change his entire life… And wouldn’t he have tried to explain that he didn’t kill their master at any point throughout his life to Snake Eyes? Or had they not seen each other since that day that someone killed their master? If so, how did he recognize Snake Eyes? The last time he would’ve seen him they were both pre-teens with long hair, the next time, they’re fully grown men wearing costumes… plus Snake Eyes costume is like a rubber outline of his body, just weird. But he wouldn’t have been able to recognize him.


So, that’s what worked and didn’t in G.I. Joe: Retaliation with me.

Do you guys have anything to add? What did you think of the movie as a stand alone (when not being compared to The Rise of Cobra)? Do you think Dwayne Johnson can lead the Joes again, or is the series going to die with this attempt to save it?

Leave a comment below!

4/1/2013 – 1:20 am

by James

About the Author

Welcome to The Second Take! My name is Jay, I'm a Video Production College graduate sharing my love for movies & T.V.! I post regularly the newest news, reviews, castings, photos & even produce my own videos to cover the content!

11 Comments on "‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Breakdown Analysis: What Worked & Didn’t"

  1. Portia Menchaca | May 9, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Reply

    In “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” released in 2009, the world was in danger because of a substance called nanomite that could be put on the head of nuclear warheads, allowing them to melt metal and cause more destruction. The plan to launch a set of nuclear warheads was thwarted, but apparently, not for good. In 2012’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” the nanomite-laced warheads are back. Only this time, the nefarious shadow group called Cobra plans to use a new program to induce global domination with the nukes. They don’t care how many lives they have to take, and they blow up the entire city of London to prove that they mean business.

  2. The differences between both movies is just ridiculous, it really pissed me off, i loved ripcord’s character that was forgotten completely.
    The whole idea of G I Joe through out the tv series and the first movie was a big focus on all those fighting gadgets and technology, whereas in the new movie you saw much less techi stuff and much more regular boring army fighting.

    i am a die hard fan of the tv series and a die hard fan of bruce willis 🙂 but other then that i think the new movie should loose the title G I Joe, its a standalone movie with different characters and plot

  3. g.i.joe the film is the stupidest.

  4. I really like what you guys tend to be up too.
    This type of clever work and coverage! Keeep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  5. When someone writes an post he/she keeps the thought of
    a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    Thus that’s why this paragraph is perfect. Thanks!

  6. I think the sequel will continue, but with a different actor taking the lead role

  7. Can’t wait for the next G.I. Joe!

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