Cole Bradley’s review published on Letterboxd:
So there's an inherent problem with making a G.I. Joe movie, and that's that the franchise is inherently... pretty damn stupid.
I mean come on. It's about a bunch of super badass elite soldiers who are best friends with a ninja and they all go by pro wrestling names and they fight evil costumed supervillains who literally kick puppies. I'm not saying you can't play that straight and get a great action story out of it. Larry Hama was able to, but then again, Larry Hama found the melancholic poetry of Wolverine slicing up ninjas for 30 pages.
And the thing that made the first G.I. Joe movie so great (YEAH I SAID IT) was that it embraced the silliness. It was never an outright parody, but it was goofy to the core, with wonderfully hammy performances and a delightful sense of humor. It was FUN.
But nobody liked Rise of Cobra (for reasons I will never understand), so G.I. Joe Retaliation has gone with a more serious route. Not to say that this is some grim and gritty rendition, but it's more in the vein of a traditional, post Die Hard action film than the live action cartoon its predecessor was. Which, again, is theoretically doable, but...
And that's G.I. Joe Retaliation's main problem. It's trying to be fairly serious, but it's just so damn goofy that you can't take any of it seriously. I mean for God's sake, Adrianne Palicki's character is literally named Lady Jaye. That's not a nickname, that's what comes up when they pull her file.
(Incidentally, Adrianne Palicki is easily the best part of this in terms of actually being a serious action flick. She's doing the hackneyed "woman trying to make it in the man's army" we see crop up all the time, but she makes it feel fresh. The actual best part of the movie in the RZA, who understands how silly all this is and hams it up like nobody's business).
The other main difference between this and Rise of Cobra is the scale. For all its lightness, Rise of Cobra is a fairly epic film. It's a globe trotting adventure that climaxes in a massive fight in Cobra's lair and a incredibly tense chase to down a nuclear missile. Retaliation's climax is... in a bunker. That then spills out into a beach. Yay. Everything about this film is low rent. It feels like a direct to video movie with a famous cast. It's dreadfully boring, completely wastes The Rock, and was pretty much already forgotten by the time I left the theatre.
Oh, and I put as much effort talking about Bruce Willis's performance here as Bruce Willis put into his performance. That is all.