Lots of Boom

There’s a flimsy nuke plot behind copious action in G.I. Joe Retaliation, a fever dream about worldwide disarmament that like most American depictions, imagines radioactive bombardments as casual events designed for visual spectacle. That, Retaliation provides.

A comical slur is thrown toward (then) recent government administrations when a phony President’s approval ratings spike as he takes a war-like stance rather than a passive one. Retaliation follows a conspiracy trend about one world order as Cobra Commander demands allegiance, but dutifully ignores the multi-national approach in Rise of Cobra. This sequel takes a determined, “real American hero” slant, better representing the branding, while making Bruce Willis into an NRA marketing machine.

Unlike Rise of Cobra, Retaliation dumps the sci-fi gadgetry

That’s looking at Retaliation deeper than ever intended, but it’s also unavoidably brash, ridiculous, and spilling over with a western machismo. Aside, of course, from a spectacular stint between rival ninja clans, swinging around mountains, parrying swords, and showcasing the best Asian martial arts possible in western cinema. Never fear: The ending is still about Bruce Willis sweeping a machine gun from the back of a truck, and Dwayne Johnson mowing down tanks in… a tank.

Unlike Rise of Cobra, Retaliation dumps the sci-fi gadgetry like jet packs and super planes. While the action itself isn’t, the overall aesthetic aims at something more grounded: Never less than absurd, but real world weapons in hand, with only a glaze of military futurism. This does question then where the technology went between movies, as if they suddenly fell into disuse despite their advantages.

Consistent these two G.I. Joe movies are not, but there’s a definite divide between them. Rise of Cobra already feels creaky, Retaliation better equipped to stand up over time. Take a duel between Johnson and Ray Stevenson at the end, with the pair dueling guns at close range as if in hand-to-hand combat. No super weapons or vehicles, just two muscular dudes wrestling for an advantage, to either kill or save the President. In that way, it’s pure ‘80s nonsense, and that’s exactly what G.I. Joe needs. There’s no updating a hyper pro-military kids show into anything else.

Video

Intense color saturation gives Retaliation an extreme glow, especially flesh tones that push toward the same hue as explosions. Grading holds primaries back frequently, taking a cooler aesthetic for much of the runtime. When other colors do appear though, they produce a sensationally rich intensity, appropriate to the cartoon origins of G.I. Joe. Nuanced it is not.

Vividness continues into the contrast, powered by Dolby Vision, and ramping up brightness. Not much is spared, giving explosions blinding intensity. Desert sunlight looks incredible, pushing nits to their peak. Grading occasionally saps life from the black levels, but they improve Rise of Cobra’s crush, and the Blu-ray’s comparable flatness.

A lapse or two in the encoding causes minimal loss in fidelity. The 2K source upscales cleanly, finding additional texture, if not much. Retaliation’s imagery presents reasonable sharpness and stable clarity. It’s not particularly astounding, but serviceable and a passable upgrade.

Audio

While it’s a miss not giving Retaliation a jump to Atmos/DTS:X, the 7.1 TrueHD track is peak reference material. Stunning channel separation is best-in-class, blockbuster action design. The way gunfire sweeps through the soundstage, the way swords slice through air perfectly, how water splashes around, missiles pan, vehicles rush past… it’s all precise. Those additional surrounds see constant use too. Given the bevy of action, Retaliation’s mix rarely rests.

Equally noticeable low-end force accentuates fireballs as they go up. Roadblock’s mega guns elevate each fired round, while smaller weapons lack the same pop by intent. Range matches the action’s boldness in scale. The end tank battle and satellite launch is marvelous, subwoofer-testing material. Fantastic stuff.

Extras

Director Jon M. Chu collaborates with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura for a commentary track, followed by an 72-minute, eight part making of that moves from apprehension in the studio’s director choice to plotting out a tighter film. It’s praise-heavy if detailed. A weak three deleted scenes are left.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Asinine, ridiculous, and infinitely fun, G.I. Joe Retaliation better gets the brand than the previous film.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 47 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: