G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a fun action/adventure film; not the best in its genre, but the action sequences were quite thrilling and the film itself was just interesting enough to keep interest. There was room left for an interesting sequel as well, with the rise of Cobra Commander and the shot of Zartan impersonating the President. Safe to say I had a bit of hope for Retaliation.
In this film, we are given a whole new cast of characters, and a bunch of old ones are left out, to mixed results. The good news is that the cliched Ripcord is gone, but so is General Hawk, which is somewhat disappointing. Destro appears briefly, but then is left behind--literally. More shocking is the decision to kill off a main character in the first 20 minutes (I won't name it, but most know who it is anyway). Snake Eyes is still around, though, which is a relief as he was the most awesome character of the first movie. Some of the new characters we're introduced to include Roadblock (whose character development begins and ends with Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye, Flint and Jinx (Snake Eyes' apprentice).
In this film, the G.I. Joes are a critical part of the American force... until they get framed for stealing nuclear warheads. Most of the Joes are killed in a colossal massacre ordered by the President himself. As it turns out, the Cobra unit has infiltrated the government. The remaining ones are quickly busted out of prison (save for Destro, because screw Destro I guess); including Cobra Commander (unfortunately *not* played by a voice-morphed Joseph Gordon-Levitt this time), Firefly, and Storm Shadow (even though I thought he died in the last movie?), and quickly push their plan forward for world domination.
If you thought the Rise of Cobra was thinly plotted and ridiculous, then you're probably going to find yourself in for a rough time. Retaliation has an even thinner plot. Late in the film, when asked "What do you want?", Cobra Commander simply responds with "I want it all." I mean... wow, he had more character development in the first film! And that's literally pretty much the basis of the plot, besides what I already mentioned in the previous paragraph. The script is pretty dumb as well, but perhaps the biggest outrage of all is that they somehow managed to pull a ridiculous/dumb performance out of Bruce Willis. (I'm sure it's been done before in less-known lower-budget films, but for a film with more marketing and a higher budget like this one, it's ludicrous.)
Still, it's not all bad. We still have a few exciting action sequences; and most of the fights involving Snake Eyes and his new apprentice Jinx (and even Storm Shadow) still are quite fun. The highlight scene that comes to mind is a fight between Snake Eyes and Jinx against some other ninjas on the side of a mountain, which makes some good use of the slow motion effect. The pacing is still fairly decent, and there's enough exciting/interesting moments so that you aren't necessarily bored, even if you aren't always enthralled either.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a somewhat disappointing sequel; much of the promise that was there following the Rise of Cobra is left behind as Cobra Commander is made far less interesting, and the characters somehow have even less development than before. But hey, there's always Snake Eyes, if nothing else. It might be a decent distraction if you enjoyed the first film, but otherwise there's little to see here. It's an okay "popcorn action film" and that's about it. Here's to hoping they get back on track for G.I. Joe 3.