Saturday, March 30, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Movie 2013)

I've been hanging out with my amigos being a mildly disruptive presence with both beer and rum. This week however, a few of the regulars couldn't make it and a very irregular did. So with that rare crew in tow, we went and saw G.J. Joe Retaliation in Imax 3-D.

The evening started off with some fast food at Dear Franks. It used to be, I believe, You Lucky Dog You but... times change. It's a good place for burgers though and their seasoned cheddar fries are fantastic. After we dogged down that food, we ran over to the Half-Price Books. I had a box of used paperbacks and cooking magazines to get rid of. While they don't pay you anything for them, well, hardly anything, I figure it's better than tossing them out right? Plus a 10% off coupon! I wound up picking up about ten $1.00 CD's. I figure it's cheaper than buying the single MP3 song I want right? Like Peter Gabriel Security for $1? Oh yeah.

My amigos headed off to Best Buy. Honestly, I rarely have any use for Best Buy. It's not that it's not a neat store but with a possible move in the future, the only thing I'd be interested in, a computer, laptop to be more specific, isn't on the menu. I'd already hit up the music so I was good there and well, movies are taken care of by Nexflix. So instead I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and picked up some material for the kitchen and some snacks. Very manly eh?

They called from the theater. Apparently Best Buy wasn't for them either. Who would have known that a place known for selling DVDs and CDs wouldn't be entertaining to a group of 40 year olds? Anyone? Bueller? The Imax tickets are a bit more expensive than the regular ones but I was glad to see the glasses were very light. Hell, I was more surprised that the theater was only modestly filled. It wasn't empty by any means, but there were seats in every row. I don't know if that's because word got out about what type of movie it was, the extra price of the glasses, or what have you but hey, I'm a fan of the only partially crowded theater.

The Show was supposed to start at 7:00 PM. It started, after reviews and special peaks and lord knows what other type of mind control, about 7:20 PM it finally started.

I'll be discussing some specific spoilers so if you don't want any of that, read no further. If you want a thumbs up or down, for me, the 3-D experience, my first, was a bit strange. The movie wasn't bad. The costumes were good. Many of the fight sequences and action sequences made good use of the environment but a few of the scenes were too CLOSE to the characters. If all I can see on that massive Imax screen is a dude's elbow swinging, you're doing it wrong. Difficult to enjoy the cartography of the fight if you know, you're just seeing some blurry crap. Some of it does require a massive brain shut off, but it's G.I. Joe and if you didn't know that going in...


1. The Outfit Makes The Man: A huge part of the appeal of a movie like G.I. Joe is how the characters look. In the first movie, we didn't really get to appreciate Cobra Commander or Destro's unique features. In Retaliation, Cobra Commander is here looking like a semi-modern day Darth Vader with the heavy breathing and all. Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes also make their appearances and look impressive. One of the new characters, Jinx I think her name is, initially looks like a complete Electra rip off.

Oh well, it's not like it's a bad look or anything right? Still, the visuals can be an important part. I have several friends who bring illustrations of popular characters to get across the point of what their characters look like. Games Workshop and back in the day, the guys doing Confrontation, put a lot of time, effort, and money in the visuals which have had huge payoffs. As a GM, don't be afraid to scrounge around for such tools.
2. The Characters: This may sound strange, but to me, the first movie had a much larger 'feel' to it. Don't misunderstand me, the stakes here are equally high if not more so, but by cutting down the cast to a smaller level, there is a bit more focus on the specifics of the characters. In many ways, a role playing game is set up like this to begin with as the characters being the main focus of the 'story' if you will.
3. The Toys. Stormshadow, Snake Eyes, Jinx, and Roadblock, all have very distinctive weapons. You know when they're in the room. King Arthur and Elric, among others, also have very famous weapons. Giving characters distinctive weapons, sayings, and other bits that cement them, like the Thing's catch phrase, "It's Clobberin' Time", can give characters quick recognition both for the players and when specific NPC's are in play. Some of Batman's most famous villains have specific 'calling cards' that they use to torment Batman. When the players see such a calling card, they may be aware of what the problem is while others don't initially know.
4. Killing Them Softly... Well, okay, not softly. I mentioned that they were able to focus on a smaller cast here, and they do that by essentially killing off all the other characters in the start of the film. If you're campaign is getting so clogged with characters and back stores and other bits that its no longer fun for you or the players, never forget the Godzilla option. A big shake up can provide the characters reason and motivation to keep adventuring when things may seem to be at a point where that's no longer necessary.
5. Action Sequences: There are a wide variety of action sequences that occur here. One of them involves Snake Eyes and Jinx kidnapping Stormshadow in a snow covered treacherous mountain region while being chased by the Hand, I mean, Cobra Ninjas or something. They use numerous zip lines across various mountain ranges, bouncing back and forth with swords clashing not only at each other, but the equipment allowing them to navigate these paths. It gets into one of the things I think 4e tried to do more than most editions of Dungeons and Dragons, and that's make the environment a part of the combat. If there are opportunities to bring the background into the game, use them.
6. Introducing New Characters: When I was running the Shackled City in my 3.5 days, well, fatalities were not unknown. It can be difficult to bring in new characters ahead of time. In theory, the G.I. Joe setting is rich with history. In this case, they bring in  General Joseph Colton (aka Bruce Willis) one of the original Joe's so to speak. In a campaign that's long in the tooth, the characters may have many allies and friends, and those allies and friends may have patrons or associates who can be used to do a logical fill in when necessary.
G.I. Joe Retaliation is a no-brainer at best, but it's one filled with enough explosions and glamour to provide entertainment for its run.