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GI Joe: Retaliation
by yo go re

How do you make a toy of the boring guy interesting? By giving him all the accessories. ALL the accessories!

Conrad "Duke" Hauser used an aerial attack drone to track down evil Cobra forces. The drone spots the enemy and Duke loads up with a full arsenal of weapons to launch an attack!

There remains a persistent rumor that the reason GI Joe: Retaliation was delayed nine months was to add more scenes of Duke, to cash in on Channing Tatum's increased celebrity. We keep saying that's baloney, for several reasons. Now, it's possible that it would take nine months to write, shoot, and edit footage that takes up, like, two minutes of screen time, but even if you ignore the fact that both Tatum and The Rock have denied going back to shoot any additional scenes, the Extended Action Cut of the film reveals that there were Duke scenes cut out of the movie! If the goal was ever "more Duke," they would have left those scenes in. So the simplest answer is the reason the studio gave (the delay was for 3D conversion) is the truth.

The figure's head is not new - it's the same mold used on the first Duke figure released, before the hiatus - but since that wasn't a very good toy, you probably don't own it. The sculpt is an improvement over the Stockard Channing Tatum O'Neal likenesses from the first movie, but the neck it's attached to looks a little too thin.

The body isn't very new, either. For the most part, it's the Cobra Shock Trooper that's showed up so many times now, just given new legs and lower arms to set it apart. Throw the movie-accurate vest that Flint and Mouse wore on him, and you've got yourself one very good looking figure.

The new pieces blend in with the existing bits very well. There appears to be some kind of technological device embedded into the fabric on his left forearm, he has a working holster on his right leg, thick kneepads, and rolled cuffs that hang down over his heavy boots. It's a very good look for a modern soldier, and even though the digital camouflage is more muted than it was on the early prototypes Hasbro showed off, this would still be a nice base for army-builder troopers.

Adding to that, the figure comes with a second head. The alternate replacement noggin almost makes him look like a Cobra soldier: it features a full helmet with a crest on the forehead, a pair of goggles with metallic red lenses, and a black mask covering the lower face. The only thing that isn't "Cobra" about this is that it's green instead of blue. And since it leaves the wearer fully obscured, you could buy an army of this figure and fill out the ranks of your Joes!

Of course, an army is boring if all the members look exactly alike, but Duke has an answer for that, too: like we hinted at at the beginning of the review, he comes with an arsenal that would put the saddest, most confused open-carry paranoiac to shame. We're talking a USAS-12 machine gun, a tactical shotgun, an HK G36, a blocky G36 bullpup rifle, a SOPMOD M4A1, a short barreled HK416, a Panzerfaust 3 (with just one grenade, not two), an AK-47, a VSK-94 suppressed sniper rifle, a small pistol, and two knives - one of which fits in the sheath on the back of his vest. Oh, he also comes with the A-Bravo half-head Pro-Tec helmet we've seen with several figures now.

And we nearly forgot! There's also the same military drone and machine guns that the Data-Viper came with! It's a different color, and has different markings, but what really sets it apart is that the wings are assembled facing the opposite direction. It's a minor thing, but it keeps this drone from looking like an exact copy of that drone, and that's a nice bonus.

I really wasn't looking forward to this Duke - I mean, come on, it's Duke; who cares about him? They didn't kill him off in the movie because he was popular, you know? But between the good likeness, the extra head, the detailed yet somehow featureless uniform, and the utter barrage of weapons he comes with, he's damn impressive.

-- 07/04/14

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