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I watched the Jarhead sequels so you don’t have to, and this is what I think

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The book Jarhead was something of a must-read for anyone looking to join the Marine Corps during the GWOT. It portrayed the Corps, the U.S. government, and even the author in a great light. The 2005 movie stayed fairly close to the book and provided an honest, somewhat cynical portrayal of Marine Corps life.

As a Marine myself, I can say the film and book do show some accuracies you don’t see in most war movies, for example, the dog and pony show of being a Marine, as well as the boredom that dominates an infantryman’s life. At the same time, the author is a total [expletive deleted] who we would have probably bullied in the Corps. Who steals someone else’s gear and sells it to a surplus store? Or who points a rifle at their fellow Marine and doesn’t immediately go to prison? I can’t believe the guy made it to STA Platoon if half the stories he tells about himself are true. I have my own problems with the author and the Jarhead book and film but that’s neither here nor there.

Neither the book nor the film is action-oriented. They speak of the horrors, randomness, and boredom of war. It’s not a gripping story of an invasion and the character never actually gets to do his job as a sniper in combative terms. It is just a sober exploration of life in the Marine Corps and during the Iraq War. With that said, today we’ll explore the three Jarhead sequels, which I watched consecutively, and their somewhat insane 90-degree turn away from the original film.

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Jarhead 2 – They’re Marines!

The Jarhead sequels maintain a focus on the Marine Corps but after the first movie, they instantly go from Sam Mendes-directed flicks into B-movie territory. The second film, Jarhead 2: Fields of Fire, really sets the entire thing up in a hilarious way.

This film takes place in Afghanistan and follows a group of supply Marines on a daring mission. The whole first part of the film is so utterly hilarious.

Jarhead 2 tries to continue the pessimistic narration and themes of the first film, but it falls flat. The film is crazy unrealistic, but we get golden lines like this…

“They’re supply Marines.”

“They’re Marines!”

Some supply guy got really excited at that.

I give the second Jarhead two beers out of six.

Related: Still in Saigon: How a Vietnam War song can speak to all veterans

Jarhead 3 – We’re security guards now

(Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Marine Corps operates the security forces that guard U.S. embassies throughout the world. Marine Security Guard is a fairly prestigious job with strict standards that a lot of Marines try out for. Jarhead 3 attempts to capitalize on these often underappreciated Marines.

Jarhead 3: The Siege stars martial arts, B-movie superstar Scott Adkins, with cameos from Dennis Haybert. Also, Lil Romeo is randomly in the film, so there is that.

The film follows a Marine security guard detachment that’s protecting an embassy under siege by terrorists. This is the best of the Jarhead sequels, but to be fair, that’s not saying much.

The film has a lot of action scenes, but the pessimistic narration and silliness of the other films are greatly reduced. Predictably it’s not a very realistic film, yet, surprisingly, the actors were trained to handle weapons, and there are several scenes of them doing so quite competently. However, the film still really embraces its B-movie and low-budget nature. I give it three beers out of six.

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Jarhead 4 – This time, it’s MARSOC

Jarhead 4: Law of Return follows a U.S. Senator’s son and former American fighter pilot, played by Casper Alumn Devon Sawa, who now flights for the Israel Defense Forces. However, he’s shot down and captured in Syria, and it’s up to a team of MARSOC Raiders to free him!

Listen, I won’t lie, I was like four hours and six beers deep into Jarhead sequels, and between playing with my phone and trying to watch the film, my memory is a little hazy. The Raiders team up with the Israeli Shaldag commandos to save Ronan from the villainous Ghost, a leader of an Iraqi terrorist group.

Does Ronan really need saving? Well, he fights off the machine gun-armed bad guys quite successfully with just a pistol. The movie has more goofy details: for example, be on the lookout for a four-star general with sergeant’s stripes on his uniform.

Interestingly enough, the first Jarhead could be considered an antiwar film, whereas Jarhead 4: Law of Return is very clearly propaganda.

In summary

Will I watch the next Jarhead movie? Depends if I have a beer in the fridge and nothing else to do. The first Jarhead is a fine movie: It’s competent, looks good, and is well-acted. The sequels are, well, terrible: They are schlocky B movies and not much more. I honestly wouldn’t waste my time if I were you unless you really need to punish yourself.

These are low-budget films that seemingly just capitalize on the Jarhead name. Name recognition is great, but imagine if they made direct-to-video sequels to Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now

Feature Image: Screen capture from “Jarhead 2: Fields of Fire.” (Universal Pictures)

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.