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Movie Review: G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

Mar 20, 2013 7:31 pm
HeadAssClown By HeadAssClown
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During my interaction on the internet since the mid-90s, it has come to my attention that I am perhaps the world's biggest fan of G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987). In this review, I hope to spread that love to the new generation who may have come to know G.I. Joe by the live action movies or modern animated series. As I am someone who grew up with the classic 80s G.I. Joe cartoon and toys, has a passion for violent cel-animation, and has an interest in both sci-fi and military series, please humor me as I make a case for this movie's greatness.

It all started with the Sunbow G.I. Joe cartoon series which was released from 1983 to 1987. This is the series that introduced us to nearly all of the bad-ass characters which form the basis for G.I. Joe in all later incarnations. The stories written by Ron Freidman, Buzz Dixon, Cristy Marx, and others resulted in many timeless episodes. Future stars Bruce Timm and Paul Dini participated as a model designer and writer respectively. It stands as one of the elite animated series ever produced, even if it was partially intended to sell toys (but then again what isn't?).

In the minds of many then and probably still today, G.I. Joe was always second best to Transformers. When Transformers: The Movie (1986) did not do well at the box office, G.I. Joe: The Movie was instead released direct-to-video. My first knowledge of it was when I saw the commercial for a primetime tv airing, on NBC I think, back in 1987. At 5 years old, I was really excited and started to watch the film on the given night. It scared the hell out of me, and I didn't even make it all the way through it.

That was however the first time that I watched the amazing opening sequence where Cobra attempts to blow up the Statue of Liberty. That has to be one of the most inspiring cel-animated sequences ever, and you get to see nearly all of the Joes, including a few that maybe shouldn't have been there for continuity sake with the Worlds Without End two-part episode. I have never met anyone who doesn't like this scene, even if they don't like the movie itself.

To me, it just gets better from there. It seems that the vast majority of the 93 minutes is intense bone-crunching fights and battles. Keeping with the Transformers The Movie theme, the cruelty level is turned up a notch. It starts with a scene in the terror drome where, after Serpentor blames him, Cobra Commander says sarcastically, "Go ahead! Make me the scapegoat!". Trivially, this is a reference probably lost on most. At the end of the Arise, Serpentor, Arise! (Part 5) episode, Cobra Commander convinced Serpentor that he would be needed for use as a scapegoat when others realized that Serpentor was not perfect, and Serpentor answered, "For once, you are right."

The Pythona attack on the terror drome that follows is maybe my favorite scene, and it is beautifully animated in 80s Japanese style as is the rest of the movie. Yes, Pythona is indeed nearly naked during most of the movie, but she is some type of organically-mixed Cobra-La inhabitant as opposed to a human so I guess that makes it okay. Cobra-La is revealed to be the race that was behind Cobra the entire time, which pissed off some hardcore Joe fans who were more into the show for the military aspects. These fans are usually more likely to accept the Marvel comics Cobra and Cobra Commander origins instead. I personally enjoy sci-fi and think that the movie origins are way better, and the Cobra-La ice dome and flying creatures remind me of a story in the early issues of Heavy Metal magazine.

Golobulus, voiced by the late Burgess Meredith (Rocky's trainer), is introduced as the ruler of Cobra-La. He has a Roman Emperor arrogance and even Serpentor bows to him. Nemesis Enforcer is a brutal man-like creature with wings that does the boss' evil bidding, and then there are hundreds of those nasty royal guard things running around and ready to take a swipe at you with their scythes. Generally speaking, Cobra-La is not a good place for Joes.

As for the good guys, there are the five new recruits and Sergeant Slaughter's three marauders. Don Johnson (Miami Vice) provides the voice for Duke's half-brother, Lt. Falcon, as he tries to make his way as a Joe despite his habitual fuck-ups. He's always trying to get some just at the wrong time, and it leads to some major catastrophes. Sgt. Slaughter, who by the way is still occasionally appearing on WWE Monday Night Raw, and the marauders take him in and try to teach him what it means to be a real soldier.

Half-bro Duke on the other hand is not quite so lucky. I used to hate Flint and Duke when I was a kid, but after this movie, I just hated Flint because Duke fought like a man this entire film. The story goes that they wanted to kill him, but there were so many little kids crying at TF The Movie when Optimus Prime died, that they changed their mind. He stills gets it pretty good though.

That might explain why killing off G.I. Joes seems to be the new obsession of the latest tv and theatre releases. G.I. Joe Resolute was made by someone who didn't even know what G.I. Joe was, and he thought that killing them would somehow make his little 8 minute episodes better than the classic series. In some of its advertising such as at conventions, the disrespect that this blip of a pop-culture show gave to the voluminous, classically-written Sunbow series was truly laughable. Then, the 2nd G.I. Joe live action movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) with the Rock, is all about everybody dying. I think it is a bad gimmick, and it has outlived its usefulness.

Yet I digress, so anyway the battle royal at the end of G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987) is something that is not to be missed. I am always on the edge of my seat watching it, even though I've probably seen it 50 times, just very satifyingly violent and exciting. The only fight ending that I've ever seen in an animated production better than this is Cowbop Bebop, and that wasn't so much for the sustained excitement as it was for the art, heart trama, and music.

Hopefully, I've convinced you to at least watch G.I. Joe The Movie (1987) if you've never seen it. If you like the animated movies that Marvel and DC are putting out recently, with an adult audience in mind, you will probably enjoy G.I. Joe The Movie for the rush if nothing else. I personally enjoy a good animated fighting movie a hundred times more than a similar live action movie because the animated movie will always have crazier, more limitless fights. Animation puts an extra layer of art on the entire production. It removes the self-centered actors and lets you focus on the better aspects of the film. The characters are exactly who they were envisioned to be, not pigeon-holed into some actor's abilities or inabilities. Even more reassuring, they are not going to do a race-switch on Roadblock (cough cough Retaliation) or a gender-switch on Dial Tone (wtf Resolute)!

At this point, there's nothing left to say but....COBRA LALALALALALALA!


HeadAssClown is the mastermind behind the Brood Of Clowns circus. He created BOC as an alternative for people who aren't douche bags and dislike the typical stupid trash culture. In his free time, he enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and asian pornography. He has had sex with over 300 women and at least 50 snakes.

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