- Directed by Don Jurwich
- April 20, 1987
I recently rewatched G.I. Joe: The Movie and figured I would give it another review. Enjoy!
A new threat in the form of the ancient civilization of Cobra-La threatens to wipe out humanity and help the ruthless terrorist organization Cobra rule the world.
G.I. Joe: The Movie was done in the heyday of toy based animated cartoons. It was originally slated to be a theatrical release but the poor performance of Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie caused the powers that be to shift it to television as a five-part miniseries included with the syndicated cartoon.
The airwaves were filled with half hour commercials for the latest and greatest toys during the 80s. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was one of them that came along during that time. This movie was the culmination of the original animated run of the series (though it would be continued afterwards but not with the same creative team and it showed but that’s a story for another time).
This is perhaps one of the better, and definitely the more unusual entries, into the original G.I. Joe animation as well as giving an origin for Cobra Commander (Chris Latta) whose past was never alluded to previously as well as a reason why he formed the Cobra organization. It is an origin story along with a bizarre action-adventure movie. And it does not feel forced or unnecessary or packed.
In this film it is revealed that Cobra Commander was a promising young scientist who, after being disfigured (thus the mask), came from the ancient civilization called Cobra-La that once was spread across the planet but the Ice Age forced them to retreat until there was only apparently one city left-the city of Cobra-La. Man came to prominence and spread across the planet and developed technology which was in stark opposition to their organic-based technology. There is even a hint that their motivations are because our technology pollutes.
Themes of environmentalism? Not out of the realm of possibility for G.I. Joe. Though mildly so, it was one of the more topical animated shows of the time. In the series there were allusions to then well-known Middle East dictators and the ever-present theme of terrorism. The show also took jabs at individuals like Geraldo Rivera and even the idea that heavy-metal music could significantly affect people’s minds. But again, I am getting a little off track.
This was a very different foe for the Joes to face. A secret civilization where everything was alive. It was tinged with horror elements. Their leader Golobulus (Burgess Meredith) floated around in some kind of organic sphere with his lower half hidden (later revealed to be a serpentine). He had a bat winged strongman called Nemesis Enforcer (the legendary Peter “Optimus Prime” Cullen) along with a lethal assassin called Pythona (Jennifer Darling)
Their whole plan hinged on mutating spores which would fall from the sky and mutate humanity into mindless creatures with the implication at least to me that they would then be easy pickings to kill. This was the 80s and you just did not say you were going to exterminate people in a cartoon, but you could certainly imply it.
Cobra could always build the weapon in secret and deploy it but often they needed at least one item that had to be stolen which brought the Joes in and in this case that came from the Broadcast Energy Transmitter (or BET for short) which would be used to send an energy field to space to make sure these spores mature before they crash back down to the planet. You got a bit of irony there that this organic based civilization that viewed itself as a superior needed a bit of the cold lifeless technology that they disdained to make their plan work.
As was usual for the animated series as well as their multipart episodes the Joes were broken into smaller teams which allowed for good storytelling as well as introducing new characters which this story did. We have Jinx (Shuko Akune) who is a ninja (implied to be) trained by the Blind Master, military police officer Law (Ron Ortiz) and his dog Order (Frank Welker-the barking dog needed a voice actor), former basketball player Big Lob (Brad Sanders), EOD specialist Tunnel Rat (Laurie Faso), undercover officer Chuckles (who never says a word in the film), and Duke (Michael Bell) gets a half-brother in reckless Green Beret Lt. Falcon (Don Johnson).
At the minimum we also got a nice cross-section of the previous Joes in this movie. It was not just all about the new guys though they were significant in the finale because that is how the show worked. You needed to showcase the latest because Hasbro said so. Though not the latest, they showcased Sgt Slaughter (WWE wrestler Sgt. Slaughter whose real name is Robert Rudolph Remus) here. Sgt. Slaughter was a cheesy favorite of mine. He was the tougher than the toughest drill sergeant and was just a perfect character for this cartoon. He is alo one of the few real people to be turned into a character for the toyline.
We are introduced to a few other new Joes, referred to as Renegades, under the tutelage of Sgt. Slaughter when Falcon is court martialed for disastrously fumbling his duties of guarding the genetically engineered Cobra leader Serpentor (Dick Gautier) and sent there for reformation. They are ex-Cobra Viper Mercer (Kristoffer Tabori), former football player Red Dog (Poncie Ponce), and former acrobat Taurus (Earl Boen of the first three Terminator films).
The script isn’t just an action story but has some character moments where we get some expansion of Dukes family tree as well as a character growth arc for Lt. Falcon (which looked like he was to be the next Flint) who realizes his goof off ways just won’t cut it anymore when his brother gets severely injured protecting him from Serpentor who if Falcon had done his job would have been stuck in prison and the Cobra-La plan would have failed.
The scene that Serpentor pierces Duke’s heart with a snake is famous because originally Duke was to die then and there. After the negative reception of the death of Optimus Prime (who was later resurrected), Hasbro execs said “No”, so some new dialogue was quickly inserted that stated he was in a comma with dialogue added in the closing moments of the film that he had come out of the comma and would be okay. There was even supposed to be a funeral for Duke in the film though I am not sure if that was ever made.
The action in G.I. Joe: The Movie is great. That is especially true of the opening sequence were Pythona first breaks in to the Cobra Terror Drome (what is a “drome”?) which was possibly one of the coolest playsets of the time. It is a great fight sequence which also does a bit of foreshadowing as Cobra Commander inexplicably allows Pythona to pass by while leading the Cobra troops following in the opposite direction. The battles here were just insane and bizarre with jets and helicopters striking at strange flying creatures.
G.I. Joe came about when America by and large was feeling good about itself. We felt strong and powerful and that we were on the right track and this cartoon movie exemplified that. G.I. Joe exemplifies that.
The movie contains all the elements that made for a classic G.I. Joe adventure. A world threatening weapon. New and well-done characters. Great action and a great story. The visuals were amazing and the store was fast packed and jampacked without being overstuffed. Most importantly the animation still holds up today.
G.I. Joe: The Movie is a good finale for the original series run as well as being an interesting slice of mid-80s children’s entertainment. It is exciting and still looks good today. Watch it!