G.I.Joe: The Movie (1987)
G.I. JOE: THE MOVIE
Review by Noel Wood
Yes, I realize that elsewhere on this site, there’s a casting call for a non-existent G.I.Joe live-action movie starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood. But many years ago, there actually WAS a G.I.Joe movie. It was animated goodness that only the folks at Marvel/Sunbow could bring to you. Yes, the same brilliant minds behind TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE also brought you the classic tale of A Real American Hero, fighting for freedom wherever there’s trouble over land and sea and air.
First off, G.I.JOE: THE MOVIE never made it as a theatrical release. It followed TRANSFORMERS by about a year, and was originally slated to be a blockbuster at the box office. Then TRANSFORMERS busted. Big time. Did just a little over one million at the box office. Wisely, the folks at Hasbro and Marvel decided to pull the plug on a theatrical release and debuted G.I.JOE: THE MOVIE on syndicated TV.
What a joyous day for yours truly. One fine day I’m sitting at home, probably enjoying a PBJ and some chips or something, and the local UHF station which ran all my favorite half-hours of animated goodness every weekday started advertising the debut of this feature presentation for the next Saturday. I was stoked. I got my VCR ready and made sure I got the whole thing on tape, cutting out commercials as I went.
Now G.I.JOE was a step down from the TRANSFORMERS movie in some ways. While TF:TM featured the voice talents of some of the biggest names both of the time and of all time, G.I.JOE boasted a cast of only three true celebrities: Don Johnson as Lt. Falcon, Burgess Meredith as Golobulus, and, of course, Bob Remus, the one and only wrestling sensation Sgt. Slaughter, as–who else–Sgt. Slaughter. It also didn’t have the “two years in the making” stigma that TF:TM had going for it. There were also no inappropriate expletives uttered in G.I.JOE, but that’s a whole other story. But it did bear some rather obvious similarities to its giant robot brother flick. For instance:
– TRANSFORMERS: Young, reckless warrior Hot Rod causes the spiritual leader of the hero team Optimus Prime to get tragically injured in a duel with evil foe Megatron.
– G.I.JOE: Young, reckless warrior Lt. Falcon causes the spiritual leader of the hero team Duke to get tragically injured in a duel with evil foe Serpentor.
– TRANSFORMERS: Reckless warrior Hot Rod learns from his lesson and winds up leading the hero team to their most important victory.
– G.I.JOE: Reckless warrior Lt. Falcon learns from his lesson and winds up leading the hero team to their most important victory.
– TRANSFORMERS: Traditional series foes the Decepticons are overshadowed by a new foe of unknown potential, Unicron.
– G.I.JOE: Traditional series foes COBRA are overshadowed by a new foe of unknown potential, Cobra-La.
– TRANSFORMERS: New hero characters Blurr, Kup, Arcee, and Springer are introduced while older characters fade in to the background. Arcee never gets a toy made in her likeness.
– G.I.JOE: New hero characters Jinx, Tunnel Rat, Big Lob, and Law are introduced while older characters fade in to the background. Big Lob never gets a toy made in his likeness.
– TRANSFORMERS: Evil leader Megatron encounters an evil force greater than he in Unicron and is transformed into Galvatron.
– G.I.JOE: Evil leader Cobra Commander encounters an evil force greater than he in Cobra-La and is transformed into a snake.
– TRANSFORMERS: Peripheral character Wheelie speaks in rhyme. Questionable authority figure Wreck-Gar leads a group of roughnecks known as the Junkions.
– G.I.JOE: Peripheral character Roadblock speaks in rhyme. Questionable authority figure Sgt. Slaughter leads a group of roughnecks known as the Rawhides.
No, the G.I.JOE movie was not the most original marvel of cinematic brilliance ever put out. But to a Joe fan such as myself, it was the best thing you could imagine. All it made me want to do was get more toys. Such is the name of the game when it comes to animated features that primarily exist as toy commercials.
But this sucker had me hyped. You see, G.I.JOE was basically my life as a kid. Transformers were great, and Legos were always a treat, but G.I.JOE was king. Nothing beats a price point of three dollars a figure when you’re ten years old. You see, Transformers were cool, but even the smallest ones were five bucks and they really weren’t much to write home about. The cool Transformers started at around ten bucks a piece, which is hard to come by when you’re a lad. Legos were expensive as well but my mom was more inclined to buy those for me because they challenged my creative nature or some shit like that. But G.I.Joe ruled all over my other toys. The figures were small enough to carry around without much of a fuss, and like I mentioned before, were cheap enough for me to grab tons of ’em. The vehicles were reserved for gifts, but the figures were all my allowance ever got used for.
So in the weeks following the movie, I pretty much had every figure in the movie, save for a few which I didn’t feel merited purchase. Take Slaughter’s Rawhides for instance. You had some Turkish former circus freak who growled a lot, an ex-lineman who was kicked out of the NFL and growled a lot, and a former Cobra Viper who growled a lot. Forget who these guys were today, it was all about who they USED to be.
And who they used to be was almost as boring as who they were today. Any group that could be led by Sgt. Slaughter is questionable anyway, but that’s another story altogether. But here’s the kickerthese guys, along with Lt. Falcon, infiltrate a Cobra fortress to find some information, wind up blowing up the entire thing, and – get this – they DON’T EVEN BRING WEAPONS. Talk about your overly heroic Gung-ho nonsense. My point? The Rawhides were figures I passed on.
Which brings me to Cobra-La. You see, the Rawhides were sold as a three-pack, probably at a 9.99 price point. On the flip side, Cobra did their own three-pack as well with Cobra-La. Included were Golobulus, Nemesis Enforcer, and Cobra-La soldier. Man, these guys sucked. Cobra was supposed to be an international Terrorist group. Now all of a sudden they’re the mindless minions of a prehistoric race of snake-people who confine themselves to the Arctic Circle. Who came up with the bright idea for that one. Certainly not Larry Hama, the veteran who wrote the bios and came up with most of the scenarios of most of the show/comic episodes. Hama was against turning G.I.Joe into a fantasy story. We had He-Man and Warlord and the Inhumanoids if we wanted fantasy or sci-fi. G.I.Joe was a MILITARY story. Nobody wanted to play with an action figure of an old man whose nether regions were the bottom half of a green snake and lived in a giant cocoon thingy. At least not to oppose Heavy Machine Gunners and Navy Seals and Paratroopers. So yeah, I passed on Cobra-La as well. I just had no need for a Golobulus action figure in my collection. Pythona was cool, but she wasn’t included with the Cobra-La three packs. There’s something about bald chicks who kick ass.
Why we got no Pythona figure is a mystery, but that all correlates to the whole “Use a movie to sell toys but don’t make toys out of characters from the movie” mentality that has forever eluded me. In G.I.Joe, Pythona and Big Lob were pretty important characters that never got molded in plastic. Whether or not they were intended to be is a mystery to me, but I never got to own a Big Lob figure to slam dunk my opponents. Of course, that didn’t stop me from using my Fridge figure and pretending he was the Lobber. And I would have probably purchased the Cobra-La three pack had they included Pythona instead of that stupid Cobra-La soldier. Think about the WISE marketing move Hasbro could have made (well, other than not swerving G.I.Joe in to the dark cavern of stupidity by insinuating that Cobra Commander was chosen by Golobulus to lead a band of prehistoric mutants disguised as a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world) would be to incluse Pythona in the three-pack and put the Cobra-La soldier on a separate individual blister card. I mean, you watch the movie and there’s thousands of Cobra-La soldiers. I was always in to buying multiples of the trooper characters,but if I were to want multiple Cobra-La soldiers I woulda had to have gotten the same number of Golobuli and Nemesis Enforcers. The same thing happened with TRANSFORMERS – Arcee and Unicron both get prototypes made but neither one of them ever gets a proper toy. But I digress – this is MOVIE criticism for the retarded, not TOY criticism for the retarded.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention. Duke almost dies in this movie. And apparently he was supposed to die in the original script until the writers came to their senses and realized that LITTLE KIDS WATCH THIS SHIT. They even had to edit in Scarlett saying how Duke “fell in to a coma” and inserted a feel-good sequence at the end where Duke makes it. Woulda been yet another similarity to TRANSFORMERS.
To this day, G.I.JOE THE MOVIE stays in my heart. Not quite on the level of TRANSFORMERS, probably only because I saw that opening weekend in the theater and never got it on tape as a kid so by comparison is still seems so much more elusive today even though both titles are available through Kid Rhino on VHS and DVD. Yikes. I sound like I’m shilling something now. Must mean it’s time to move on.
So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.