Monday, August 2, 2010

GI Joe (Animated) Movie Review

Today's review is about a guilty pleasure of mine. A movie that's so epic in it's badness that it's totally awesome. The original animated GI Joe movie, a movie that is the exact polar opposite to the Transformers animated movie. While the Transformers movie was loved by the fans and became a central part of the series' mythos, the GI Joe movie was shunned like the embarrassing friend you act like you don't know when you're in public with them. Never spoken of again after the movie, this is a oddity in a show that's about the elite special forces of America battling against a terrorist organization (back when terrorists were fun) that wants to rule the world. Read on for the review...and as usual, beware spoilers!

The movie begins with a flashy show of the GI Joe title, then the camera angle lowers down onto Liberty Island, where we see the villainous Cobra invade, attempting to take over the Statue of Liberty. As some snazzy music plays, you are treated to actually some really well done animation. Sadly, this is just the introduction title scene, just to introduce the premise. It's a pity the best part of the movie has nothing to do with the story itself.

So after the great opening, we see the movie start out at Cobra Island, where we see the top brass of Cobra arguing over the repeated losses of Cobra to the Joes. Cobra Commander, seeing a chance to try and gain some cred with the rest, blames Serpentor for their failures, but the others turn on him and it ends up with CC having to defend himself from all the charges Destro and the others make. Serpentor himself has harsh words for Cobra Commander, which leads ol' CC to scream and rant that it's all lies and he's a good loyal member of Cobra.

All the while this is going on, a shadowy cloaked being with snake-like eyes (seriously, you expected anything else for mysterious eyes?) is breaking into the Cobra base, taking out guards and making it's way past the defenses easily, using various organic devices to make it's way deeper into the base. The top brass of course say that they must deal with the intruder, because there is no Cobra without Serpentor (which begs the question, what was Cobra before they made Serpentor? Was it Rattlesnake? perhaps Garden Snake?).

In any event, Cobra Commander sees this as a chance to be a backstabbing little snake (it's a PUN!) as he leads the others to find the intruder and deal with him, when in fact he saw the intruder down a hall, and leads the others in the wrong direction. Starscream would be proud. The intruder makes it's way to Serpentor, which he claims none may challenge (seriously, his way of speaking is far more annoying than Cobra Commander's hissing S slur). But it turns out that the intruder is a strange looking lady come to help Serpentor fulfill his destiny. This leads me to another problem I have with the movie....the new villains, Cobra-La (original name there) are the same as the Star Wars villains called the Yuuzhan Vong, even down to their design, just look:

And the new villains of Cobra-La also have bio-technology, just like the Vong, and it's just as lame. But anyway, moving on. The lady is named Pythona (oooo, how original!) and she's showing Serpentor that they need to steal the BET (Broadcast Energy Transmitter). This switches us over to the next scene in a winter wonderland where we see a large group of armed Joes guarding the BET as they begin tests on it. Somehow the BET's ability to transmit energy allows them activate and control machines at a distance. Not sure how that works, but hey, it's a kid's show. This does however lead us into one good thing about the movie, the action scenes. Cobra launches an attack to capture the BET and the Joes struggle to counter attack.

Taken out of context, the action scenes are alot stronger than in the context to the overall story. During the course of the battle, Serpentor is knocked out and taken prisoner, and Duke uses the BET to activate remotely alot of artillery weapons that were left undamaged on the far side of the battlefield. This causes Cobra Commander to take charge and order a retreat deeper into the mountains for safety. The Joes decide to split their forces, sending some after the Cobra while the rest take the BET and Serpentor into custody.

Deeper in the mountains, Cobra Commander leads them into a place with large missile-like shaped plants, which the Joes lead by Roadblock follow to and attack. It's here we get to see the soldiers of Cobra-La attack with their Xena-inspired "Lalalalalalalalala!" battle cries, which you will hear alot. The Cobra-La soldiers, and their big non-snake named thug-bat man named Nemesis Enforcer make short work of the Joes, taking them captive, then turn on Cobra, which the Commander tries to run away.

After everyone is taken captive, Pythona hires the Dreadnoks to find out the best way to spring Serpentor from the clink. They're easily bought off with a large Rupee that Pythona stole from Hyrule. The scene shifts to the Joe HQ (complete with an American flag flying, so we know the Joes are the good guys). The Joes decide to send a group to find the missing ones lead by Roadblock, the BET will be moved to a high security facility while they continue to guard Serpentor.

Due to being undermanned, the Joes decide to advance the training of a group of rookies called the Rawhides. We're given a bunch of cliche characters, the only two that matter is Falcon and Jinx, the others just have a moment in the montage training scene (which we get to see that they're all insane). After that, we see Falcon, who skipped the training to be on a date, is showing his blonde girlfriend the all the security details of that max security is all recorded by Zarana, sister to Zartan, the leader of the dreadnoks. So now they have all the info they need to bust Serpentor out.

So next scene we see that Falcon has abandoned his post to hit on Jinx, because he thinks his greasy schmoozing will attract her. During his idiocy the dreadnoks attack with Pythona and Nemesis Enforcer, and we see three MUCH better characters get wounded as Serpentor is freed. The one good thing about this scene is the commander of the Joes, General Hawk, orders Falcon be confined to his quarters until his court martial.

After a that nice scene of battle, we get more Cobra-La madness. Seeing a Cobra-La to their kingdom, we see the leader of Cobra-La, Golobulus (who is voiced by Burgess Meredith, which is awesome). They roll out the red carpet (which is a box of crabs that make a path you can walk on). They meet, plot and ready to go after the BET again. But before they do that, they have to have the trial of Cobra Commander! DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN!!!

Then we get a scene I would have liked to seen more expansion on, the court martial of Falcon. They pretty much say he's not worth a second chance, but, plot twist, Duke is Falcon's half brother and asks for mercy, so they send him to the 'Slaughter house'. Scene switch back to the crazy peoples land and we see the trial of Cobra Commander, which is actually exposition and backstory. To tell this tragic tale, they use an item call the 'Web of Remembrance'....I call it, "Web of Convenient Exposition without having to think to hard how to explain our backstory". So we see that everything history tells us is wrong, Cobra-La stretched across the planet, they  were awesome...blah blah blah, ice age, they expanded...and huzzah! We have the time when a young noble who is blue skinned is disfigured by spores, grows extra eyes...and is made Cobra Commander and sent out to take over the world for the glory of Cobra-La.

This whole flash back bothers me because we've seen Cobra Commander's skin and eyes before...and it doesn't match the movie...and ....ugh. It's a major story blunder to be sure. Anyway, he's found guilty, blah blah blah, they expose him to spores which begin to turn him into a large snake. Scene shift again! Falcon is dropped in the middle of nowhere and we get introduced to my favorite character: Sargent Slaughter. Yes, the wrestler is a Joe. He is as macho as they come in the show, and he's funny as can be. Only the evil colonel in Avatar matches his macho manliness.

He introduces his own soldiers, more macho cliches, and they make Falcon run to the Slaughter House while the rest ride off on their vehicles. Because they're manly.  Switch back to Cobra-La, Roadblock and the gang escape, only to get recaptured, but Roadblock, who gets blinded by batman, is guided by the semi-snake Cobra Commander, an interesting idea that could have used more scenes as you watched his transformation and the slipping of his mind.

And plant missiles shoot into orbit and will eventually release spores to devolve mankind into mindless animals and really, it's all silly. They need the BET to ripen the spores, so yeah, the MacGuffin is given a reason for WHY they need it. Yadda yadda, Joes need to know what's up with Cobra, so they have Slaughter and Falcon and the background filler sneak into the main Cobra base. They're so manly, they destroy it. But not before they have the most brutal torture scene ever seen in the movie as Serpentor grills Falcon for information.

Seriously, Serpentor says that Falcon can't hold out against his light taps on the cheek. Falcon sells it though, so...yeah. Slaughter and the guys escape, Cobra vows revenge, and take off to get the BET, more pew pew times! The next battle is well done, but it isn't the best since you now have Cobra-La planes and creatures attacking as well, takes away from the cool military battle that could have happened.

The main thing of this battle is when Falcon and Slaughter's group arrive to help, Serpentor engages Falcon in a battle, and uses one of his snakes to try and spear Falcon in the heart, BUT, Duke takes it instead, saving Falcon. Also, Serpentor now has the Cobra-La battle cry of, "Cobra-La la la la la la la la!" It's amusing!

Amazingly enough, taking a snake to the heart only puts you in a coma instead of flat out killing you. This is due to the fact that the backlash against the death of Optimus Prime lead to them pulling Duke's death, you can tell that this was meant to be a death scene with how everyone is reacting. Remove the "He's in a coma" remark and it's a death scene.

Back in Cobra-La the BET is delivered and they begin the ripening process on the space spores of uber doom as Roadblock finds the team sent to find him, they are able to fix his eyes (maybe they had an Esuna spell?) And they try to warn the Joes attacking Cobra-La, but they get trapped (man, special forces top of the top, yet they get captured all the time). So this causes the new recruits to go and save all the highly trained experienced soldiers. By this time Cobra Commander is totally snake and nutty and slithers off (don't worry, he'll get better).

The rookies team up with the remaining Joes, free the rest of the team and we have the big final battle. This means we get to see all the characters in the show who didn't have a line, they fill in the background and beat up the bad guys. However, Burgess Meredith isn't finished yet, and summons forth the creatures of Cobra-La to attack...which are big bugs, it's like that scene in King Kong with all the giant bugs.

The Joes fight off the bugs as Slaughter, Falcon, and Jinx make their way to the palace for the final battle. Best part of this battle is that Slaughter takes on the manbat, and it's awesome to see him lay the smack down on Nemesis Enforcer. Jinx takes on Pythona, kicks her butt, and then Pythona jumps into a pit to her death, Slaughter follows up by chucking the bat guy into the hole like a piece of wadded up tissue.

During all this, Falcon is fighting with Serpentor, and one of his snakes is trying to strangle him, but Cobra Commander shows up and saves Falcon. Falcon then grabs Serpentor's cape and gets it caught up in the fan of his chariot (Incredibles was right after all!). Of course, then Burgess Meredith enters the fray and takes on Falcon himself.

After stabbing Meredith in the eye, he's able to destroy the spores using the BET to fry them in space, then sets the thing to overload to destroy it and Cobra-La. Meredith escapes and is never mentioned in the cartoon again.

So the Joes are enjoying their victory, random radio call to say Duke is out of his coma, movie ends, credits roll, we get awesome instrumental version of the opening theme now. End of one of the odder experiences of my childhood.

This movie is silly, to the extreme. It has it's moments, the opening theme is great where the Joes and Cobra battle on the Statue of Liberty. The battle scenes in the movie are well done. Slaughter is just a delight to watch as he plays the most macho Joe around. Cobra-La is just a silly thing to introduce into a show that had nothing like it before, especially with the history of Cobra Commander. Unlike Unicron and the Matrix for the Transformers, Cobra-La was shunned and forgotten, heck, Serpentor himself is turned into a lizard in the episodes following the movie and forgotten as well.

In the end, I think the movie is good for a laugh.

My final score: 3/5

I'll let Roadblock have the final words:


  1. Nitpicks: Yuuzhan Vong and Xena came later, I'm sure you know, so you can't rightly say they inspired Joe. "Sergeant" is how it's spelled, and "a lot" is two words.

    Otherwise good review and humour, especially the Zelda reference :) Good point about the badass action scenes being better out of context. I hadn't thought of it that way. This movie should have been great, but Cobra-La man, what were they thinking (or drinking)?!