Monday, July 2, 2012

From The Archives: YO JOE!!!

In this world there are good movies, b-movies, bad movies and movies that are so bad they’re good. Of course creating a definite list of what’s what is very hard since any movie’s classification depends entirely on the individual opinions of its audience. Still, there are some movies that in a given setting are pretty easy to rank.

For instance if you were to play this!

... for the crowd that made Sex In The City a hit, you’d probably get more frowns than cheers. The same would be true if you showed Sex in the City to any other audience besides the one mentioned above.

The fact is there are some movies that just don’t go over well with certain crowds and the results are usually predictable. Slasher films resonate well with younger audiences as opposed to older ones, and people who have a habit of following Pat Robertson (much like myself) are more likely to watch Christian movies than the crowd who gets a kick out of George Carlin.

There are, however, some movies whose love/hate relationship with certain fanbases out and out puzzles me, which brings us to the real point of this little article.

G.I. Joe the Movie was released to Blu Ray and DVD in a remastered special edition last week from Shout! Factory!!!

G.I. Joe: the Movie is largely regarded by fans with either general contempt or uneasy appreciation. There’s a certain stigma attached to it, but the why of that matter is a bit hard to to understand.

The most common argument I hear is that the movie is too unrealistic. It pits the United States Armed forces against an army of Snake Men from a hidden nation in the Himalayas called Cobra-La. The movie also gives an unsatisfying origin to Cobra Commander revealing him to be a bizarre freak of nature who ultimately turns into a large snake by the movie’s end.

Most of the mainstream Joes are sidelined by the appearance of new characters who aren’t half as interesting and the familiar villains of the cartoon are downplayed in favor of the surprisingly bland residents of Cobra-La. There’s also outrage over the fact that movie was originally going to kill Duke, the Joe's field commander. This idea was scrapped before the movie’s initial release by a line of dialogue that tells everyone …

“Duke’s gonna be a-okay!”

Now, I could accept all those reasons as legitimate criticism if not for the fact that Transformers: The Movie (which was released the same year) committed every transgression the Joe film did and more! Yet despite a legendary outpouring of early rage, the Transformers animated feature outing has since gained cult recognition and a fairly decent following.

Transformers the Movie killed Optimus Prime along with Star Scream, Iron Hide and half the characters who made the original cartoon worth watching. Not only that but it also sidelined established heroes and villains for newer, trendier, and ultimately inferior characters. It also incorporated a fair amount of screwball humor that G.I. Joe: the Movie had the dignity to avoid.

For instance, in the Joe Movie, the bad guys don’t hold trials where they kill you for being innocent just to prove how ultimately evil they are, Sgt. Slaughter wasn’t reduced to an idiot and then refitted as comedy relief like Grimlock and the Dinobots were, and none of the new Joe characters tried to pass off speech impediments for personalities.

Both Blur ...

... and Wheelie ...

... were ultimately doomed to that abysmal fate.

Now all that being said, I like Transformers the Movie. In fact, I like it better than G.I. Joe: the Movie, but that’s only because it has a more unified story, better pacing, and better guest voices. Sorry but as much as I love Mickey, I'll take Orson Welles over Burgess Meredith any day of the week.

Despite all its flaws, G.I. Joe the Movie is a fast paced action story with everything thrown in but the kitchen sink! It’s fun, funny, and has the best opening of any animated movie I’ve ever seen! The first three minutes of this film get my blood pumping harder than any six testosterone charged action flicks I can think of!

And yes, while the story is a bit silly (Snake Men and all that) it’s nothing that the show hadn’t covered before. Keep in mind that in the actual cartoon both the Joe and Cobra forces were used as pawns by the ancient Egyptian gods, Cobra used fast food restaurants to fire missiles at America, and in one infamous Christmas episode Destro used a shrinking ray so Cobra troops could sneak into the Joe base disguised as gift wrapped toys leaving the Joes to chiefly retaliate through Shipwreck’s parrot Polly who gets blown up to gargantuan size by the self same raygun.

G.I. Joe was many things: at times serious, at other times silly, sometimes poignant, sometimes jaded, but it was always opinionated. The writer’s personalities really show in their individual scripts and because so many episodes were being produced at once it was nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page. As a result, I think the single best description of the cartoon is ‘uneven’.

There’s not much unity in terms of subject matter, content, or mood. But one thing most episodes have in common is that they are good. The silly bits are uproariously funny in the same way Adam West was everytime he’d strap on his grey leotard; the serious episodes are often dramatic reaching a kind of social commentary that was rare in cartoons of the day; and the action oriented episodes were spectacles unlike anything American children’s television had ever seen before!

So it’s likely that a film based on a show whose greatest strength was division would not please all audiences when it was finally released. Fans of the silly antics are going to be left out in the cold and fans of the realistic aspects of certain episodes will be sorely disappointed. But while G.I. Joe the Movie cannot be all things to all people, it is not bad for what it is.

The production was troubled. Most of the movie’s story concepts came from the mind of the regular series’ writer/story editor Buzz Dixon. But even so, a lot of Buzz’s original (and far superior) ideas were scrapped by the higher ups. Other drafts were written and abandoned except for a few bizarre ideas that would later shape the scope of the existing movie.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’ve heard bad things about this movie or if you’ve never heard of it at all, for what my opinion is worth, go check it out. It’s worth watching! Heck, it’s worth owning!

Not only that but the film comes with an audio commentary by Mr. Buzz Dixon himself! I know Buzz and let me tell you something, that's worth the asking price alone!

For those of you who are interested in checking this title out, here’s a link to where you can buy it at

And for those of you interested in learning more about Buzz Dixon, check out my interview with him here!


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