The Prologue

Everything during the 80s was the best. The movies, the music and especially for a kid growing up, the cartoons and toys. For me, none was better than GI Joe: A Real American Hero. I loved the cartoon and I loved the toys. Growing up though, we didn’t have much money, but I got a lot of them has hand me downs from my cousins.

It’s no secret that cartoons were used to sell toys to kids. That’s how many things got started like TransformersHe-Man and the Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats and even Sectaurs got a miniseries with toys. However, GI Joe wasn’t exactly in the same boat. Yes, they had cartoons and it propelled toy sales, but GI Joe toys were around long before the 80s.

GI Joe were originally created in the mid 60s by Stan Weston, who was a licensing agent. It was with these toys that the term “action figure” was first coined. Obviously they didn’t want to call them dolls… WHICH THEY’RE NOT!

The initial toys were made to represent the four branches of the US armed forces. There was the Action Soldier (US Army), Action Sailor (US Navy), Action Pilot (US Air Force), Action Marine (US Marine Corps) and later on the Action Nurse was added to the lineup.

At the time, the names of the toys were Rocky the Movable Fighting Man who represented the Army and Marines, Skip for the Navy and Ace Fighter Pilot was obviously for the Air Force. Later came the name to encompass the entire brand, “GI Joe.” It was inspired by a 1945 film titled The Story of G.I. JOE. It was about war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

Fast forward to 1982 and we have the relaunch of the GI Joe action figures. Of course this is also when the cartoon was brought in to help sell the toys. From there, GI Joe has had many iterations over the years.

GI Joe: The Movie

The year was 1987 and the GI Joe cartoon was in it’s prime. Toy sales were probably doing great too. So it seems natural they’d make a movie. The movie was supposed to be released before Transformers: The Movie, but there were production problems and the release was delayed.

It was also supposed to be a theatrical release, but Transformers didn’t do so well and so it was released straight to video. I believe it also appeared on TV, as a mini series. I want to say that’s how I first saw it, but I’m not sure. It’s very likely that my mom rented it from the video store.

Of course with the movie, they brought in new characters. Got to have new toys after all. They had some serious talent in the voice acting. You of course had actors reprising their roles; Arthur Burghardt doing the voice of Destro, Richard Gautier as Serpentor, Michael Bell voicing Duke. Some voice multiple characters.

Then there was the new characters. Peter Cullen did the voice work of Nemesis Enforcer (which was just growling), he’s best known for voicing Optimus Prime in Transformers. They also brought in some talent that were not voice actors for roles, like Don Johnson as Lt. Falcon and Burgess Meredith as Golobulus. There was a number of other new characters, such as Pythona, but I don’t think they ever made a toy of her. There was other new recruits other than Falcon. We got Tunnel Rat, Chuckles Law and (his dog) Order and of course Jinx. Talk about bad luck.

The voice acting is great and I could go on and on about all the voice actors and the characters they play, but I’m not trying to write a Bible here (hindsight being 20/20: OOF!). They took the making of this movie seriously and respected the audience, even if most of us were just kids at the time. The movie still holds up because of that.

GI Joe: The Movie never felt like it was just a long version of an episode of the cartoon. It stood on it’s own. Again this is due to them taking it seriously and wanting to make something real. It’s a lot more than I can say for a lot of movies based on TV shows. The movie explains Cobra Commander’s past, the evolution of our planet and the rise and fall of Cobra-La, who Golobulus is the leader of.

The plot is simple, Golobulus has these giant plant pods that will launch into space and he wants to cause them to erupt and send mutative spores onto all the humans of Earth, dooming them. Falcon is Duke’s younger half brother and he’s a bit of a slacker. Some bad things happen thanks to him thinking with his dick. He gets sent to train with the master himself, Sgt. Slaughter. Not the fat wrestler, well, yes that one, but in the cartoon he’s build like a body builder.

There’s one scene in particular to bring up and that’s when Duke falls into a coma after Serpentor throws a snake spear at him. I don’t know how the snake thing works, it’s never explained. Anyway, Serpentor finds Falcon surrounded by fire and throws the snake at him, Duke steps in front of Falcon and takes the snake in the heart. Originally, Duke was suppose to die from this, but it was changed to him falling into a coma. This takes away all agency from the GI Joes and Falcon.

The production was done around the time as the aforementioned Transformers: The Movie and as I said, was suppose to come out before. However, Transformers came out first and in that movie, they kill off Optimus Prime. There was a backlash for that and Hasbro took it into account when it came to GI Joe: The Movie. Instead of killing Duke, they have a simple line from Scarlett saying he went into a coma. Of course they didn’t want to add more animation, so they had the line said in voice over while focusing on Duke lying there dead comaing.

Long story short, GI Joe has to stop Cobra and the ancient Cobra-La and take out the spores in space to save humanity. It’s actually a really good plot, for being based on a cartoon series. It holds up great and of course there’s the theme song, which still totally rocks. It’s worth checking out just for that.

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this movie, it’s horrible in almost every possible way. It was roughly two decades after the animated movie that we get GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It was released in 2009 and feels a head of it’s time. Not because it’s good, but watching it again now, it fits right in with the social justice aspect that we see today in movies and TV.

Not only is almost every actor chosen for this movie completely wrong for their part, but there’s a number of race swaps too. Ironically Snake Eyes isn’t one of them. I was surprised this was made in 2009, because I was convinced it came out around 2015 at the earliest.

Channing Tatum (Channin Tadum, Chaden Tatun… whatever) plays Duke, which isn’t the worst choice. I like him, he’s a good actor for the most part, but he seemed out of place in general, then again the movie was made up of young beautiful people. It’s obviously what they were going for. Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord, which is the first to be race swapped. It’s not like GI Joe doesn’t have enough black characters. Why couldn’t they have made him Alpine? It’s not like Ripcord was a hugely popular character. I guess that’s the excuse?

Dennis Quad as General Hawk was the closest thing to an accurate depiction we got of any character. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander was completely off base. Not to mention them showing us who Cobra Commander was before he turned evil. Cobra Commander was always an enigma, that was part of the charm of the character. Sure GI Joe: The Movie explained his past some, it was just to show us how he related to Cobra-La.

That leads to the other problem to the characters, because it’s “Rise of Cobra” everything going on is still before Cobra is created and Cobra Commander is apparently a doctor. By looking at him, you’d think he was Dr. Mindbender, he even had a monocle. That’s until we see Dr. Mindbender is miscast as well and has a very small part. There’s no mystery whatsoever to Cobra Commander and it really takes away from the character.

I feel like I’m saying “Cobra Commander” a lot. Take a drink every time you read it.

I don’t want to get too bogged down into talking about all the issues with the characters, there’s more than enough to write ten articles about. I already feel like I’ve gone too far in depth about the characters,  they’re largely poorly cast, simple as.

The main plot is about nanomachines. I swear to God ever since they were a thing in the Metal Gear Solid games, they’ve been used more times than I can count in other mediums to explain away anything and everything in the laziest way possible.

The main use for the nanotech is in four warheads that Destro created. He’s a arms dealer and he sells the warheads to NATO. The idea is when you use the warheads, some millions of nanobots devour metal and other materials. They can destroy a tank in minutes and even destroy entire cities. He works with Cobra Commander whoops ‘Doctor Rex’ to perfect nanobots/nanomachines, whatever.

They’re also used in different ways with different reactions when injected into people. Cobra Commander uses them later with Zartan so he can change his features however he pleases and more hilariously he uses it on Destro for no reason, only to give him his metal face. Convenient.

Duke and Ripcord are apart of the convoy to deliver the warheads and are ambushed by not yet Cobra. Seriously, I don’t know why Cobra couldn’t already be a thing. This just adds to the stupidity of the movie. The GI Joes come in and save the day and Duke and Ripcord go with them for reasons to get them on the team eventually because it’s written in the script.

We learn that Duke and the Baroness were engaged right before he deployed with her brother, not yet Cobra Commander. Yeah, you read that right. I don’t know why they all needed to know each other beforehand, I guess for added fake tension between all of them and to make it seem like there was depth there for when making decisions. I don’t know, it’s all too incestuous for me.

Eventually Cobra the bad team get the warheads and plan to use them on the Eiffel Tower. Duke and Ripcord get to strap-on some multimillion dollar Power Ranger suits to try stopping the Baroness and Storm Shadow. Why Duke and Ripcord? Why not members of GI Joe that have been with the team longer and know more about what the suits, how they work? Because Duke and Ripcord are the main stars! That’s why!

Also, why are these suits a thing? My guess is because they want the movie to compete with the freshly starting out Marvel movies at the time. As far as I know, they’re not a GI Joe thing, but who knows, maybe there was toys like these suits in the mid 90s, used as a ploy to continue selling toys.

The CGI in this movie is terrible. I don’t remember it being so bad when I first saw it when it originally released, but I’ve tried to forget about it. Watching it again now and either the CGI was also bad or it has aged about as well as a block of cheese left on the dash board of a hot car in July. Sometimes it’s almost like watching the cartoon… if the animation of the cartoon were trashy.

Moving right along… Finally by the end we get to see the rising of Cobra (took long enough) as they’re defeated by the Joes. The other three warheads are destroyed in mid air, as per usual with movies. Cobra Commander and Destro don’t escape for a change.

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is horrible. It’s borderline offensive to fans of the toys and cartoon. They got just about everything wrong that was possible to get wrong. There’s not much of fan service here and what there is of it, it’s not done well.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

After watching GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, one might think ‘It can’t get any worse.’ Then we get GI Joe: Retaliation and this movie basically says ‘hold my beer.’ To be fair as possible, I do like this movie more than Rise of Cobra overall. However, it’s fails spectacularly over it’s predecessor in some ways.

First of all, they apparently didn’t learn from GI Joe: The Movie, because THEY KILL OFF DUKE. Within the first quarter of the movie they kill off the leader of the Joes. Arguably one of the most beloved characters. Channing Tatum wanted this, because he hated it and was only there to fulfill the contract. Apparently “he didn’t want to be shackled to [the] franchise.” So why not just cancel his contract and find someone else? The casting of both movies are already garbage anyway.

Speaking of casting, we get Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock, also known has Duke’s best friend. You might be thinking ‘but Shawn, I thought Ripcord was Duke’s best friend?’ Yeah, I thought so too. I don’t know why, I can’t imagine Marlon Wayans had something better going on. Then again, most of the original cast didn’t come back.

We also get someone as Flint that is poorly casted, not because he was bad for the part, but they played Flint young and fresh, when in the cartoon, he was right up there with Duke, maybe second in command. We also get Bruce Willis who played Joe Colton. Apparently a character that came in late as a mail-in toy in 1994. He was based on the 1964 version of GI Joe. He also made his way into the comic books (yes there’s GI Joe comic books). So I’ll give this character a pass, I guess.

Willis felt kind of shoehorned in, but that might be because he was originally not suppose to be in the movie. They wanted to have Sgt. Slaughter in the movie, playing himself. I don’t know how that would work, seeing in the cartoon he’s strong and built like a brick shithouse. The real Sgt. Slaughter is old and fat. He’s a great guy, but I don’t see how they would have worked that out at all. The reason he’s not in it is due to some conflict with toy licenses.

Zartan is back and still in costume as the President. He sets the Joes up and somehow makes it look like they’re the bad guys? The Joes go on a mission to capture some nuke warheads and while they’re waiting to leave, they’re attacked. This is where Duke eats it. The only survivors are Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Flint.

Somehow they spin this attack into saying the Joes did it, even though, they were the ones sent on the mission? I guess they say the mission wasn’t supposed to happen and the Joes worked alone to steal the warheads. The President started up Cobra as a special forces unit and had them kill off the Joes or so he thought.

Cobra Commander(drink!) is broken out of prison and Storm Shadow gets burned and heads to some snowy mountain area for some healing. It seems done in some witch doctor way, except for the lasers used. Snake Eyes meets him there with the help of Jinx. How did they know Storm Shadow was there? I don’t know.

I probably should have watched each movie, wrote about them and then watched the other. They blend together, much like the live action Transformer movies do. It doesn’t help they’re not good and so paying attention to everything is a chore.

Snake Eyes looks much cooler in this movie. He doesn’t have the fake mouth on his mask anymore. In Rise of Cobra, it looked like the Michael Myers mask with blackface. His armor this time looked more like actual tactical gear, the previous movie it looked like a left over batsuit from Batman Forever.

I really liked the ninja stuff in this movie, makes me want a good ninja movie. There was some really good action in this movie and the fighting on the side of the mountain was great. They capture Storm Shadow and get him to work with the Joes.

I think the main reason the action is better in Retaliation over Rise of Cobra is because the CGI wasn’t as terrible this time around. Sure, that’s like putting lipstick on a pig, but at least it didn’t come off like a cartoon. The explosions were all the same, but it felt like there were more practical effects.

Lady Jaye figures out that the President isn’t really the president and I found their way of doing this satisfying. She figures out words that he says as fillers while speaking and notices they’re different than from before. Also he holds his hands folded together differently now than he did previously. These are actual real tells you can see with people, so I liked how they worked that in. Of course they still had to prove it, so she sneaks into some fancy dinner the President is at and gets one of his hairs. They learn he’s actually Zartan.

Zartan, as the President then calls the world leaders together and blackmails them into destroying their nukes. Something I’m sure they’d actually do, but they play it up by Zartan firing off the US’s nukes and so everyone does. Apparently the world leaders just carry a suitcase with them to launch nukes. They all destroy the nukes while in air to keep from having a nuclear Christmas.

Zartan then shows that he has satellites in space, orbital kinetic bombardment weapons of mass destruction. As he says, all the fun of nukes without the fallout. He threatens to destroy all the world’s capitals if the leaders don’t submit to Cobra. While the satellites are getting into place, GI Joe shows up to stop it all from happening.

GI Joe: Retaliation is horrible and if you watch them like I just did, you might not be able to tell one from the other. In some areas it’s a more competent movie, but it makes a lot of the same mistakes as Rise of Cobra and even some worse mistakes. More care and respect went into a cartoon movie some 30 years ago than either of these movies combined.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Just like with The Conjuring retrospective I did, I feel odd about doing this one with this last movie just releasing not too long ago. What can I say though, that’s when the inspiration hits me I guess, at least for these first two.

Seeing as I’ve already reviewed Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins, I won’t say a lot here about the movie. It seems clear that once again, they’re basically rebooting the series with this movie. Retaliation was already apparently a “soft reboot/sequel” from Rise of Cobra. I guess Hasbro felt that seeing they’re making a “origin” movie, why not start fresh again and this time get it closer to what is canon. Even though, the movie still doesn’t do it completely right.

Snake Eyes is arguably the most popular character in the GI Joe franchise. Storm Shadow and Duke are of course probably up there too. So to that end, it makes sense to make an origin story about him. The problem is, Snake Eyes is a mysterious character. He’s a silent enigma and is as deadly as he is quiet. The movie takes that all away.

Now, I don’t know all about the back story of Snake Eyes, maybe in the comic books they go into such detail about his life before hand. At the end of the day, Snake Eyes is better when left up in the air about who he really is. If they wanted to start with an origin movie, maybe Storm Shadow or Duke. Maybe it should have been the origin of GI Joe.

The movie shows us some early life of Snake Eyes as a child, but mostly takes place after he’s an adult. Honestly I don’t know what age he’s suppose to be in this. I would assume early 20s, but the actor looks like he’s in his late 20s at best.

The movie is mostly about Snake Eyes training with the clan of his new found best friend Tommy (Storm Shadow), he struggles between wanting to be loyal to the clan that’s become his family and to doing the bidding of the man claiming he can lead Snake Eyes to the man he’s after. Revenge is a strong motivator.

The movie is very stand alone and arguably not at all attached to the previous two. As frustrating as that is, the movie as a whole is terrible. I felt like Snake Eyes as a character should have been more stoic. He seemed like he was ready to give finger guns at almost any given time.

Storm Shadow is the only character that I really liked, even though in some aspects, his motivations felt forced. Mostly due to the movie hinging on a bad guy that Storm Shadow hated and wanted to kill, who worked for Cobra. Doesn’t seem like he’d want to become a member of that same organization later in life. Maybe Cobra offered him punch and cookies.

The Epilogue

Another retrospective in the books. The live action GI Joe movies are largely bad and are a disservice to the fans, the franchise and the characters. I don’t want to harp on Hasbro so much, but they really seem to not know what to do when it comes to making live action movies. To be fair, the live action Transformer movies are horrible too. It seems Hasbro is just happy with whatever as long as it makes money.

I would have done something with the cartoon series, but I haven’t really sat down and watched the episodes in forever. That being said, if you are interested in watching the 80s cartoon series, Hasbro has a 24/7 live stream of it on YouTube. I sometimes turn it on to have in the background while working. It’s neat to checkout for nostalgia purposes.

It was fun looking back at all of this, even though the live action movies are all trash. At least now we know…

 

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