Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: The First G.I. Joe Movie

With the long-delayed sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation finally hitting theaters next Thursday, I kick off a week of Joe-related content here at Zaki's Corner by shining the Nostalgia Theater spotlight on the first G.I. Joe movie. Released in 1987, the animated G.I. Joe: The Movie marked the culmination and conclusion of the Marvel Productions/Sunbow Studios run with Joe that began in 1983 with a daily syndicated series that, coupled with the Transformers show, shaped the childhood of many a wee one while cementing the "Real American Hero" brand's bona fides.

While originally intended to go to theaters, the failure of the Transformers animated flick at the box office in 1986 meant the Joe movie immediately getting downgraded to straight-to-video (and as I mentioned in this post, that wasn't the only way The Transformers: The Movie impacted G.I. Joe: The Movie). What did hit video stores in '87 was a pretty weak affair all around. While I'm the last person to say the daily show was a bastion of storytelling logic, it did at least make a sop toward keeping one foot rooted in reality. Okay, "rooted in reality" is too generous, but you get what I'm saying.

All notions of quote-unquote realism went out the window, though, with the movie's introduction of Cobra-La, an ancient culture in the Himalayas from before the dawn of man (Cobra-La...Shangri-La...*ugh*), who actually started the Cobra terrorist group as part of a plan to kill all humans and eliminate all technology from the Earth (presumably this came as news to the human members of Cobra who were using, y'know, technology). Meanwhile, the "hero's journey" arc plays out with new recruit Lt. Falcon (voiced by Don Johnson, at the peak of his '80s superstardom), struggling under the shadow of big brother Duke.
Yeah, it's all kind of "whatever." It tells you something that this was the one and only appearance of Cobra-La (a placeholder name from writer Buzz Dixon that the geniuses at Hasbro ran with) in any iteration of G.I. Joe canon, as if they realized immediately what a horrendously bad idea it all was. Anyway, for as much nostalgic weight as I give the movie (I own the blu-ray, for goodness sake!), its redemptive merit rests almost entirely on the indelible opening sequence: three minutes and change of Joe-on-Cobra carnage the likes of which we'd never been witness to in three years of the animated show. Observe:

Though there were plans to continue on, G.I. Joe: The Movie was the end of the line for the Sunbow take on the brand. The toys continued on their merry way, and two short years later, G.I. Joe was back on TV in yet another animated show of significantly lesser quality which, to its credit, did try to pick up where the movie left off by resolving some of its dangling plotlines (read more of my take on that misbegotten venture here). You can watch the entirety of the animated movie online, but honestly you're probably better off sticking to the intro above and considering it mission accomplished.

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