Case Number 19213


Shout! Factory // 1987 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // July 5th, 2010

The Charge

The original G.I. Joe movie as you've never seen it stunning High Definition!

Opening Statement

The original conclusion to the classic '80s animated series takes a bow on Blu-Ray! Is it worth a "Yo Joe!" or more of a "Hell no!"

Facts of the Case

After a failed campaign in the Himalayas, Cobra retreats to a secluded grotto where we discover the origins behind the world's most evil terrorist organization. Meanwhile, G.I. Joe must break in some new recruits, including the undisciplined Lt. Falcon (Don Johnson, Miami Vice).

When "Cobra-La" makes their move, G.I. Joe must fight for their lives, and at least one member of the elite team may not be coming home.

The Evidence

G.I. Joe: The Movie has long had something of a notorious reputation. Much like its brother, Transformers: The Movie (which shared a production company, writers, actors, and staff), it's often considered to be the moment where an awesome line of toys and cartoons went completely off the rails. Nothing upset pre-teen fanboys more than the introduction of a freakish 4000-year-old insectoid civilization called "Cobra-La;" the true founders of the Cobra Organization, with Cobra Commander one of their inhuman agents. After two seasons of goofy but entertaining action adventure shows, this fantastical leap was just a bit too much for many people to swallow; G.I Joe fighting giant insects and inhuman snake-men? That's just going too far. Doubly disgusted by the film were those of us who grew up with the toys and Larry Hama's amazing Marvel Comic, which ignored many of Hasbro's more "fantastical" elements, and for a time in the mid-1980's was actually Marvel's best selling title. Hama not only created a sizeable majority of the characters, but he wrote funnybook tales about a G.I. Joe team that was set in a more realistic world, and a Cobra organization that had real motives and a more competent ruler. G.I. Joe: The Movie was hardly the opus one might expect if they were used to rival Ninja clans, Vietnam veterans, and Cobra sleeper agents populating a Midwestern American town.

Going back 24 years later, G.I. Joe: The Movie is a surprisingly entertaining affair. When you're not concerned about new, lame toys, or how uncool the cartoon was when standing toe-to-toe with the comic book, what's left is a straight-forward adventure ride. Cobra gets the lion's share of the screentime, while G.I Joe is given a few new recruits to deal with. Lt. Falcon is essentially our focus in the film, as he comes to grips with his wild lifestyle and learns what it means to be a Joe.

The screenplay, as it stands, really amps up the same sort of stuff you expect from the first two seasons of the cartoon; which means one-liners, heroic speeches, a lot of battle cries, and more than a little moral grand-standing. It's definitely handled a little better than your average episode, and there's a slightly larger scope to the proceedings that definitely makes it feel more theatrical. No, it ain't as out and out awesome as The Revenge of Cobra, but really, what is?

The cast, most of which is held over from the show, does a fine job with your favourite characters, but the celebrity additions are a mixed bag. Don Johnson doesn't add much to Falcon, coming across as smarmy and unlikeable, meanwhile Sgt. Slaughter (as himself) delivers about what you'd expect from a pro-wrestler, which suits his role in the show just fine, and Burgess Meredith (Batman: The Series) eats scenery as Cobra-La ruler, Golobulus. He takes a character who is about as lame as it gets and makes him truly awesome with his great delivery.

There's definitely fun to be had here. If you've only recently rediscovered the show with Shout Factory's season releases, this one is practically a must. It's funny how a quarter of a century can erase intense disappointment and hatred.

G.I. Joe: The Movie looks great on Blu-ray. The 1080p AVC transfer is colourful and vibrant, and while there are definitely instances of dirt and dust on the print, probably a result of the animation cels themselves, this film has never looked better. The widescreen version appears to be a slightly cropped version of the fullscreen print, though this matted version is likely how the film was originally intended to be shown theatrically. The sound however, is more of a mixed bag. The 2.0 Stereo track is full of hiss (and no, it's not Cobra hissing either) and some scratchy distortion. Dialogue sometimes comes across as muffled as well.

The best of the extras is an incredibly informative audio commentary by G.I. Joe Story Advisor Buzz Dixon. While not exactly a mile a minute, Buzz is clearly a fan of the work he did, and has a lot of fun talking about his experiences on both the show and the movie. There is a ton of trivia dropped here that will appeal to fans of both G.I. Joe and Transformers, like how G.I. Joe: The Movie was directly responsible for the death of Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie. It's a great track that's well worth the listen.

The only other extras are a DVD version of the film (in fullscreen) and a collection of Public Service Announcements held over from the series.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As much fun as one might have revisiting G.I. Joe: The Movie, the uninitiated should probably stay far away. The plot makes little sense, there's not a lot of characterization, and the blue and red lasers that our teams spew at one another seldom hit much of anything. You're better off tracking down a copy of G.I. Joe: Resolute.

Closing Statement

Worth the price of admission if only for the fantastic audio commentary with Buzz Dixon and the awesome 3 minute opening sequence. It's no more ridiculous than the rest of the classic cartoon series, in spite of its bad reputation. If you own the rest of the series, you might as well complete it. Now let us pray that the DIC-produced seasons never see the light of day.

The Verdict

The movie itself may not have been what G.I. Joe fans wanted, but the treatment here is certainly not guilty!

Review content copyright © 2010 Steve Power; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 78
Audio: 55
Extras: 55
Acting: 68
Story: 65
Judgment: 75

Special Commendations
* Top 20 Review Debuts: #8

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* PSAs
* Art Gallery

* IMDb