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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: G.I.Joe: The Movie

July 24th, 2010

G.I.Joe: The Movie - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Back in the mid-1980s, there was a plan to release theatrical movies for several Hasbro brands, including Transformers, My Little Pony, and G.I.Joe. However, after the first two bombed, they decided to release G.I.Joe: The Movie as a direct-to-video release. Now nearly 25 years later, it is making its debut on Blu-ray. Have the years been kind to the franchise?

The Movie

The film starts with a big action scene with Cobra trying to blow up the Statue of Liberty, for reasons that never get explained. After the attack ends in failure, Serpentor blames Cobra Commander for this loss, and practically every loss in the history of the Cobra organization. When Cobra Commander looks to his underlings to back him up, Baroness and Destro take the time to stab him in the back. And for good reason. As shown in the cartoons, Cobra Commander is the most incompetent leader of all time. The arguing is interrupted when an intruder breaks into Terrordrome and uses a wide array of techno-organic weapons to take out the guards. Seeing this as his chance to get rid of Serpentor, Cobra Commander allows the assassin through, but it turns out she's Pythona, and she's not there to kill Serpentor, but to inform him of his destiny. And the first step to fulfilling his destiny is to steal the Joe's latest device, the Broadcast Energy Transmitter. Despite having an overwhelming numerical advantage, plus the element of surprise, the battle goes about as well as normal for Cobra. i.e., Serpentor is captured, the BET is safe, and Cobra is sent running. On the plus side, when retreating to their hidden base, named Cobra-La, they manage to capture a few Joes in the process.

With the Joes needing to protect the BET, guard Serpentor, and mount a rescue mission, they are in desperate need of new recruits, so they accelerate the training program and bring in six newbies. There's Tunnel Rat, an expert on infiltration; Big Lob, who looks like a basketball player and speaks in nothing but sports clich├ęs; Law is a member of the Military Police who works as a team with his police dog, Order; Jinx is a female ninja who has a reputation for bad luck, but is a master at blind fighting; Chuckles is the strong and silent type; while finally there's Lt. Falcon, the screw-up, and in a twist, he's also Duke's brother and they hate each other. Falcon hates Duke because he's never been able to live up to his brother, while Duke hates Falcon because Falcon doesn't really try to live up to his brother. In fact, we are introduced to the character as he's flirting with a woman who wants to see Serpentor's cell. It is so obvious that she is a spy, but neither he, nor anyone else figures that out.

Falcon screws up again, this time by leaving his post to flirt with Jinx, the Dreadnoks attack and free Serpentor, with Pythona's help. As a result, he's first arrested, and then sent to Sergeant Slaughter, whose job it is to whip him into shape.

The heart of the story is Falcon's arc from screw-up to potential hero, which is not a terrible core for a story. However, it's a little too blunt for my liking. It was too obvious that was what they were going for and they made him so unlikable that I didn't want him to have his moment of redemption.

Also, the more cynical out there could look at the movie as nothing more than a method of introducing a dozen new toys that kids would immediately ask their parents to buy them. It wouldn't be so bad if the characters were interesting, but I had to look up half the characters to remember their names. I only remembered Lt. Falcon because of the Falcon Punch internet meme. I kept calling Big Lob "Loblaws", which is a grocery chain up here in Canada. Shows how much of an impact his character made. At least some of the bad guys looked cool, while Cobra-La had a design that wouldn't be out of place in a horror film about ancient evils.

Additionally, there are some benefits from the film having a production budget more in line with a feature-length film than a Saturday morning cartoon series. There are more action scenes, which are better done, and some of the animation was impressive. Although this could be because I had low expectations for the animation going in and there were some inconsistencies in the quality level.

Overall, I think the film will satisfy any nostalgia craving hardcore fans of the show might have, but if you are not a fan of the franchise going in, you won't be won over by this movie.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with Buzz Dixon, who is credited as the story consultant, but did more than that. It's a good track, for the most part, and he discusses how he came to the franchise, how the movie came about, what changes were made, etc. He's not overly generous with his praise either, which is a selling point. On the other hand, there are a few dead spots that creep up here and there. Other extras include the final 8 PSAs not included on the Complete Series Box Set, plus an image gallery and a printable script.

The Blu-ray has all of this. ... Literally. It comes with the DVD as the second disc. However, there are no additional extras on the Blu-ray disc itself. (In fact, the printable script is only found on the DVD, but this makes sense since it is very rare for people to have Blu-ray players in their computer.) Looking at the technical presentation, it is safe to call it mixed. On the one hand, it does look better in High Definition than it does in standard, but that's not saying a whole lot for a movie that is barely a step above Saturday morning cartoon and there are problems with the source material as a result. The audio is clear, but that's as much of a compliment as I can give it. After all, it's in 2.0 stereo.

The Blu-ray does cost $7 more on Amazon, which might seem like a lot, since the DVD is only $13 to begin with. But it is like buying the DVD and getting the Blu-ray for just $7 more. If you are willing to pay $13 for the DVD, then spending $20 for the Blu-ray makes sense.

The Verdict

As I've mentioned before, when I grew up everyone I knew was either a fan of G.I.Joe or The Transformers, but rarely fans of both. I was a fan of The Transformers and now that I have G.I.Joe: The Movie and Transformers on DVD, I think I made the wise decision as a kid. On the other hand, fans of the franchise will likely enjoy it enough that it is worth renting, while if you are interested in buying, the Blu-ray is a better deal than the DVD.

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