G.I. Joe The Movie (1987) — Yo Joe, don’t kill Duke!

“I was once a man. A man!”

Justin’s rating: I was once a mutant — a MUTANT!

Justin’s review: Pause for respect, please.

G.I. JOE is the code name for America’s highly trained special forces unit… wait, that’s a bald-faced lie. More like, the code name for the military nursery where various misfits in wacky outfits were sent to go work out their testosterone levels in the safety of minefields and the Middle East. G.I. Joe was so secretive and elite, in fact, that their base was large enough to be seen from the moon, and had gigantic cannons that only faced one way over a non-descript desert. While a drought of common sense runs through the outfit, Joes at least possess an intense bullheadedness that allowed them to leap off any vehicle at any altitude as long as it threw them closer to rapid-fire death.

COBRA is a terrorist organization that rarely terrorized anyone, unless a very gullible person with a weak heart condition honestly thought that COBRA was going to succeed in their latest hare-brained world domination scheme. Despite lacking unified leadership, a solid mission plan, or a battle cry that rhymed with “cobra,” the Boys In Blue had a few things going their way: billions of dollars worth of funds to throw away on ridiculous technological monstrosities, battle androids sophisticated enough to blow up if anything (including butterfly spittle) came in contact with them, and enough sinister laughter to go around for everyone.

Welcome to the movie match-up of the century, the ultimate fight to decide whether stupid evil or stupid good would win the day. A metaphor for my childhood, really, which was fortunate in that my friends and I worshiped at the Church of Yo-Joe for a couple years. G.I. Joe was the best thing to a young boy seeking to vent his aggressive tendencies in the pre-Grand Theft Auto era. We had posable dolls — ACTION FIGURES! — each with more small arms than Libya, and were encouraged to wage miniature war so long as we were “fighting terrorism” for the good of the country. You know, to this day I still haven’t gotten an appreciation card from America for all the plastic sacrifice I went through. It would be nice.

Before the namby-pamby wuss years of Captain Planet and its spawn, we had manly-men (and womenly-women) who didn’t fight for the cause of the ecosystem or puppy dogs but for the fate of the entire world! G.I. Joe was seriously one of the best cartoons of the ’80s, boasting some incredible (yet still borderline cheesy) animation that wasn’t afraid to ask an important question: would this scene be better if we added some neon laser bullets and massive explosions? Quite often, the answer was Yes, YES, a thousand times YESSSSS!

We liked G.I. Joe because you had a cast of hundreds of unique military people with specialized backgrounds, none of whom used the same weapons or ammunition (which was a major headache for both sides’ quartermasters). We liked it because they had pretty cool vehicles that made absolutely no sense in real life (the COBRA jetpack bubble chairs come to mind), but always had massive missile racks attached to them somewhere. We liked it because it taught us an important lesson to carry with us into adulthood. Namely, it was okay to fire guns wildly at bad guys and charge straight into the killing zone, since no one would ever get killed (except the aforementioned android troopers), and COBRA Commander was a big wimp anyway.

G.I. Joe The Movie is no masterpiece of animation — or even storytelling, for that matter. It concerns a new force of magical polar people called Cobra-La team up with COBRA to give the Joes a tough go of it. Since movies based off of popular TV shows have a rule that you must introduce new characters into the movie and feature them prominently, the G.I. Joe team gets the worst group of new recruits seen this side of Police Academy. There’s a ninja who can’t fight unless she’s blind, a Harlem Globetrotter (seriously), and a Lieutenant who lacks a single cell of responsibility in his entire body. Naturally, said Lieutenant will become the de facto leader of the Joes by the end of the film and lead them all to a pointless victory.

What sinks the movie isn’t just the new people or the horrid 10 frames of animation per second, but the tacky Cobra-La race. Skewing significantly from the military theme of G.I. Joe, Cobra-La wield very uncool animals (like fence-eating snakes and explosive slugs) as their arsenal and have this whole magical vibe going on. Cobra-La’s lame master plan revolves around spreading a spore fungus across the earth that would transform people into basic beasts… for some reason.

No kids were frothing at the mouths to get Cobra-La figures after seeing this movie, let’s just say.

G.I. Joe the Movie has many other odd distinctions, such as rewriting COBRA Commander’s origins (he was once a noble Cobra-La), killing Duke but not really (he obviously dies here, but some last-minute editing turns his Optimus Prime-style death into a “coma”), transforming COBRA Commander into a giant snake, and having the giant sand worms from Dune infiltrate the Joe fortress.

My personal favorite moment, however, was when one of the new Joe recruits decided to attack a tank by wrenching off a giant missile from the side of a vehicle, then throwing it, two-handed, at the oncoming tank. And, what do you know, it worked. This could revolutionize military forces everywhere as we know it; all soldiers should be issued big missiles and ordered to attack heavy armor at point-blank range from now on.

The only two types of people to see this film are either die-hard Joe fans who remember the show with fervor (like me) and want to let their inner child out of the subconscious closet for a brief while, or anyone who wants to have fun picking apart a film that’s just begging for a spanking. Still, we mock with love, because G.I. Joe was really one of the more imaginative cartoon series from the era which found a clever way to show large-scale violence but make it perfectly acceptable in a youth market.

Now you know. And knowing that is half the battle. THIS I COMMAND! Yo, Joe! COBRA, retreat!

Sue’s rating: Question: How do you know when it’s time to replace your writing staff? Answer: When they tell you that they’re just going to call the bad guys’ hideout “Cobra-La” until they think of something better — and then they never think of something better

Sue’s review: Please don’t misunderstand me. I loved GI Joe. I probably loved GI Joe longer than I should have and in a way that I find retrospectively rather disturbing. But since my sister had a thing for Smurfs well past the age of credibility and she’s three years older than I am, I don’t feel terribly guilty over it. At least the Joes were manly (even the women were manly) and clearly they were adult enough to have testosterone virtually oozing out of their patriotic little ears, bless their souls. Smurfs on the other hand, wouldn’t know testosterone if it wore its name on a black t-shirt and took Smurfette out to a monster truck rally. Smurfs don’t have testosterone. Well known fact.

Despite a rather strange beginning reminiscent of a rock opera developed by an anarchistically inclined choreographer, GI Joe The Movie tends to stay true to its formula of fighting Cobra, making the world a better place, and saving Timmy from the well.

The problem is that in order to stretch a half-hour format to feature length, the writers chose to borrow from other common formulas as well — leading the hapless Joes (who, lets face it, were never much for witty dialogue, except for Shipwreck, who rocked the house in the television series) down the slippery slope of excruciating cliché. This movie has everything from, “He’s my [half] brother and I promised our mother I’d watch out for him”, to “I was once a man!” to “I will be your eyes”. Ooooh, my fingers ache just from typing those. My personal favorite? “He took the snake meant for your heart, but his sacrifice will be in vain!”

As Justin pointed out, this movie also has the obligatory “new guys” who fulfill their own hackneyed destinies and stereotypes. Okay, except for the rampant homoeroticism between two of them which is frankly, just wrong. I mean, I’m as open-minded as the next person, but please gentlemen, not in front of the kiddies!

The best part of the movie though, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is everyone’s mutual objective, the broadcast energy transmitter. No, I didn’t do that right. Let me try again. The BROADCAST ENERGY TRANSMITTER Much better. On paper, it sounds like a bog standard cell phone tower, but when you toss it in all caps or let Duke get his baritone vocalization around it, it becomes something greater than the sum of its syllables. Ostensibly built to create affordable and portable unlimited energy for everyone (despite the billions of taxpayer dollars sucked into its development) the BROADCAST ENERGY TRANSMITTER is coveted by Cobra so that they can cook mushrooms in space and marinate mankind in neanderthal sauce.


The best thing about the BROADCAST ENERGY TRANSMITTER is that even though it has enough power to spontaneously jumpstart every vehicle in a hundred mile radius and it’s just about as bright as the last nanosecond of the Death Star, the Joe members standing right next to it don’t even have to wear safety glasses! Mind you, it’s entirely possible that endangered black rhinos in Africa burst like grapes and every kangaroo on the planet sprouted a pocket protector when this thing lit off, but such is the power of America — wait, AMERICA — that the Joes just pumped their fists in the air and performed their macho “Yo Joe!” chorus as the electrons (or whatever) bounced off their steroid enhanced physiques. Man, I really love that BROADCAST ENERGY TRANSMITTER. I watched the movie with my kids and made them shout BROADCAST ENERGY TRANSMITTER every time it appeared on screen. They are currently discussing when they can ship me off to a nursing home.

But moving right along, before the guys in the white coats show up.

My biggest complaint about the movie doesn’t have anything to do with tired dialogue or improbable Cobra fungi. My complaint is that they stuffed the best and brightest Joe of all, Flint, into a two line supporting role so that they could come up with some lookalike doofus with Don Johnson’s voice to take center stage. I mean, Lieutenant Falcon? Are you kidding me? He wasn’t fit to wear that beret! Maybe I took this a little too personally, but of any and all animated characters who I’d have liked to… share a cab with… Well, I really like Flint. Okay? I know he’s got something going on with Lady Jaye, but… oh never mind.

Despite my quibbling – nay, my hysterical braying – I had a blast watching this movie. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. Still, I don’t care how tough the Joes are; their movie has a soft wobbly underbelly just begging for evisceration and there’s not a thing they can do about it.

So shudder in fear as I throw my head back and scream the battle cry of the Joes’ sworn enemy. COBRA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA- oh never mind.

Didja notice?

  • Hilariously cheesy opening song… hey, I want my classic G.I. Joe theme!
  • I love how technology in the G.I. Joe universe is about 50 years ahead of its time
  • Forget bullets, I like firing my neon laser guns!
  • It’s all about the lasers and explosions, baby
  • So, is this the introductory song, or does it have to do with the plot of the movie? Just curious if they’re all posing an epic battle just for a snazzy new screen credit sequence.
  • Y’know, you’d think the ACTUAL military would show up at a major battle in New York harbor, but I guess they had the day off
  • Ya kind of wonder what the Joes did after they were done posing on top of the Statue of Liberty’s crown… “Hey guys, does anyone know how we get down?” “Is someone taking our picture, already? ‘Cause Friends is on at eight”
  • “Sgt. Slaughter as Sgt. Slaughter”… oh, give your ego a rest, already!
  • Does anyone believe in camoflague for their brightly colored military vehicles?
  • Why, that gigantic cobra/snake outfit really does have a slimming effect on you, sir! Does that snake have two heads and no tail, by the way?
  • COBRA Commander has a whole Gollum complex going on
  • Pythona doesn’t like knocking. Too bad for all the extras.
  • Hey, G.I.Joe has solved all energy problems forever! Good for them. They don’t act too concerned that all those yellow rays are flowing though their bodies
  • The one guy looks like he’s piloting his hovercraft with his feet
  • Aren’t they afraid they’re gonna run out of gas in the arctic? I don’t see any supply trucks.
  • I want a vehicle that you can pilot while laying down
  • Big shiny rocks can buy out anyone
  • Haha… “fang gang”… great term for COBRA
  • Everyone runs everyone, no walking for them!
  • Is one of the new recruits a Harlem Globetrotter?
  • Big Lob and Tunnel Rat share a way-more-than-friendly hug… Rat, why are your legs wrapped around Lob?
  • Missiles work just fine if you throw them by hand
  • I always had a thing for Jynx, must be the saucy scarlet outfit
  • Nice sexual harassment, Falcon
  • The ice age had a lot of huge icebergs exploding out of the ground
  • COBRA Commander’s origin
  • I can never get enough of COBRA troops fleeing in terror
  • Kids, now you too can speak like Serpentor! Just add the words, “This I command!” to the end of every sentence! This I command!
  • Ya gotta laugh when the ex-Viper spits on the scorpion
  • Sgt. Slaughter has a dinky little tank
  • Falcon is a pure idiot — he suggests that they infiltrate the Terrordrome WITHOUT weapons? What the heck?
  • Ooh, the infamous “slapping torture”!
  • It’s perfectly okay to ride on top of a helicoptor right underneath the whirling blades
  • When you’re crying and upset, it’s perfectly okay to say “yo, Joe” softly as the tears are streaming down your face
  • Sure, Duke didn’t die. Cause large metal spears through your chest are just a minor irritation.
  • The character of Big Lob was created for the movie, there is no action figure of him, nor is he in the comic books.
  • During the opening sequence when Pythona is breaking into the Cobra base, the audio during the part where the snakes chew the fence open is sampled from the climactic lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars
  • TIE Fighter sounds used for Cobra vehicles
  • When Pythona takes out her fence defeating snakes, they pose momentarily in the shape of a swastika. This is how you know she’s not a nice person, kids. Can you say, “Sub-li-mi-nal?” Say it with me now.
  • Nice opener. Fireworks, balloons, and some Cobra guy’s buttocks.
  • Is it just me or does the Statue of Liberty look sort of creepy in this?
  • Cobra Commander’s snow vehicle has those little orange safety flags on the back – just like kids used to put on their bikes!
  • Shades of Sean Penn! Cobra doesn’t like cameramen!
  • I have always wondered this. What is UP with Cobra Commander and his prissy little shoes? Does he practice ballet when he isn’t trying to subjugate the planet?
  • Uh oh. Once an American Flag touches the ground, it has to be ceremonially burned. Did no one explain this to Duke? I mean, isn’t he supposed to be the ultimate patriot type? So what the heck is he waving it around for?
  • Don Johnson, Burgess Meredith and Sgt. Slaughter. Somehow it’s hard to reconcile those three names together.
  • The red carpet treatment in Cobra-La is chock full of crunchy goodness!
  • You know the writers are really reaching when they name a character “Chuckles”.
  • So giant spores from space are going to transform people into mindless beasts? This changes things how? I mean, I’ve driven in rush hour in Chicago…
  • When Pythona starts waxing poetic about etched memories and fulfilling destinies and pulls out the sacred seashell of wonder, the last thing I expected to hear her say was “Behold! The Broadcast Energy Transmitter!”
  • Hmm. A giant, flying… grub. How very unaerodynamic looking.
  • Lt. Falcon how can a Flint lookalike be such a freakin’ slacker?
  • Serpentor slaps like toddler in a daycare scuffle.
  • Cobra Commander whines so much, that I bet there’s a Skywalker under that mask!

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