Monday, May 30, 2016

G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

Today is Memorial Day, so it's not big shock that I'm covering this. But, what might actually shock some of you who see my more liberal minded views towards things is that I am a massive G.I. Joe fan. Growing up, there were many different things I loved, but G.I. Joe was number one with a hail of bullets. The concept, the stories, the characters, the codenames, the Chris Latta...I loved it then and I still love it all now.

Especially the Latta though. So regal, so majestic. He can command me any day.

Now, I will also admit another thing though: most of my love was forged via the filecards and comics more than the cartoon itself. Yeah, there's no getting around the fact that the cartoon of G.I. Joe was one of the hokiest things on TV. But that isn't to say I didn't eat it up either, because the truth is I watched it often. Especially if it was one of the more truly insane episodes, like the episode where some members got stuck in an alternate reality where Cobra ruled everything and the Baroness was a brokenhearted heroine. Not to mention that time the Joes had to fight Russians over the Seal of Alaska so that America could keep the state.

Then there's the time a radioactive Snake Eyes fought off a giant fucking polar bear with a radioactive canister. Jesus.
It was a truly unforgettable cartoon series because of how batshit it got and that is beautiful. As such, there is definitely an expectation for the movie made back then to fit that lofty theme of pure unadulterated insanity. Did the very first G.I. Joe movie manage that task? Well, I could just answer you now, but that's no fun. Let's strap on some combat boots, fire off some red and blue lasers, eat some Action Stars cereal, and take a long hard look at the first time G.I. Joe (almost) graced the silver screen.

"You will laugh at the forthcoming snide remarks! THIS I COMMAND!!"
The movie opens up in quite the epic fashion, as we see Cobra launching a massive attack on the Statue of Liberty all while a Cobra theme song plays over the carnage. But it all leads directly into an equally massive ambush by G.I. Joe, who clearly were ready to ruin Cobra's day. It is, by far, one of the best openings to a movie ever. It's action-packed, features some great animation, and has so many damn characters squeezed into it that it's startling. It all ends with Cobra being foiled in suitably badass fashion and the heroes all posing, as they tend to do after such feats of badassery are wrought.

I have the most patriotic boner right now. Seriously, a tiny flag just emerged from my urethra.
From there, the movie's actual events unfold, as that whole opening was just there to make everyone immediately become fully erect from how amazing it was. We go to the Terror Drome on Cobra Island as there is a battle for leadership of Cobra between Cobra Commander and Serpentor. Now, this is more of a verbal battle, as Serpentor could probably break the cartoon version of Cobra Commander into pieces rather easily. This is a man who is cloned from the greatest leaders and warriors in the world and throws literal snakes at his enemies like javelins. You don't fuck with a man like that unless you're in a similar league. Best way to find out if you're in said league is to ask the man himself.

"You're not."
There you have it. Things aren't really going the Commander's way either as all of his trusted lieutenants keep coming forward and outright shaming him for his many failures. If this were the comic, Cobra Commander would repay that kind of thing with locking them in a burning tomb, because dude was brutal as fuck in there. Here though? Yeah, he's a bit of a loser. It's part of his charm though. Anyway, the whole thing gets interrupted as a mysterious intruder breaks in and, seeing that they're clearly heading for Serpentor, he feigns loyalty to him and leads everyone away from the Cobra emperor. One short fight later, said stranger reveals they have come to guide Serpentor towards his true destiny.

Personally, I think he's just in it for the mysterious stranger's baps.
Jokes aside though, Pythona points him towards the Joe's newest do-dad, the Broadcast Energy Transmitter (or B.E.T., if you're nasty). And where are our heroes testing this important thing? In the Himalayas, because that somehow makes sense to bring your new experimental invention for fighting terrorism to a remote wintery environment. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, shit.
So, after we see Cross Country lead the Cobra forces directly back to the others, because he's just so dependable, the battle is on as the Joes face off against the Cobra soldiers in defense of the B.E.T., which even leads to the Cobra forces getting routed and Serpentor getting captured. Cobra Commander, clearly seeing his moment to get rid of the competition, orders a full retreat. To where? Well, probably to some cave or mobile fortress or something. I mean, it's not like there's a hidden insect/snake person society in the damn Himalayas...

God dammit.
Yeah, an army of snake/insect people show up from out of the ground, take most of the pursuing Joe contingent down, and when Snow Job tries to escape a large motherfucker named Nemesis Enforcer shows up and rips open the tank Snow Job is in, manhandling him with very little effort. It becomes clear Cobra Commander is very familiar with all of this as he approaches Nemesis Enforcer like some old buddy...and promptly gets bitch-slapped. Something tells me they're not as friendly as CC thinks they are.

"Did I say you could talk to me, nerd?"
Back at the Joe HQ, we get to see Beachhead training some new recruits he refers to as Rawhides, which includes a very tall basketball playing grenadier called Big Lob, an MP named Law along with his dog Order, a kunoichi named Jinx, a small EOD specialist named Tunnel Rat, and a big strong silent type called Chuckles. Fun fact: Chuckles, while being portrayed in this film as a human tank, is actually more commonly know for being an undercover intelligence guy. Nothing says spy like behaving like Lou Ferigno on the set of The Incredible Hulk. The final member of the Rawhides is not present though, as he is our defacto slacker of the film, Lt. Falcon. He's Duke's little brother. You remember Duke, right? Blonde hair, tends to be seen leading the Joes into battle a lot, people who've only watched the cartoon assume he's banging the hot redhead?

Bad news for the Duke/Scarlett shippers: she likes radioactive ninjas more.
But let's go finish looking at those kooky Cobra-La shenanigans. Some of this is going to be paraphrased out of order, but fuck it. The Cobra forces get acquainted with the leader, Golobulus, and he tells all about how a brilliant young man from their society was sent out into the world to conquer it for them, because they've got a serious mad-on against us hairless apes. That man was, of course, Cobra Commander, and he failed impressively by their standards, so they planted the seeds of inspiration into Dr. Mindbender's brain so he'd build them a true conqueror with Serpentor. Blah blah blah, they spray Cobra Commander with shit that makes him start turning into a snake over the course of the film, because he's too silly for their cause. And also because it means we get to hear Chris Latta stretch those long s's out. And, while I will admit he's fairly useless as a leader in the show...dude is ripped. Like, the uniform rips off and you see stacks of muscles.

Someone must take frequent trips to the swollnasium.
Now, before you get distracted by the fact he has no nipples, let's get on with the juicy bits. The whole Falcon being a slacker thing comes into play in a big way when he sneaks his date into the restricted place he's at and we get to see afterward that she's actually Zarana of the Dreadnoks in disguise, taking pictures so they can bust Serpentor out. And out they bust him too, resulting in some critically injured Joes and Falcon facing a rightful court martial because he was supposed to be on guard while he was instead trying to get some ninja booty.

He's not very successful, just so you know. She ends up with a samurai member of G.I. Joe later on. Yeah, not kidding.
Duke bails his idiot brother out of the jam, but he's still facing consequences, which means he's off the Rawhides squad (which will probably help Beachhead's blood pressure) and he's sent instead to the Slaughterhouse. Why is it called that? Well, it's the place hard cases get sent to. It's their last chance to prove they've got what it takes under the harshest of circumstances. Oh, and it's ran by a guy who is probably very familiar to wrestling fans, Sgt. Slaughter. Here, in his introduction to the audience, is the single greatest quote in the entire film. This one quote makes the whole movie justified in existing if for no other reason than to facilitate said quote.

"There's only two ways out of my command! On your feet like a man or in a ditty bag...an itty-bitty ditty bag."
Not even gonna lie, I love Sgt. Slaughter. The man is a literal superhero soldier in here and it is beautiful to behold him in every frame he's on screen. Every single line he says is quotable. He truly makes this movie. His recruits are Red Dog (a former football player ejected for playing way too rough), Mercer (a former Cobra Viper), and Taurus (a former acrobat who seems a bit on the crazy side). They welcome Falcon by making him hoof it back to the house on foot and show him that he's not getting kid gloves but that they also won't let him quit either. The group ends up going on a mission to Cobra Island where they learn of a pending attack to steal the B.E.T. and they set out to warn the Joes and get the hell out of there. Falcon proves himself a true member of the group and earns Slaughter's respect along the way too by letting Serpentor beat the shit out of him without breaking.

Not to mention this happening, which gets a nice payoff later on when the Sarge gets a rematch.
Serpentor's forces launch their attack on G.I. Joe to take the B.E.T., which they intend to use to makes spores explode in the Earth's atmosphere that will cause all humans to mutate into horrible creatures, and everyone shows up to tear shit up. We get to see the Rawhides kick some ass, Slaughter and his boys get some, and Duke takes on Serpentor to protect an injured Falcon. This all ends pretty badly though, as Serpentor tosses one of those snake javelins of his in Duke's chest and he falls into a coma. Now, here's an interesting note that I referenced back in another review: Duke was actually supposed to die here. I could almost understand them being so tone-deaf to think kids might be alright with robots dying, but this? Duke is essentially the main Joe. He's the defacto face of the team and they were all set for him to die brutally here in a movie aimed at kids. Wow. But after the backlash over Optimus Prime dying...among the many other deaths...they rewrote this bit so he was "in a coma".

I'm sure he'll be fine. It's only a gaping chest wound.
Following this it is then decided they'll launch an attack with the majority of their forces on Cobra-La, but that turns out to be a bad idea. Why? Well, Roadblock, one of the Joes that's been stuck in a cell there, has the lowdown on all of that. We're going to breakdown what happened to him while all of these things were going on: you see, they all broke loose and tried to make a break for it, but Cobra Commander stopped him as there are these big plants that seem to literally grab and absorb people into them. Eugh. So the two of them try making it out the back way but Roadblack ends up getting blinded along the way by Nemesis Enforcer and, as they wander through the snow, CC continually mutates into a snake until he's not even recognizable humanoid anymore. It's actually kind of sad, even though him repeating the same thing over and over again as his mind goes is quite amusing to me.

Tragedy amuses me sometimes. I'm a terrible person like that.
But yeah, he finds help and radios in about the plant things but it's too late, as they've eaten moire Joes. Luckily though, the cavalry arrives and blows up the damn things, revealing the Joes are all alive within. They all get up and join in the attack, Slaughter gets to beat the shit out of Nemesis Enforcer, Jinx gets to ninja Pythona's baps, and Falcon gets to take on Serpentor and Golobulus. They rig the B.E.T. to overload, destroying both it and the overloaded spores in space. Our heroes get to have a badass escape, Cobra-La blows the fuck up, and we get an offhand message that Duke totally pulled out of his coma as Jinx and Falcon pretend they're a couple now.

Again, pretty sure she's banging a samurai on the reg.
Now, yes, I glanced over some bits, like the Rawhides really just making Beachhead's life really unpleasant by not being bothered by him in the least, but I covered the main beats here. We've got our hero's journey as Falcon grows up from slacker to soldier, our motivation towards that growth in the form of his relationship with Duke, we've got compelling villains who are all interesting, and secondary characters get a pretty solid focus alongside our clear main lead. Overall, it's a very solid movie that still holds up, even with the silly bits. Hell, the silly bits just make it better. As I said, Sgt. Slaughter is especially great in here and he gets a solid bit of focus, even as a secondary character to Falcon's leading man status. Robert Remus is, as always, perfect in the role and he's impossible not to like as he repeatedly wails on Nemesis Enforcer at the end, declaring each blow is for a different person before saying the last one is for "the U.S. of A.!" before saying that he makes him sick. God damn, that is satisfying.

I could literally sit here and watch this for hours.
Sadly, this movie didn't actually get the big screen release it was made for due to the backlash over the whole Optimus Prime death thing scaring them away from it altogether. Because of that, it went straight to video, making it a clearly theatrical quality animated film that never got shown on a theater screen. That breaks my heart as a fan of the franchise, because I look at the G.I. Joe films that did make it to the silver screen and I just...yeah, I'm not altogether happy with how things have been handled. I will be talking about G.I. Joe some more in the near future too, so you've got that to look forward to. For now, I'm just going to leave you with my recommendation to see this movie in all of its splendor. It's worth every second. Later days, bleeders.

By the way, yes, Cobra Commander's face is covered in eyes. I still have no idea why.

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