Sunbow Productions/Marvel Productions (1987), Shout! Factory (July 27, 2010), single disc, 93 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 & 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $16.97


Cobra and G.I. Joe meet up in the ultimate showdown when Cobra and their new allies from Cobra-La join forces to steal the Broadcast Energy Transmitter and conquer the Earth.

The Sweatbox Review:

G.I. Joe has become somewhat of a reference for 80s action animation series. Along with a handful of other shows, the series managed to become a pop culture icon with its action-packed episodes and memorable characters. Hasbro, which launched G.I. Joe, had already experienced success with The Transformers and My Little Pony television specials and miniseries when they came out in 1984. The shows were a success both in ratings and in terms of toy sales, which was somewhat of a surprise since the brands were completely new to American audiences at the time. When G.I. Joe came out the following year as a miniseries, it was Hasbro’s first attempt at re-launching an established all-American brand complete with a modern cartoon show. For G.I. Joe, the first miniseries was a relative success, which led to another miniseries and later a full-fledged series in 1985.

Success for G.I. Joe also led to a full-fledge theatrical film. At the time, Hasbro was teaming up with producers to release some of their successful cartoon properties in theaters. First came The Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie both in 1986. While G.I. Joe: The Movie had originally been scheduled for release that same year, production delays caused it to be delayed for a 1987 release. However, the mild performance of its two predecessors at the box office caused the producers to rethink the idea and instead release the show on home video. The movie would be later cut up into segments and released on television as a five-part miniseries. The critical reaction to The Transformers movie also led to some quick script changes relating to the show’s original ending. Today, while the show was never released in theaters, it still is remembered nostalgically by some as one of the more memorable television-to-film releases that came out of the 80s. While not as fondly remembered as The Transformers movie (which it will always, and perhaps unfortunately be compared to), the movie did have some of its own dedicated fans.

The main conflict of the show begins when Cobra Commander and Serpentor begin to argue about the direction of the Cobra organization. Serpentor accuses Cobra Commander of being a coward and of leading the organization to its numerous failures against G.I. Joe (accusations that are actually more than justifiable). Meanwhile, a mysterious woman breaks into their headquarters and tells a story that radically changes the G.I. Joe universe by introducing Cobra-La and a new back story for Cobra Commander. The woman, Pythona, tells the story of how Cobra-La was responsible for the creation of Serpentor (via Doctor Mindbender) and that he is now ready to take over the Earth. Together, they will team up to capture G.I. Joe’s latest super device, the Broadcast Energy Transmitter (BET). Meanwhile, high in the Himalayan Mountains, the Joes are testing the latest device designed to solve the Earth’s energy crisis when they are unsuccessfully attacked by Cobra. Retreating further into the mountains, the Joes follow Cobra to the ancient fortress of Cobra-La. Fighting the Cobra-La army, the Joes realize that they are going to need new recruits in order to defeat Cobra and their new allies.

Back at G.I. Joe training camp, we are introduced to some of the six new recruits including a Green Beret named Lt. Falcon, a female martial arts expert named Jinx, a military policeman named Law, an infiltration expert named Tunnel Rat, an undercover specialist named Chuckles, and an athlete named Big Lob. We quickly learn that Lt. Falcon is Duke’s rebellious half brother who has a hard time taking the training seriously. When Cobra infiltrates G.I. Joe headquarters because of Lt. Falcon’s recklessness, he is sent to train with Sgt. Slaughter (voiced by the actual professional wrestler of the same name) and his Renegades. The Renegades are made up of an ex-Cobra viper named Mercer, an ex-football player named Red Dog, and a circus acrobat named Taurus. Falcon then becomes one of the focal characters in the movie as he tries to redeem himself to the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, back in Cobra-La we are introduced to the Cobra-La leader named Golobulus, a half snake/human hybrid, who tells the story of Cobra-La and how they want to rid the world of all humans. As he tells the story, Cobra-La is an ancient civilization who used to rule the Earth until the last Ice Age when they retreated high into the Himalayas. They are masters of bio-organic technology and are furious at the humans who have polluted the world with modern technology and complete disregard to the environment. Golobulus also reveals the true origin of Cobra Commander as a Cobra-La nobleman who was working for Cobra-La to advance their agenda and remove any obstacles in their quest to reclaim the Earth (including getting rid of G.I. Joe). This is important as Golobulus is furious with Cobra Commander and accuses him of incompetence and for failing to do his job. Much like Falcon, Cobra quickly tries to figure out a way to redeem himself and perhaps get back at Golobulus for this humiliating turn of events.

With all of the moving parts firmly in place, we are treated to a final showdown when Cobra-La mounts their second offensive to obtain the BET. They want to use the BET device to shower the Earth with spores that will mutate mankind into creatures that can be manipulated by Cobra-La. Meanwhile G.I. Joe struggles to figure out how to infiltrate Cobra-La and defeat their bio-organic army of soldiers and technology. It ultimately comes down to the castoffs of both groups (Lt. Falcon and Cobra Commander) to find a way to redeem their reputation as the epic battle finally takes place. Much like in The Transformers movie, the fate of one of the show’s main characters also hangs in the balance (although the outcome is reportedly different from one found in the original script).

Is This Thing Loaded?

Shout! has actually done a good job at including some good special features on this DVD. The bulk of the special features are made up of eight original Public Service Announcements from the original television series that were endorsed by the National Child Safety Council. I was unable to determine whether some of these announcements were from when the movie aired as a miniseries on television (unlikely for all of these since there are eight of them). The eight PSAs are “It’s Better to Tell the Truth” (with Flint), “Have Your Eyes Tested” (Ripcord), “Running Away Leads Nowhere” (Shipwreck), “Eat Smart” (Lifeline), “Remember to Wear Helmets for Projection” (Cross Country & Beachhead), “False Alarms are no Joke” (Barbeque), “Don’t Judge People Until You Give Them a Chance” (Gung-Ho), and “List to Yourself” (Flint again). These can be played individually or together (4:03 total).

In addition to the eight PSAs, there is an art gallery, full audio commentary with story consultant Buzz Dixon, and the original movie script available as a PDF on the DVD. The art gallery is made up of twelve images featuring character designs, movie posters, and background shots from the movie.

There are also multiple trailers available when the disc first plays including trailers for the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero television show on DVD, The Transformers TV show, Oban: Star Racers, and The Middle Man.

Case Study:

G.I. Joe: The Movie is being released in a standard transparent keep case with a cardboard slipcase. Inside the DVD case is one insert with advertisements for other Shout! Factory products including G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero TV show, The Transformers TV show, and their respective Ultimate Collector’s Sets (G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero: Footlocker Set and The Transformers: The Matrix of Leadership).

Ink And Paint:

According to the packaging, this latest DVD release has been re-mastered from a new high-definition transfer. While this review is for the standard DVD version of the film, the show does look great for a twenty-three year old print. The print is relatively free of excessive grain or dust fragments and looks sharp for its age. The movie is also being released on Blu-Ray in conjunction with this DVD release. There are two aspect ratios presented here for the movie – 1.33:1 and 1.78:1. While this was going to be a theatrical release in widescreen, the film was actually animated in full screen for syndicated release on television. After the initial trailers open the DVD, one can select to play the film in widescreen (which crops the top and bottom of each frame) or full screen (the original aspect ratio). The cropping is clear from the two screenshots provided when you select your preferred ratio. One can also change the aspect ratio in the special features section of the DVD under “Set-Up”.

Scratch Tracks:

Like with other Shout! releases, this DVD is being released with one standard English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There are no subtitles or additional language options available. The sound is adequate for this release, and effectively shows off the multiple explosions and sound effects featured in the movie. Overall, while a newer 5.1 track could have been created, the show still sounds fine without it.

Final Cut:

G.I. Joe has always had a devoted following for animation fans. While the show was never as smart as some other 80s shows, the action-packed episodes kept children coming back for more. The movie is also not one of the best, although it has an original story that does fit well into the G.I. Joe universe. There are some cool twists and turns that establish new character relationships for the following season of the show. When I first watched the movie I was not aware of some of the major script changes regarding the ending of the movie, but in hindsight the animation in the movie makes much more sense with the original rumored story. Either way, it is not as emotional as they probably intended it to be so to me it does not really affect the overall sense of the movie. Overall, the movie moves along at a good pace with plenty of action and character drama to keep viewers interested.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?