When I was very young, one of the local channels in the Philippines would do a great service to the children in the Philippines. They would take out an entire programming block on a Saturday afternoon during December and show kid-centric movies. So, for example, on one Saturday, they would show four Star Wars movies which included the Original Trilogy and, oddly enough, included the often maligned Star Wars Holiday Special.
But there was one specific block of programming that I particularly loved. That was the Saturday when they would show the Hasbro connected movies which consisted of My Little Pony and Friends: The Movie (which I would skip), The Transformers: The Movie from 1986 and the animated GI Joe: The Movie from 1987. As a huge Transformers fan, that movie was always the main event. However, that doesn’t mean that, unlike the My Little Pony and Friends: The Movie, I ignored GI Joe: The Movie. I still watched the heck out of it. But now that I’m older, does this old 1987 animated movie still work?
Before you move on with the review, I have to mention this will be a SPOILER FILLED review. I mean, it’s an animated film that’s already 34 years old! If you haven’t watched it yet, well, you can watch the entire thing above (if YouTube hasn’t taken it down yet). Or you can probably search for it yourself and you’ll can go see it for yourself before you read through this SPOILER FILLED review. Just warning you this early just in case. Besides, it’s kind of hard to do a synopsis of the film without revealing SPOILERS.
GI Joe: The Movie starts out with Cobra returning from a botched attack on the Statue of Liberty (as seen in the intro). An unknown figure invades Cobra Headquarters and gives orders to Serpentor, Cobra’s “emperor,” to steal GI Joe’s newest device, the Broadcast Energy Transmitter. During the attack, the Joes fend off Cobra but Cobra Commander leads them to a hidden lair where snake people live. The snake people, known as Cobra-La, unveil their plan to devolve the entire human race back into mindless apes but but they still need the Broadcast Energy Transmitter for their machinations to come to fruition.
The first thing I do have to mention about GI Joe: The Movie is the intro. And what an intro it is! It’s honestly the best cartoon intro ever! There’s a whole lot that makes it above and beyond what a kiddie cartoon movie deserves. First, you have some really clean animation going through the entire thing. It’s really weird that, during the ’80s and ’90s, cartoons will really put a lot of time, money and effort into the intro animations. GI Joe: The Movie is no different. They really went all out with some of the best camera angles and just rip roaring action! They also amped up the usual somewhat low-key GI Joe theme song with something a lot more dynamic and up-tempo. Oh, and the intro is already a short story in itself, with GI Joe foiling Cobra’s attempt to destroy the Statue of Liberty. I mean, what’s not to like? Now, I wouldn’t say things go downhill from here but there was no way the entire movie could be as hype as this intro!
I will say that the animation all throughout GI Joe: The Movie is really good. It never is as good as the intro’s animation but it is, save for a couple of scenes, better than the animation from the regular GI Joe cartoon. There’s a lot more detail with the characters and some of the shadowing on them look really good, giving them a more 3D look rather than the more flat 2D visuals from the actual cartoon.
I also have to highlight the action scenes as they’re mostly good. We already have the most kickass intro ever but the rest of the combat sequences are also done really well. Cobra’s first attempt to take the Broadcast Energy Transmitter is done really well, if a little bit too chaotic. Cobra and Cobra-La’s unified attack on Joe Headquarters is done extremely well as well. Heck, even the entire sequence, where Lt. Falcon narrates how it would be impossible to break Serpentor out of his cell while he’s being broken out of his prison is creative and fun to watch!
The voice acting is also really good. Unlike Transformers: The Movie, where they went all out hiring names like Leonard Nimoy, Orson Wells and Eric Idle, just to name a few, GI Joe: The Movie only got a couple of notable names. Namely, they got Don Johnson to play newcomer Lt. Falcon, Duke’s hotheaded half-brother, and Burgess Meredith to voice Cobra-La’s leader, Golobulus. I also have to mention they got Sgt. Slaughter to voice… Sgt. Slaughter in the film. The rest of the veteran cast also returns and, especially Chris Latta’s Cobra Commander, who is always a hoot to listen to, do a fantastic job delivering their lines.
As for Don Johnson, he’s fine as Lt. Falcon as he does get all the necessary emotional moment in but I felt he wasn’t necessary. Sgt. Slaughter sounds just like his wrestling persona so you can bet his gruff delivery is on point all throughout the movie. But it’s Burgess Meredith’s Golobulus performance that really steals the show. Like Chris Latta, his performance is the perfect mix of cornball, over-the-top delivery but with a ton of sincerity in his delivery. You can tell he’s having a ball but still giving more than necessary to give life to this weird floating, half-snake king.
As enjoyable as all the visuals and vocal performances are, my main issue with GI Joe: The Movie is actually the story. Or, to be more precise, the otherwise oddball direction it takes. While I know it’s a cartoon and it’s mostly meant to be entertainment for children, I just didn’t appreciate the bonkers sci-fi direction of having snake people trying to conquer the world. I’ve always felt GI Joe should be in the realm of reality for the most part. They can have super high tech weaponry that fire red and blue laser beams, Cobra having out-of-this-world vehicles like the Flight Pod and the Joes flying around on jetpacks. But almost alien beings? That’s a little too much for me as an adult. Still, I was generally fine with it when I was a kid. But even then, I did feel it was kind of ridiculous.
I also do have a problem with how much focus the start of the film has on the new characters but they practically don’t have much to do in the actual movie! They introduce new Joe recruits like Big Lob, Chuckles, Tunnel Rat and Law and Order early in the film but they’re not really in the movie for long. The only new Joes that are given any real screen time is Lt. Falcon, as he’s the main character, and Jinx, who comes off as the love interest for Lt. Falcon. Besides them, the “Rawhides” don’t really factor into the story much, if, at all. So why bother giving them a training montage if they won’t do anything? Ah, to sell new action figures! Why didn’t you say so? Well, except for Big Lob, who didn’t become an action figure until much recently.
I still do have a lot of nostalgic love for GI Joe: The Movie. The intro sequence alone is worth sitting through the film’s 93-minute runtime. And the actual movie, despite it coming off as rather hokey, is fun in a “turn off your brain” kind of way. If you’re an ’80s kid, this is a must watch. Heck, if you’re okay with your children watching mindless violence but with a creative story, have them watch it along with you.
Have you seen GI Joe: The Movie? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!