Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A nerdy post

Poster for G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
How does one fill in one's leisure time on quiet evenings when you're too tired to do anything constructive like reading or attempting to learn the guitar, and there's nothing worth watching on television? You revisit things from your childhood. Unlike Transformers and My Little Pony, Hasbro's G.I. Joe line never really took off in Australia. In some ways it was a reflection of its time, much like the numerous military themed action films of the era. After the detente of the 1970s, under the Reagan administration the United States embarked on a massive military buildup, resuming the arms race against the Soviet Union, and accordingly pursued a slightly more aggressive foreign policy. The basic premise of G.I. Joe is that Cobra, an evil terrorist organisation, is trying to take over the world, and G.I. Joe is an elite branch of the United States military formed specifically to stop them.

Cover for the G.I. Joe video game
Never having seen the cartoon series as a child, I saw the live action G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film which was released in 2009. Its director, Stephen Sommers, has a reputation for making fairly forgettable popcorn films, and that about sums up what this film was. Die-hard fans and critics bagged it, but it grossed $302 million worldwide. A few months later, out of curiosity I bought a DVD box set of the animated series from the bargain bin at a Border's store for five dollars. After watching that, I borrowed the second volume from my local public library. Pretty much every episode of the animated series predictably unfolded the same way, with the Joes always stopping Cobra's plots. In keeping with the child-friendly tone, lots of buildings and vehicles are destroyed in battle, but nobody ever gets injured or killed.

Even though it received poor reviews, I bought the Rise of Cobra video game from a bargain bin for $5.00. Considering that the average price for brand new games in Australia is usually $99.00, this is a massive markdown. After playing it, it's easy to see why. It's a fairly average action game. You play through a variety of environments, including forests, deserts, jungles, and frozen tundras, but all you're required to do is manoeuvre your characters around the screen while holding down the shoot button on your controller. The action is punctuated by easily solveable puzzles. It's passable as a bargain bin title, but you'd be pretty annoyed if you'd paid full price for it.

G.I. Joe DVD box set
Now we come to 1987's G.I. Joe: The Movie. After the poor box office performance of the animated Transformers: The Movie, the producers decided against releasing it theatrically. As far as I know, it never made it to Australia. I had to order the DVD from overseas. This film regurgitates the basic plot of the television series, only on a more epic scale. This time Cobra forms an alliance with an alien race to carry out their evil plans. After the negative fan reaction to the death of Optimus Prime, the producers made an obvious last minute change to the script. G.I. Joe leader Duke is seriously injured in battle against Cobra leader Serpentor. Rather than dying like he was supposed to, expository dialogue from the other characters helpfully explains to the viewer that he has merely lapsed into a coma, and later recovers off screen at the end of the film. Other characters are also injured in battle, but not seriously. The plot is fairly unremarkable, but as it was done by a Japanese company, the quality of the animation is quite impressive compared to the television series.


JD Curtis said...

Ross, Babydoll!

Me and the Mrs just came home from the movie theater. Went to see Battle: Los Angeles.

Definately worth it. Makes Independence Day look amatuerish by comparison.

Just thought I'd pass that along.

Ross said...

I'll have to go see it. It opens here tomorrow (Thursday). If there's a sequel, it should be set in Salt Lake City, or perhaps the Canberra suburb of Fyshwick.