DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Saturday, 8 August 2009

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

G.I. Joe Season 1.1 (1983)
Voices By: Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Chris Latta, B.J. Ward, Morgan Lofting


I can remember it vividly, in 1983, after the first year of the new generation of G.I. Joe toys, Hasbro introduced the animated TV show. Instead of a traditional series, for the first three years G.I. Joe was aired as one-off episodic mini-series’. For kids it was an event bigger than “Roots”, or “Lonesome Dove”, everyone's favourite sandbox toys in glorious 2D animation – Duke, Scarlett, Gung Ho, Destro, Cobra Commander and all those vehicles. In prep for the Stephen Somers version, these first three years of Joe are packaged on DVD as 'Season 1.1".

Kids got everything they desired from the series – an extravagant assault of cartoon military violence, told with Indiana Jones-like globetrotting and James Bond-worthy world domination plotting. The writers take influence from this serialized-cliffhanger school of storytelling using episode titles like “Slaves of the Cobra Master’, and ‘Duel in the Devil’s Cauldreon’. The DVD preserves all the commercial bumpers which leave kids under bated breath as, say, when Snake Eyes gets engulfed in radioactive gas, or Duke's confrontation with a hypnotized beast is left in a cliffhanger. With the eyes an adult and former Joe fan though, the series is an elaborate advertisement shamelessly placing its product for kids to add to their Christmas lists.

There's very little for mature adults to latch onto here. Themes and social commentary are shallow if non-existent and characters are base clichés discernible only by the actors' voices. The chief baddie Cobra Commander is nothing more than a bombastic screaming idiot with a Nero-like compulsion for inane destructive behaviour. The key good guys, Duke, Scarlett, Gung Ho etc, exist solely to be heroes of the world. Destro’s stormy banter with Cobra Commander provides the only character throughline to follow. The animators have some fun drawing the female characters though, ie. visualizing the Baroness as a schoolteacher/S&M fetish, squeezing her curvy buxom figure into sexy black latex.

Former fans looking for that nostalgic kick will find the series surprisingly violent. In the first two miniseries Cobra Commander's penchant for gladiatorial torture of Joe prisoners is actually kinda disturbing, and rarely does 90 seconds go by without a massively creative action sequence. On this level, the amount of action and violence they could get away with is actually kind of impressive. The cartoon half-heartedly attempts to absolve their irresponsibility for the violence by using lasers instead of bullets and parachuting injured pilots from shot-down airplane and helicopters, and of course, no one EVER dies, get shot or even injured in the G.I. Joe world.

The DVD package is colourful and attractive. Ron Friedman the chief writer of the three mini-series is interviewed and takes himself and his work very seriously. The fourth disc contains some great nostalgic timewarping with some classic commercials, those awful ‘knowing is half the battle’ PSAs and a printable script PDF. Yo Joe!

This review first appeared on Exclaim.ca

1 comment :

Ed said...

Slate has a great recounting of the absurd escape attempts in the series:


Enjoy destroying memories from your childhood...