We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm, be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
Before Cobra rose and the Joes got tough with DiC, Sunbow Productions brought us Sgt. Slaughter, Don Johnson, and Burgess Meredith in GI Joe: The Movie. Intended for theatrical release but relegated to Direct-to-Video status when The Transformers underperformed, the film had numerous parallels to its predecessor. But before we can get to that, we have to start at the beginning. The very beginning.
I still get chills from that opening sequence and the reworked theme song, but don’t get too excited. It’s all downhill from here. Honestly, the film would’ve done well to expand on the plot of the opening sequence as opposed to running with… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The biggest flaw with the movie is one of its greatest deviations from The Transformers – where The Transformers introduced a whole new crop of characters while killing off all the old favorites, thereby effectively forcing kids everywhere to get to know the freshman class, GI Joe had already debuted their new characters before the launch of the movie alongside all the established Joes and Cobras. The movie then brought a handful of new characters into the mix, but scarcely anyone you had any reason to give a shit about. Except Tunnel Rat. Tunnel Rat was the shit.
Following immediately on the heels of its biggest flaw is the unforeseeable fact that Hasbro pulled the Joe franchise from Sunbow’s control after the release of the film. The result, then, was that those of us who did care about the new characters never got to see them go anywhere. By the time DiC launched their series, all but Falcon had been forgotten. If you weren’t reading the comics, you probably don’t even remember the name Chuckles. And god help you if you remember Big Lob.
Ironically, one of the biggest flaws in the film was a course correction made after the release of The Transformers. Fans and parents alike were enraged over the death of Optimus Prime, so the intended death of Duke at the hands of Serpentor was scrapped and the final scenes reworked to reveal that the Joes’ field commander had survived – thereby neutering the only real pathos the film had to offer.
And the voice acting? The Transformers got Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, and Orson Wells. GI Joe got the aforementioned Don Johnson, Leonard Nimoy, and Sgt. Slaughter, who had already been indoctrinated as a Joe.
But let’s get to the meat and potatoes. I know I called the handling of new characters the film’s biggest flaw, but I must have momentarily blocked out the existence of Cobra-La from my memory. You’ll be hearing more about them later in the week, and let’s be honest, the less said about them the better. Bottom line? The plot hinged upon a prehistoric race of mutant snakemen wanting a machine that transmits energy so they could incubate some spores that would devolve the entire population of Earth. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sorry. Now you know. And sometimes? Knowing sucks.
GI Joe the movie was a sucktacular suckfest of sucktastic proportions. Still, it’s a part of the Joe lore and as such, deserves a place outside the longbox. Waaaaaay outside the longbox.