G.I. Joe: The Movie [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (30th July 2010).
The Film

Produced at the height of the show's popularity "G.I. Joe: The Movie" brings all your favorite characters and offers up feature-length adventure that had everything a 10-year-old boy could have ever wanted back in 1987. Original the film was scheduled to be released theatrically, but a series of production delays pushed the film back until it was eventually released on video only. Broadcasting the film on syndication eventually followed and on several occasions shown before the series ran from the start even though it was produced somewhere towards the end of he show's run. I distinctly recall the series being re-launched on Fox on weekday afternoons in the 90's having begun with the screening of the movie first. As a child I was obsessed with all things "Joe," I collected the figures, religiously watched the show and I must have seen this film about a 100 times or more. Not having seen the film in nearly a decade I was eager to re-watch this animated classic and relive my fond memories of playing with my numerous figures and vehicles like so many others. I'm glad to report that cheesy dialogue and dated animation aside the film is surprisingly relevant in today's still uncertain economy and current energy problems that has many dependent on foreign energy and the devastating results it has on the environment. Ok so maybe that's reading a little too much in what's essentially a children's animated movie, but there are some universal themes that resonate even now.

The plot of "G.I. Joe: The Movie" follows the iconic heroes as they prepare to launch the "BET" or "Broadcast Energy Transmitter" which will provide the world with unlimited energy at a cost of 1 billion US tax payer dollars. The Joes are sent on special assignment to make sure the device is operational, while keeping the world safe from the terrorist group known as Cobra. Throughout the film we learn about Cobra's history, delve inside the Joe's inner sanctum and sees a shake up in command bringing in Sgt. Slaughter's (Robert Remus) Marauders, witness a power struggle between Cobra Commander (Chris Latta) and Serpentor (Richard Gautier), learn about the creation of Cobra, and get immersed among a series of incredibly designed battle scenes and set pieces. The plot is fairly simple, however there are story threads that offer up some complexity and introduce a few new characters as well, a little too many at times that tend to clutter things up.

The relevance of "G.I. Joe: The Movie" was somewhat unexpected, the terrorist themes come as a given, however off the bat I was surprised with the story elements surrounding the "BET" and it's free energy for the world, the film was very much a product of its time, the Reagan era was rife with an energy crisis, America was facing a new collective of terrorists and these themes managed to find its way into the script for this film. 23-years later and we're still dealing with a new energy crisis and terrorism has been at the forefront of the American Zeitgeist since 9/11. Here our greatest fears are manifested as a well funded but ultimately flawed group known as Cobra, who seek, like many villains from 80's product, world domination.

Much like the villains grasp for world domination in classic 80's fashion, the animation is also very much a product of the 80's. The 2-D cell animation does date a bit, and there is evidence that the production was rushed in parts with detail the first thing to go, and colors bleeding over the outlines of the characters. There's a kitsch and cool nostalgia that goes with these types of animated films, but it would have been nice that a few more dollars and a little more time was allocated (even though the film was delayed in release) to deliver a higher quality animation akin to that of what Disney was releasing at that time, instead the quality looks no different than a standard episode of the series. In many ways the quality continuity remains intact, but for a feature film I expected production levels to have increased.

Another problem with the film is that in many ways this film was another veiled attempted to sell more toys, cluttering the film with a plethora of new and interesting characters and an equal inclusion of new and unique vehicles. While some of the characters and vehicles do look cool, like Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades (a personal childhood favorite) and the Rawhides, their inclusion doesn't leave much for other beloved characters to do. Snake Eyes was relegated to a few shots here and there and shooting a laser, a shame for what I consider the coolest character in the G.I. Joe canon. Furthermore, I wasn't all that sold on the Cobra-La and their crazy subterranean world either, it felt like a last minute add-on, while it was interesting to delve into the history of Cobra, I would rather have kept that under wraps. The idea that Cobra are a mysterious terrorist organization is far more interesting.

It's not a perfect movie, the film is an obvious cash-in on action figure sales, but overall it's an enjoyable experience that brings me back to a happier place in my childhood spent orchestrating mass battle scenes with my action figures. The Blu-ray marginally improves over the DVD release, the upgrade is really dependent on how much of a fan you are of G.I. Joe, as I don't see people lining up at the shop for this release.

Video

When originally conceived this film was meant for theatrical release, the intended ratio would have been matted around 1.78:1 or 1.85:1, the ratio the film is currently presented in is 1.78:1. While animating the frame is closer to 1.33:1 full screen, allowing that extra space at the top and bottom would allow for future television broadcast post-theatrical run. However the film never made it to the silver screen, instead it was released on the small screen, on video, followed by television broadcast, so for years the 1.33:1 videotape edition was the only way to see the film. The DVD released a few years back (and also included in this set) offered up both versions, and this Blu-ray only includes the matted 1.78:1 version. Because of the nature of how this film was produced and intended versus how it was eventually released, it's not totally clean cut as to the "original" ratio. In many respects either ratio could be considered "original" and it's up to you which version you prefer. While the 1.78:1 frame gives the film a more "theatrical" scope, I actually found the frame a little tight in parts, cramming the action. The full screen version as seen on the previous DVD allows the film some more breathing room on the top and bottom and doesn't feel as cramped as the matted option. As far as the image quality goes it's a mixed bag, while the added boosting of the HD image in 1080p 24/fps offers up a slight improvement in terms of brighter colors and crisper images, however the format also has it's cons, especially in terms of 80's produced animated fare such as this. The flaws in the animation are evident, color bleeding, rough lines and blotches become much more evident. There is some print damage here and there, but for the most part the image is pleasing to look at, which is as best as we can really expect.

Audio

A single English PCM 2.0 stereo track is offered in 16-bit/48kHz, the original audio has been given a boost in this uncompressed offering. The audio is crisp and clear with dialogue being at the forefront, and mostly in the front as well. There's plenty of action but the 2.0 format limits the audio to the front with little to nothing in terms of depth. The audio is best described as simply ok. The mix offers up some exciting action scenes, that feature unique sound design and directional effects that makes G.I.Joe so cool, finally the music is a little flat and not as robust as I'd have liked. It seems like the best was done with the elements provided, but it's about as good as a TV-movie sound track is expected to be, perhaps if this film had gone theatrical there'd be a much broader 5.1 audio track, in the meantime this will do.
There are no optional subtitles available on this disc.

Extras

Shout! has released this film with two discs, a Blu-ray version of the film and the DVD edition as well, both has exactly matching extras with the exception of the downloadable script offered as a DVD-ROM extra on the DVD release. The supplements include an audio commentary, a series of PSA's, an art gallery and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these extras.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by story consultant Buzz Dixon. Dixon is open and honest in his track here, there are times where he expresses disappointment in various aspects of the film, in many ways it's not your usual run-of-the-mill track where the participants have nothing but good things to say and rather tedious or boring production details and in some way it is. Dixon does a good job of keeping the viewer interested by offering up tidbits that fans will enjoy hearing about the production process, the delays and eventually getting the finished product out there as well as story elements and character information is also explored. There are a couple of gaps here and there but he mostly keep the information coming at a steady pace. If you haven't listened to this track then it's worth checking out.

Next up are a collection of eight "Knowing is Half the Battle" original PSA's that can be played individually or with a 'play all' option, these are classic clips that try to teach kids the right thing to do, and I remember them fondly as they played after episodes, they include:

- "Flint: It's better to tell the truth" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Ripcord: Have your eyes tested" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Shipwreck: Running away leads nowhere" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Lifeline: Eat smart" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Cross Country & Beachhead: Remember to wear your helmets" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Barbeque: False alarms are no joke" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Gung-Ho: Don't judge people until you give them a chance" which runs for 30 seconds.
- "Flint: Listen to yourself" which runs for 30 seconds.

An art gallery follows and runs for 1 minute 2 seconds of production artwork, I wish this feature was much more extensive as I'm sure there's a wealth of art we haven't yet seen that was produced for this film.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "G.I.Joe" the series spot runs for 58 seconds.
- "The Transformers" series spot runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.
- "Oban Star-Racers" runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.
- "The Middleman" runs for 1 minute 19 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This disc features the exact same extras as the Blu-ray release with only DVD-ROM content by way of a downloadable script as the only thing exclusive to this disc.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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