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G.I. JOE (S1.1)
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Buzz Dixon

Chris Latta
Michael Bell
Frank Welker

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What's it about
G. I. Joe is the codename for America's daring, highly trained, special mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Yo Joe!
Is it good movie?
What is there to say about G.I .Joe? I could wax poetic about it being pre-9/11, but on the cusp of the end of the Cold War, patriotism-training for children without the pernicious jingoism attendant in the 60’s propaganda of the original G.I. Joe toy adverts. But really it’s just a fun, campy, action-packed cartoon. Does it make sense? Generally, no. Is it full of bad puns and painfully stilted expositive dialog? A big check there. But it was never intended to be sophisticated. It is as 2-D as its cel animation. And that’s okay. The bad guys are evil. They want either money or some vague and esoteric idea of world domination, and the good guys are cardboard cutout superheroes with nary a complicated thought (Watchmen, this ain’t). Evil plans are hatched, good guys are mobilized, crap blows up, altruism defeats greed in the clutch. Yay!

More points go to the show for its sheer breadth of characters. All of the Joes are adults, seasoned veterans with specific skill-sets and clearly defined personalities. In any given episode, there is a character aptly suited to get the job done. Cobra’s got an underwater base? Get Deep-Six in there! Someone lost in the jungle? Recondo’s got you covered. Then there are the female characters, like Scarlet and Lady Jaye, Joe’s ass-kicking, name-taking ladies, and Baroness, Cobra’s vicious and conniving and uber-competent super-spy biznatch. I can’t think of any other show of this type that would take such care to give some empowerment for the little girls on the other end of the cathode ray eyeball like G.I. Joe. And what villain is more impressive than Destro, with his titanium face and erudite mannerisms, a direct counterpoint to the histrionic Cobra Commander?

As to the content of the disc set, the first three contain the three original miniseries that kicked the show off: The M.A.S.S Device, The Revenge of Cobra, and The Pyramid of Darkness, respectively, each one a two hour movie broken up into discrete segments. The fourth disc is after the show proper began, with regular, self-contained 22-minute episodes. I can only assume that the show takes place in some alternate universe, considering Destro’s metal face, Zartan’s chameleon abilities, and all of the monsters and advanced technology on evidence in each episode. There is also a subtle intimation that times or not so good in their America. Not only is their the existence of such a vigorous and pervasive domestic terrorist organization such as Cobra, but we also get scenes of entire economically-depressed towns filled with disaffected citizens just begging to become servants of the serpents. Heady stuff for a kid’s show.
Video / Audio
Video: Considering that it is made-for-TV 2-D cel animation from the mid-80s, it actually looks really good. They cleaned it up nice.

Audio: No info, but I’m assuming mono. The sound is loud and clear, though. No worries. You won’t miss a single Yo Joe! or Coooobra!
The Extras
Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman: This is an interview broken up across the first three discs. Friedman was the writer on something like 20 episodes, and was one of the first people approached to help develop the show from it’s toy origins to the animated television show. He is a little too esoteric about it for my tastes, but it is interesting to hear how serious the show was taken by its creators.

”Knowing is Half the Battle” PSAs: Oh Em Gee, I had forgotten how stupid these were. Still, at the time, they made a big impression on me, and they showed a certain level of consciousness of the impressionability of the show’s demographic, so it’s all good.

Archival Hasbro Toy Commercials: No revelations here. Just some of the toy commercials that aired at the time when the cartoon was successful.

GI Joe’s Original 1963 Toy Fair Presentation: This is a bit that seems to go on forever…just talking on and on about how wonderful the dolls were, and how realistic all of the myriad accessories packs available were to actual armed forces gear. But then the affair takes a creepy turn, and starts delineating a brazenly pernicious strategy to milk kids and parents alike out of as much money as possible. Made me chuckle and genuflect at the same time.

Printable Script for: “Jungle Trap”: Self-explanatory.
Last Call
It was nice to revisit this show with my daughter, since she doesn’t get to see much actual, hand-drawn 2-D cel animation. The show is campy and corny, but a lot of fun. It is full-on action, and there is such a deep pool of well-written characters to choose from that the action is never stale or samey. The villains are actually more complex than the heroes, and their interplay with each other is fodder for much humor, and the Destro-Cobra Commander dynamic is a teeter-totter balance that modern animated shows wouldn’t try and couldn’t achieve. If you were a fan of the show when it originally aired, you need this set. If you missed it or were too young, you still need this set. See how that works? Now get to it.
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