GI Joe: The Movie (1987)

By Hit & Run

G.I. Joe: The Movie was first released in 1987, while intended to hit theaters in 1986, production errors held the movie up and due to poor tickets sales of Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie, the film was sent direct to video and first appeared as a TV movie special. Channel 11 WPIX in my area! Over the years several people have had rights to the film and we have seen it released first on VHS in 1987 from Celebrity Kids to the 2014 Blu Ray DVD release from Shout Factory. For me I have this need to buy it every time it is released and basically every time I see a VHS copy of it. Does anyone know if this was ever released on Beta?

GI Joe The MovieI remember the day like it was yesterday, I was over my friend Mike’s house and his mom said my mom was on the phone (no cell phones back in 87:-), she broke the news to me that Channel 11 was about play some G.I Joe movie on TV. While flipping through the TV Guide, she noticed it, man do I wish I had a TV Guide with that listing! Not knowing anything about it (no internet in 87:-), she immediately piqued my interest. I wondered to myself what could this be? GI Joe: The Movie? On a Sunday night? Was she joking? Was she trying to make up for the fact she didn’t take me and my brother to see Transformers: The Movie (A grudge we still hold today with her)?

Then finally she told me the bad news, it was starting at 7pm and it was currently 6:55pm. Now Mike lives a little less than a mile from my home, I can’t tell you how fast I made it home, or if I broke any land speed records that day, but my VHS copy taped off the TV starts with all the Cobra Paratroopers falling from the sky, those who have seen this movie know how early this scene appears in the opening credits! A 10 year never moved so fast and I still have that copy to this day.

For me, this will always be the real G.I. Joe Movie, the Rise of Cobra and Retaliation have nothing on this animated blockbuster, which is huge for me to say because I was not a fan of the Cobra-La (toys) or the G.I. Joe cartoon when I was a kid! For me the daily carton was lame and too kiddie, the Marvel Comics was the storyline I bought into, none of this Scarlett and Duke nonsense, Scarlett was Snake Eyes’ girl! But for some strange reason, I was able to suspend reality and take G.I. Joe: The Movie for what it was, a fun, little grittier, 2 hour commercial for Hasbro’s new product! I enjoy it still to this day, even this past Monday!

What is your take on it?

GI Joe The Movie Boxes 1 GI Joe The Movie Boxes 2 GI Joe The Movie Boxes 3 GI Joe The Movie Boxes 4

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  • I never saw the movie until i was 18. As a young adult i was disapointed. But had i seen it as a kid i would have probably loved it.

  • Great write up. I didn’t care for what the movie did to the continuity as a kid but I have grown fond of it as I have aged, mainly because my son loves it.

  • The Movie got me to really try liking the latest toys: Cobra La & the Renegades. The animation was really good, and the story was at least creative. I’ve gotta say, though, if you stitch the 5 episodes of “Rise, Serpentor, Arise” into a movie, it’s better. Less film quality, but more interesting story anchored in the already established mythos. By the way, that MLP movie was surprisingly dark! No wonder it and TF did poorly.

  • @ Cyko9
    The Joe movie seems to have a few moments of rotoscoped animation in it. Most notibly when the stone age guys are slaying a mamoth
    And yes, the old pony movie is dark. A few years ago, when F.I.M came out, my neice went nuts for it. But that movie was the only one we could find at the time. Whenever she’s at my place, she has to watch it. I also heard that quite a lot of the pony movies animation was damaged in transit and Nelson Shin had to work overtime to replace it.

  • I never saw this or TFTM until I got pre-owned copies on VHS at a store called “Toy Planet” back in 1998 when I was 21 years old. I was so stoked to finally see these….until they both let down expectations a decade + in the making. The whole Cobra-La angle & whatnot just took me out of it from the minute Pythona’s cool entrance was over. Even Burgess Meredith couldn’t make Golobulus fun for me. The whole “Falcon comes of age” trope also was predictably resolved. I would’ve preferred a more team-oriented film where 4-5 groups of Joes scatter across the globe to go McGuffin-chasing again like the miniseries formula that worked so well 4 previous times. I also didn’t care for CC losing his used car salesman backstory.

    Having said all that, I still watch it every 5 years or so because it IS still better than those other actions flicks masquerading as GIJoe films.

  • @Anonymous
    Starscream, Wheeljack [and supposedly Gung Ho’s] death and Cobra Commander’s transformation into a snake was supposedly done on purpose as Chris Latta had become difficult to work with.

  • Perfect except for Cobra-La!

  • To me, collectors have always fallen into two camps: cartoon collectors and comic collectors. There was a time when toon fans were in the minority, but that seems to have changed.

    I never saw the movie and still haven’t. I have no interest in it. I think I’m still somewhat bitter that it had such an influence on the ’87 line and that was the last year I collected Joes. (My age had more to do with it than did Cobra La, Raptor or Big Boa.) Hasbro really did seem to put a lot of faith in the movie’s ability to drive sales. That they were able to backpedal so fast and incorporate the more outlandish stuff into the standard ’88 line was really one of the last great creative bursts we saw in the vintage line.

  • I adore this movie. Loved it as a kid, and still have fond memories of it now. The edges are rough to the eyes of an adult, certainly (true of the cartoon as well) but I ate it up as a kid. Cobra La is one of those highly divisive elements in Joe fandom, but I never realized that until I was older and the internet came around. At the time, I was just like “well, these are new characters, great!” Coming to Joe from He-Man and Transformers (and not reading the comic until I was a teenager), I never minded the more overt sci-fi/fantasy elements that creeped into the line over time.

    To this day, images from this movie stick with me. The striking opening. Pythona’s entrance. Cobra Commander’s transformation (“onccccce a man!”). Serpentor pulling out the snakes on his collar and using them as javelins. “Itty, bitty, ditty bag”. We all go home or no one goes home. And anytime I toss a wadded up piece of paper at a circular trash can, I think of Big Lob tossing grenades in the training course.

  • Love this film…its a pity it wasn’t released in theatres. However, in the UK they edited out the entire beginning featuring the epic Statue of Liberty battle…all we had was some crummy white sans serifed font saying ‘ACTION FORCE, THE MOVIE, and then it cuts to Cobra Island and the rest of the pre-credits….then theres the god awful dubbing of ‘YO JOE!’ with ‘FULL FORCE!’ The over-dubbed voices didn’t even match…We did get the ‘proper’ movie years later on dvd…well, half of it…*sigh*, it switches to the ‘FULL FORCE’ battle cries halfway through…bleughhhh…

    I actually like the Cobra La angle. I didn’t like the Cobra Commander mutated story, but the whole plot was about ‘Leadership’; CC failing, Serpentor ascendant, Falcon a wet lettuce until he comes of age and Golobulus controlling ALL…I’d have much liked CC saving his bacon by bartering the locale of the BET by saying he’d slapped a tracer becon on the silly thing and being forewarned by Golobulus that one more failiure would be his ultimate undoing…(we’d see that at the climax of the film in the Royal Palace, he’d be mutated by Spores prior to the Joes final onslaught)… I remember an interview with the head writer in one of the yearbooks, he said that ‘as big as Cobra is, its a front for an even larger and more powerful organisation that created it’, that there’d be ‘big changes, more technology the likes the Joes had never seen before…’ Or something like that. Put two and two together, and the fact the interview was in 1986, and you realise its Cobra La he was talking about…I’d have loved Cobra La to be featured in a post Movie tv series by Sunbow, otherwise why did Golobulus manage to escape at the end? He clearly didn’t die, we didn’t see him die on screen and his final shot is so ‘Cobra Commander escaping-esque’ that he was meant to be the new ‘Big Bad’ for years to come…Perhaps if the Movie had been released in theatres worldwide, done well as well as the Cobra La concept being expanded and doing immensely well in toy sales, we’d have seen far, far more of him…the only thing I didn’t like was a lack of Movie explanation as to why he looked so Frankenstein’s Monster and had a big ass serpents tail…it would have been cool if the spores had been flung at him by Falcon in the finale which mutated him, OR he’d used his strangely mystic powers to turn into a weird Snake type creature to battle Falcon…thus he’d have had legs prior to that…On a final footnote, the original film concept was for Golobulus to have been extremely corpulent. Obese to put it mildly. Thus Falcon was to be stunned when he suddenly showed just how nimble he was at fighting and how swift he was….think Kingpin from Daredevil…I once emailed Flint Dille, asking him all about the Cobra La concepts, he did eventually write back, saying his wife was unfortunately ill and that he’d email properly soon…he hasn’t. Understandable, but if I still have his email I may ping him a reminder and see what he says…If I can, I’ll happily relay his thoughts to you all…

  • Oh, ps, Anyone else wish the concepts on the cover art, which would’ve been the film poster artwork, would have been featured in the film? That eerie monster mouthed entrance way? Serpentor looking even more reptilian? Imagine Golobulus waving a glowing hand over his face upon Serpentors arrival to The Royal Palace and saying ‘this is your true form…a visage more fitting of a Nobleman of Cobra La!’
    If you look carefully, you’ll also see TWO Air Chariots…I suspect the other pilot was meant to be Golobulus himself….

  • I would like to give my two pence worth on “Duke dies/goes into a coma” scene. It’s clear from the context of the scene that Duke was supposed to die. The fact that Serpentor’s spear hit Duke in the chest, right about in the heart area, kind of clinches things.

    Duke’s death, if it had gone through, was meant to be like the death of Optimus Prime: the falling of the old guard, to be replaced by the new younger guard. Hasbro, apparently, was phasing out Duke’s character, so killing him off wasn’t something that would hurt the toy’s sales.

    But, as we all know, Optimus Prime’s death was not the rousing dramatic success that the folks at Hasbro hoped it would be. Kids and parents were outraged by the death, which lead to some serious backpedalling when the G.I. Joe movie came out. Duke, instead of dying, went into a coma that he miraculously recovered from at the end of the film. That led to another rumour that there’s a version of the Joe movie where Duke actually dies instead. Not true, but if you want Duke to die, simply watch the last minute or so of the film on mute. No voiceover from Doc, no recovery for Duke.

    Another problem with Duke surviving, beyond the fact that his survival seems unlikely, is that his death was meant to serve a purpose. Duke’s death was meant to be the final catalyst that sparked Falcon to finally grow up. The training at the Slaughterhouse was enough to start Falcon on his way, but losing his big brother should have been the final shock needed to show Falcon the light.

    Since Duke doesn’t die, the catalyst isn’t there. Sure, Duke being severely wounded DOES help push Falcon along, but it’s not as dramatically satisfying as it would be if Duke had actually died.

    Here’s my other complaint about Duke not dying in the movie: for years, one of the big complaints against the G.I. Joe cartoon was that no-one ever died and no-one got hurt. Pilots whose planes were shot down would be shown parachuting from the downed vehicles, thousands of laser bolts would be fired and yet, nobody ever got hit, etc. All of this, according to the children’s television advocates, was going to warp the minds of small children, teaching them that violence has no consequences, and lead them to lives of mindless mass murder (either that or teach them to be really BAD shots…).

    Of course, if you think about it, some guy’s plane gets shot down and he has to parachute out of it to keep from dying is showing a consequence for violence. It also shows that Joe and Cobra characters aren’t stupid enough to try and die in a plane crash when they could just as easily get out. As for the idea that no-one got hurt, that’s not true. People DID sustain injuries in the G.I. Joe cartoon. Granted, they were largely relatively minor injuries along the line of twisted ankles and broken bones, but if the folks behind the Joe cartoon had tried to show actual blood and guts consequences of warfare, these same anti-violence advocacy groups would have succumbed to an aneurysm.

    Which brings me back to my point about Duke not dying: What better way to show the consequences of warfare than by having Duke die? There it would have been, in full glorious colour on the TV screen for children to see: get stabbed through the chest and you will die. Hell, we even got to see blood! But no, Optimus Prime’s death was too traumatic for the kiddies, so Duke doesn’t die, and we get saddled with that lame “Duke’s A-OK!” bit at the end.

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