G. I. Joe (Animated Mini-Series Set with Action Figure)
Sound: B- Extras: C- Episodes: C-
The original G.I. Joe was a 12” action figure that became
a classic in 1964 upon its release from the Hasbro Company. Vietnam forced the soldier into an adventure
figure, then the great action figure craze of the 1970s pushed him into the
fantasy and Spy genres in 8” form. Too
bad the plastic would crumble if you just looked at it.
The character was thrown out altogether when the line went
Star Wars in under 4” size. To
promote this, a cartoon series was produced that helped top launch one of the
most destructive cycles in TV history: full-length episode commercials cleverly
disguised as action TV series. Now, the
G.I. Joe team, more heavily military than ever, was fighting the evil Cobra and
his forces. Blade creator Marv Wolfman
was called in, making it look like a ten-generation Marvel Comic with no heart
or soul. It was the heart and soul of
the 1970s Marvel ethnically cleansed to the max.
G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero (1983)
is a boxed set that offers the two mini-series that served as pilots for this
disaster. The animation was colorful,
but reserved, with detail just above a professionally crayoned coloring book. The full frame 1.33 X 1 transfers are even
surprisingly clean, typical of how good Rhino’s DVDs with animation have been,
but they also reveal how bad the animation is better. The old mono sound has one of the weirdest Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3
remixes yet, with obviously newer mono whooshing by split surround channels,
but sounding flat. There is even a 2.0
option. Each DVD also has an interview,
DVD #1 with Ron Friedman, #2 with Wolfman, trying to explain how they made this
show. Too bad it destroyed Saturday
Morning TV as we knew it!
The voice-overs are bad, pompous “let’s go” semi-yelling
that is about as inspiring as a Nuremberg rally in English, with all the
sincerity of a Milli Vanilli press conference.
Besides this lame attempt to emulate the dialogue from better Superhero
genre series of the time, the show also wants badly to be like the far-superior
Filmation Flash Gordon from the late 1970s, which is at least a minor
classic. That happens when it really
enters the realm of fantasy that never was part of the franchise to begin
with. This show fails on so many
levels, it is truly mind-boggling, but what do you expect from what is a series
of commercials that sells its audience out with every passing minutes.
The further proof is in the two versions of this set. One just offers the DVDs, while the other
ads an exclusive near 4” action figure with accessories. They are STILL selling toys with it! Obviously, it has its following, which may
be a cut above cult, but no one in their right mind thinks this is as important
as the G.I. Joe that preceded it.
However, the figures still have a following and the older ones are
valuable by default. We could also talk
about their exceptional articulation, but note how this is a DVD review?
The liner notes booklet is also a mess. Anonymously written, it credits the
legendary Mego Toys as the creator of The Six Million Dollar Man toy
line, when it was really Kenner. (Only
in Christmas 1974 did Mego create a villain for the series, Dr. Kromedome, now
a big collectible and exclusively for the now-defunct Montgomery Ward, but
Maskatron put an end to that lack of villain).
It also glosses over the Super Joe series of the late 1970s and claims
Cobra was their first villain, when that series in fact, had offered The
Intruder. That was the first G.I. Joe
franchise villain, but the 1980s version was all about revisionist history, and
throwing out the past. This error is
symptomatic of that.
Fans can at least be happy with the set technically, in a
nice clear plastic slide-case, with a foldout digi-pak holding the DVDs in
either box. Wolfman said the series
wanted to teach kids how to use the toys, as if they needed help in 1964. Nothing like dumbing down the youth! Except for fans and the nostalgia of it all,
this is one set you can skip!
- Nicholas Sheffo