G.I. Joe: The Movie is a 1987 animated film spin-off from the animated series G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, picking up where the series ended.
Following the previous season's end, & a foiled attack on the Statue of Liberty, Serpentor is now in command of Cobra and Cobra Commander schemes to rid himself of his usurper. Pythona fights her way into the Terror Drome and into Serpentor's chambers, where he recognizes her from a suppressed memory. She has him lead Cobra forces in an attempt to steal the Broadcast Energy Transmitter, an experimental energy generator being tested in the Himalayas by G.I. Joe. Despite attacking with a massive force, Cobra is driven off and Serpentor is captured. A small contingent of Joes, led by Roadblock, follow the retreating Cobra forces deep into the Himalayan Mountains, where they are brutally attacked and captured by mysterious creatures with apparent ties to Cobra Commander.
Back at G.I. Joe Headquarters, a new group of rookie Joes - dubbed the Rawhides- are brought onto the team. They endure rigorous training under Beachhead's critical eye. Lt. Falcon is conspicuously absent from training, as he is giving an unauthorized tour of Serpentor's holding facility to a civilian woman named Heather (who is Dreadnok Zarana in disguise). Falcon's dereliction of duty is discovered by Duke, and he is placed on guard duty as punishment.
Back in the Himalayas, the majority of Cobra are held as the "guests" of a civilization known as Cobra-La, an ancient race of snake people who wish to destroy human civilization. Golobulus, the supreme ruler of Cobra-La, and his aide, Pythona, explain the history of their race: Cobra-La are the former rulers of Earth, in part due to their advanced scientific knowledge, which allows them to manipulate and convert living creatures into advanced organic technology. Their society however was erased by the onset of an ice age, forcing those few survivors into hiding in caves deep within the Himalayas. Also revealed is that Cobra Commander is a citizen of Cobra-La who was sent out to conquer Earth for them. Due to his miserable success rate, the Commander is to be tried as a criminal and sentenced according to Cobra-La tradition. Golobulus also claims to be Serpentor's true creator, having manipulated Dr. Mindbender's dreams to imbue him with the knowledge and skill to devise Serpentor's creation.
Using information gleaned from her encounter with Falcon, Zarana leads the Dreadnoks, Pythona, and the hulking Nemesis Enforcer to Serpentor's detention facility. Falcon, who is supposed to be monitoring the doors to the facility, is instead harassing fellow Rawhide Jinx in the motor pool. Serpentor is freed and the Cobras escape. Falcon is arrested for abandoning his post.
The captured Joes attempt to escape Cobra-La but are subdued by organic booby traps. Cobra Commander, as punishment for his failure to destroy humanity, is exposed to a strain of mutative spores that slowly transform him into a literal snake. He is then dumped outside Cobra-La, where he is met by G.I. Joe member Roadblock, who had narrowly escaped capture. The two set off into the mountains to find help.
At Joe Headquarters, Duke pleads in Falcon's defense, revealing that he is Falcon's half-brother. Rather than be court-martialed, Falcon's punishment consists of an aggressive 'retraining' program at the hands of Sgt. Slaughter. Falcon meets the Sarge's other troops, the Renegades. At Duke's request, Falcon, Sgt. Slaughter, and the Renegades infiltrate the Cobra Terror Drome on Cobra Island and discover that Cobra plans to make a second attempt to obtain the BET. The Joes escape with their information, and destroy the Terror Drome in the process.
Golobulus, with Serpentor and all of Cobra at his back, explains his plan to retake Earth: He will launch the same spores that mutated Cobra Commander into orbit, that they may rain down on the planet and degenerate the human species "to the level of mindless beasts." He orders Serpentor to reclaim the BET to aid in the spores' maturation.
Cobra successfully steals the BET device and Duke is critically wounded by Serpentor. Roadblock and Cobra Commander are found by Flint, Lifeline, and Iceberg, and they relay the location of Cobra-La and the BET to the Joe team. General Hawk mobilizes every troop, except the Rawhides, in an assault on Cobra-La, but they are ambushed and captured as they enter the cavernous ice dome. The Rawhides meet up with Roadblock and Flint and manage to sneak into Cobra-La with Cobra Commander's help.
After freeing the captured Joes, Falcon manages to defeat Serpentor destroy both the BET and the spore pods in space. Cobra-La's ice dome is ravaged and the Joes leave victorious.
Original airdates: Released Direct to Video, 1987
Aired in Syndication: April 25-29, 1987
Written by: Ron Friedman
Directed by: Don Jurwich
The film features an appearance by nearly every character to date, including those previously written out of the series. Below is a complete list of previously existing characters that appear in the film.
Intended to bridge the gap between the end of the second season of G.I. Joe's animated series and the never-produced third season, G.I. Joe: The Movie introduced a number of new characters. Included were:
- Falcon, a Green Beret and Duke's reckless half-brother.
- Jinx, a female Asian martial arts expert with a reputation for bad luck (and alternately, "blind luck").
- Law, a military policeman, and his bomb-sniffing canine companion, Order.
- Tunnel Rat, infiltration expert without pause.
- Chuckles, here played as silent (minus the frenzied yelling), contrary to his filecard description and his comic portrayal.
- Big Lob, who speaks in sports commentator jargon; apparently created solely for the film, having no action figure or comic book counterpart, although it is possible he is an early concept of Hardball, a baseball attired Joe character introduced in 1988.
- Mercer, antagonistic ex-Cobra Viper.
- Red Dog, roughhousing ex-football player.
- Taurus, a musclebound former circus acrobat.
- Golobulus, genocidal ruler of Cobra-La. Though his action figure has him having a snake tail as opposed to actual legs, for the bulk of the movie his lower half of his body is shown as being a floating sphere-type vessel, which splits open to reveal his snake-like torso for the film's final confrontation.
- Nemesis Enforcer, the bat-winged mute bodyguard for Golobulus.
- Pythona, formidable femme fatale assassin. Created for the film, the character would have ultimately received her own action figure had the film (and the Cobra-La concept in general) been more warmly received by fans.
- Royal Guards, arthropod-themed soldiers of Cobra-La. According to their file card, the Royal Guards were Cobra-La citizens who had living insect body parts permanently bonded onto their bodies as their armor and were lobotomized to ensure complete loyalty.
Featured Vehicles & Equipment
"Was once a man!"
- -- Cobra Commander mutating into a serpent
"As my blind ninja master used to say, 'The keenest eye is that which looks inward.'"
- -- Jinx to Beach Head
"The crowd ain't the only ones going bananas!"
- -- Beach Head angered by Tunnel Rat and Big Lob
"I hope you both get fleas."
- -- Beach Head angered by Law and Order
"Man, who ever heard of getting shot down by a salad?"
- -- Law on Cobra-La's bio-weaponry
"At ease, disease!"
- -- Sgt. Slaughter
"Law & Order's a team, man. He finds the bombs, I drive the car. We tried it the other way, but it didn't work."
- -- Law, when Beach Head objects to him using a dog to find a bomb
Animation and/or technical glitches
- During Serpentor's rescue, various Joes are seen pouring out of a building labeled "G.I. JOE BARRAKS"
- During the fight at the B.E.T., just before Serpentor picks up Duke, a TIE Fighter noise accompanies the air chariot, as does a very brief audio clip of Darth Vader breathing, presumably missed by the sound editors of this movie.
- When the Joe Team is storing the B.E.T. at the maximum-security civilian facility, Lifeline is present and has a line of dialogue. The problem is, Lifeline is supposed to be in the Himalayas with Flint and Iceberg.
- Despite the Himalayas operations being polar expeditions, there are few if any GI Joe or Cobra polar vehicles or troops utilized during them. Snow Job and Iceberg appear, and GI Joe Snow Cats appears later in the story, but the initial attack on the B.E.T. is contested between GI Joe HAVOCs and Cobra Stuns. In addition, Cobra's strike force is populated by dozens of Motor-Vipers; only 1 single Snow Serpent trooper appears as Cobra makes their escape toward Cobra-La.
- The Cobra leadership lists Cobra Commander's failures, however, they tolerated his leadership in the Sunbow tv series and Serpentor also has a losing track record. Cobra's schemes fail even when Cobra Commander is not directly involved.
- Steeler, Grunt and Clutch make fleeting cameos during the film. But all three was written out of the Sunbow series, quite convincingly, in "Worlds Without End (Part II)", remaining behind on an alternate reality Earth.
- Some sound effects from Star Wars can be heard throughout the movie, from Lightsabers (Pythona breaking through the perimeter fence of the Terror Drome) to Hoth snowspeeders (Cobra "Trouble Bubbles" surveying the Cobra Island night skies) TIE Fighter engines (Serpentor's air chariot).
- Even if Falcon had remained at his guard station, the escape showed the weak security in the Joe universe.
- There is no alarm triggered when the computer system is overridden.
- There is no alarm triggered when the plastic barrier-wall is cut.
- There is no alarm triggered when the concrete wall is destroyed.
- The alarm cable is external and has no backup system. It must be manually re-connected.
- The Cobra raiding unit infiltrated Joe headquarters.
- Falcon could have remained at his station and been rendered sleeping with a gas grenade.
- Real-life military guard protocol is to have units of 2-3 soldiers per station or assignment to provide backup.
- In the episodes involving the M.A.S.S. and the Weather Dominator, the Joes uses 2-3 person security patrols and still are infiltrated.
- Why would Falcon be allowed to join the Green Berets?
- After their confrontation over Heather, Falcon scoffs at Duke's adherence to military protocol, and decides to pull rank on Duke to end the conversation. Instead he gets a nasty surprise when Duke slaps him with guard duty for his insubordination, confirming that Duke, as field commander, outranks all the Joes under his command, including commissioned officers.
- Created at the height of the G.I. Joe craze in the 1980s, G.I. Joe: The Movie was intended as a theatrical release to be closely followed by The Transformers: The Movie. However, the G.I. Joe film encountered unexpected production delays which allowed the Transformers feature to be released first. Due to the poor box office performances of the Transformers film and the My Little Pony film, G.I. Joe: The Movie was instead released direct-to-video as well as aired on television in syndication, first in feature length format and later split into a 5-part mini-series format as part of the show's syndication package.
- The writers did not originally intend for "Cobra-La" to be the name of the rival civilization; this was merely a placeholder name in the drafts until a more alien label came to mind, but Hasbro executives fell in love with the name and asked the writers to keep it.
- In particular, the film's revelation that Cobra Commander was a multi-eyed, blue skinned humanoid reptile was widely panned in part because it outright contradicted all previous continuity for the character on the cartoon series, where the character (when wearing his trademark hood) clearly was shown to be at least Caucasian with normal human eyes.
- Overshadowed by this was the controversy surrounding Duke's circumventing death following a critical chest injury. In the film, Duke, laying bloodied in the embrace of the distraught Falcon, gasps a frail "Yo...Joe..." with his final breath before slumping motionless. Scarlett is then heard (in off-camera dialog) despairing that Duke has "gone into a coma", to which General Hawk later assures they'll do everything possible to save him. By the end of the film, another line of overdubbed dialog (in the form of the Joe medic Doc) assures that Duke recovers in time for the closing credits. In the original script, however, Duke was meant to die, and according to series writer Buzz Dixon, if the scene is viewed without dialogue, judged merely on the expiring movements of Duke and the tearful reactions of the Joes, it plays fairly obviously as a death scene (when Hawk turns around to cry, he clearly says "man down" instead of "Yo Joe"). Fans have also pointed out that Serpentor's snake javelin struck Duke roughly where his heart would be, and in real life it is generally impossible to survive such a gory impaling, not to mention that a comatose state rather corresponds to brain injury. This could be explained, however, by his heart injury causing a lack of blood flow to the brain for sufficient time to induce a coma.
- Duke's planned death was the inspiration for the death of popular Autobot Optimus Prime. However, due to the Transformers being released before G.I. Joe the movie and the subsequent backlash Hasbro suffered due to the death of Optimus Prime, Hasbro quickly performed an about-face and allowed the Duke character to survive, and would also later bring Optimus Prime back to life.
- In the Japanese language release of this film on Laser Disc, the issue of Duke's death was actually left unedited. The same scene in which Scarlett is cradling Duke as he speaks, his final "Yo...Joe...", Scarlett repeatedly states, "He's dead...He's dead."
- Several scenes were storyboarded but never animated: one featured recurring character Hector Ramirez (who was listed in the end credits of the film) reporting from the United Nations building after the spores are launched into orbit. Another scene featured Jinx with her blindfold on and holding a sword, trying to stop the Thunder Machine from escaping with Serpentor. Falcon sees her and pushes her out of the way; they start to argue, but then they quickly notice smoke coming from the stockade, which leads to Falcon's run-in with Hawk.
- Presumably, if the film had received a theatrical release, it would have featured an original music score, just as The Transformers: The Movie did. However, the version that was eventually released on video featured re-used music cues from the TV series (including some themes from other Hasbro animated TV series, such as Transformers and My Little Pony).
- The film was released on video in the United Kingdom on 19th September 1988 with the title changed to Action Force: The Movie. As was normal for changes to Action Force, the terms "G.I. Joe" and "Yo Joe" were changed to "Action Force" and "Full Force" respectively. Also a different piece of music was used for the opening titles, which were truncated.
- By the time the movie was released on DVD in the UK in 2003 the title "Action Force" had long been replaced by "G.I. Joe". However the first release of the movie had an error with the "Action Force" soundtrack used on the second half. In 2007 a correct release of the original US version was made.
- The UK comic Action Force Monthly ran a special prelude story entitled "As Thick as Thieves" in issue #6.
- The opening sequence for the movie was called "G.I. Joe: The Musical" by insiders.
- The Movie managed to include 84 of the 95 figure-based characters from previous episodes. The 11 not included were Grand Slam, Torpedo, Deep Six, Polly, Frostbite, H.I.S.S. Driver, Viper Pilot, Copperhead, Wild Weasel, Eel, and Lamprey.
- Charlie Adler as Low-Light
- Shūko Akune as Jinx
- Jackson Beck as Narrator
- Michael Bell as Duke, Xamot, Blowtorch and Lift-Ticket
- Gregg Berger as Motor-Viper
- Earl Boen as Taurus
- Arthur Burghardt as Destro and Iceberg
- Corey Burton as Tomax
- William Callaway as Beach Head
- François Chau as Quick Kick
- Peter Cullen as Zandar, Nemesis Enforcer and Scientist
- Brian Cummings as Doctor Mindbender
- Jennifer Darling as Pythona
- Laurie Faso as Tunnel Rat
- Hank Garret as Dial Tone
- Richard Gautier as Serpentor
- Ed Gilbert as General Hawk
- Dan Gilvezan as Slip-Stream
- Zack Hoffman as Zartan
- Kene Holliday as Roadblock
- John Hostetter as Bazooka
- Don Johnson as Lt. Falcon
- Buster Jones as Doc
- Chris Latta as Cobra Commander, Gung-Ho, Tele-Viper and Ripper
- Morgan Lofting as Baroness
- Michael McConnohie as Cross Country
- Mary McDonald-Lewis as Lady Jaye
- Burgess Meredith as Golobulus
- Ron Ortiz as Law
- Rob Paulsen as Snow Job
- Patrick Pinney as Mainframe
- Poncie Ponce as Red Dog
- Lisa Raggio as Zarana/Heather
- Bill Ratner as Flint
- Neil Ross as Buzzer, Monkeywrench and Shipwreck
- Brad Sanders as Big Lob
- Ted Schwartz as Thrasher
- Sgt. Slaughter as Sgt. Slaughter
- Kristoffer Tabori as Mercer
- B. J. Ward as Scarlett
- Vernee Watson-Johnson as Scientist
- Lee Weaver as Alpine
- Frank Welker as Torch, Wild Bill and Order
- Stan Wojno Jr. as Lifeline
Frank Welker is not specifically credited as Order, but he does provide the vocals of the dog in the Rawhides training sequence are (as he has provided animal vocal work for dozens of creatures - several in GI Joe itself - throughout his voice work career. Gregg Berger, a vocal actor for GI Joe for several years (as Spirit and Firefly, most notably) only has featured vocals in the movie as a Motor-Viper (random yells and hollars during the first battle for the B.E.T.).
Jack Angel is credited as Wet-Suit, and even though the character does not have any dialogue, during the final battle, when he gets punched by a Royal Guard, you can hear him scream (although it's barely audible thanks to the background fight grunts provided by the other voice actors). Michael Bell is credited as Blowtorch, but his scene was deleted. Peter Cullen and Vernee Watson-Johnson are credited as scientists but their scenes got deleted. Dan Gilvezan is credited as Slip-Stream, but he only manages to get some background walla sounds as dialogue in the final cut. Chuck McCann is credited as Leatherneck, but, as with Wet-Suit, during the final battle, after Wet-Suit gets punched by the Royal Guard, Leatherneck punches the Royal Guard, and you can hear a fight grunt when he punches the guard (although there's the background fight grunts during this whole sequence, Leatherneck's grunt is more audible than Wet-Suit's). Neil Ross is credited as Hector Ramirez, and even had a scene storyboarded, but it got deleted. The movie script coming with the Shout Factory DVD, features a scene featuring Blowtorch and another scene featuring the scientists analyzing the spore launch just before the scene where Ramirez is reporting from the UN building.
- See also: G.I. Joe: The Movie/Gallery