DVD Review: G.I. JOE – RESOLUTE

resolute
I am a child of the 80’s and growing up, G.I. Joe was my obsession. I had tons of the action figures and vehicles. I watched the cartoon every chance I got and I almost burst into tears when Duke got impaled by Serpentor’s snake in G.I. Joe: The Movie. I know there are more old school fans and collectors who prefer the original 12 inch G.I. Joes back when ‘Kung Fu Grip’ was a remarkable achievement in the toy industry. But, I was all about the Joes vs. Cobra version. The concept was originally developed as a Nick Fury pitch by comic book writer (and Vietnam veteran) Larry Hama. The idea was reworked when Marvel Comics was approached by Hasbro to reinvent the G.I. Joe toy line into the 3 ¾ inch figures made popular by the Star Wars figures. Joe fans really owe a lot to Hama as he not only wrote the entire run of the G.I. Joe comic for Marvel, but he also wrote all the file cards on the back of the toy packages.

Paramount’s big-budget, live-action adaptation, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra met with lukewarm response from diehard Joe fans. The film wasn’t even screened for critics, but it still managed to pull in over $300 million worldwide and received a greenlight for a sequel. For many, however, this wasn’t their G.I. Joe. All is not lost as Hasbro teamed up with Cartoon Network and Titmouse, Inc. (the same animation studio behind Afro Samurai) for G.I. Joe: Resolute. This re-imaging updates the Joes vs. Cobra mythology for modern eyes. Much like they did in the 80’s with Larry Hama, Hasbro turned to another comic book writer to revitalize their franchise. This time around, it’s British comic book scribe Warren Ellis (author of The Authority, Planetary, Transmetropolitan) who is handed the reins to the G.I. Joe kingdom. Hard to believe a Brit could nail down the Real American Hero so brilliantly, but he does. Aside from an acerbic wit, Ellis is one of the best science-fiction writers working today in any medium thanks to an intense knowledge of technology. His extensive research is firmly on display here with much of the weapons and tech used in Resolute, giving it a fantastic 21st century feel.

Resolute lets the audience know that nothing is sacred immediately as the film starts with authorities discovering the corpse of a well-known Joe villain. Another beloved Joe characters is also found dead shortly afterwards. Before the G.I. Joe team can even get their bearings, a renewed and even more ruthless Cobra Commander initiates a multi-tiered assault on the free world. He launches several satellites into the stratosphere shutting down communications networks then blows up the entire city of Moscow with a particle cannon. The Joes’ commander, Duke, teams with Scarlett to parachute into a decommissioned Russian bunker and where Cobra has built their weapon of mass destruction. A second Joe team consisting of Stalker, Gung Ho, and Roadblock stage an assault on a science lab where the aristocratic assassins Destro and Baroness have taken the staff hostage.

Of course, how can we have G.I. Joe with any ninjas? Cobra’s elite warrior, Storm Shadow, is able to sneak aboard the Joe’s aircraft carrier, the USS Flagg, planting several bombs that destroy their jets and weapons cache. The Joes dispatch their resident ninja commando, Snake-Eyes, to confront his arch-nemesis. Snake-Eyes tracks Storm Shadow to the ancient temple in Japan where they trained under the Hard Master. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the growing jealousy of Storm Shadow and his eventual betrayal that leads to their inevitable confrontation to the death. Arguably the most popular Joe character, Snake-Eyes is the personification of badass here. His section of the story is the most fun and filled with plenty of cool sword fights and martial arts action.

Though Ellis admitted knowing nothing about G.I. Joe, he manages to remain faithful to past continuity while revamping them for today’s world. And he did it without sticking them into black latex outfits or goofy accelerator suits. The main characters remain faithful to their more familiar versions with a few personality quirks accentuated. Cobra Commander isn’t nearly as goofy as he once was, but he’s every bit as bat-poop insane. Destro and the Baroness have a Mickey and Mallory vibe to them. There’s definite sexual arousal between them when it comes to death and violence. By the way, kudos to whoever decided to give Destro a Sean Connery-esque voice. People seem to forget the dude is descended from Scottish aristocracy. He shouldn’t talk like he’s James Earl Jones. Speaking of which, the voice acting is fairly decent. I didn’t particularly care for Steve Blum’s voice-over work as Duke since he sounded like almost every other male lead in a dubbed anime series. Due to budgetary limits, it appears they only had a small group of actors to provide multiple voices for the cast of characters.

That’s probably the biggest detriment with Resolute. A cap on the budget meant only so many characters could be utilized and only so much could be done with them. Many favorites like Flint, Cover Girl, and Wild Bill only get one or two lines. Others like Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Spirit, and Beachhead have no lines at all or only appear in the background of one scene. Resolute also runs less than an hour so the storyline and resolution feel rushed. A lot of subplots don’t get developed as well as they should have. Fans familiar with the cartoon will be aware that Duke and Scarlett were an item. More right-thinking fans familiar with the comic know that Scarlett and Snake-Eyes were the couple. Tying into the melding of continuity, there are hints at a love triangle between them, but they only devote a couple of lines to it and it’s never fully explored. I guess I should be thankful that Scarlett didn’t fall for Marlon Wayans.

Finally, I should note G.I. Joe: Resolute was rated TV-14 so it isn’t exactly kid friendly. They aren’t shooting red and blue lasers at each other and the pilots don’t parachute out of the planes at the last second. Even with the increased levels of violence, the generic Cobra grunts STILL can’t hit the broadside of a barn.

Video/Audio: 8/10
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is practically flawless. I didn’t notice any sort of blemishes or edge enhancement. The colors are strong though I did have issues with some of the soft lighting used in several scenes. That’s more of a nitpick with the animators than the actual DVD.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound is really strong particularly during the action sequences where there’s a lot of gunfire and explosions. Dialogue comes in crisp and clear.

Extras: 3/10
Now You Know is a two-minute preview for Resolute featuring an original scene with Duke, Roadblock, and Snake-Eyes shooting it out with Cobra soldiers in the forest.

Interview with the Filmmakers (20:38) is a roundtable discussion with Director Joaquim Dos Santos, Executive Producer Steve Drucker, and Lead Art Designer Dan Norton. Moderated by Hasbro’s Sarah Baskin, the trio takes us from their memories of G.I. Joe growing up to the development and production of Resolute while answering questions sent in by fans.

Rounding out the DVD are storyboards, text-based character files and previews for Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Film Value: 7/10
This is what the live-action movie should have been. G.I. Joe: Resolute is a briskly-paced, action-packed version of my beloved childhood favorites. It succeeds where other reboots such as G.I. Joe Extreme, Sigma 6, and Rise of Cobra failed. Resolute remains faithful to the previous cartoon and comics, but is still accessible to new fans. It feels like Resolute picks up right where the cartoon series left off without being bogged down by years of backstory. However, at just under an hour’s length, it feels like only an appetizer. I can only imagine how much better this could have been if they had more time to really cut loose.

Fun bit of trivia, the original voice of Cobra Commander was the great Chris Latta who passed away in the 1994. He also used the same raspy, high-pitched voice for Starscream on Transformers. Charles Adler provided the voice of Starscream in the Michael Bay-directed Transformers films and uses a similar voice for Resolute‘s Cobra Commander. Now you know…and knowing is half the battle.

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