When G.I. Joe had its first live action movie debut in 2009 with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it was certainly a mixed response. I personally enjoyed it myself because it was so unabashedly crazy. The movie had laser guns and nano machines that ate metal and pretty much the total destruction of Paris. In fact, Cobra, the terrorist organization wasn’t even introduced until the end of the movie along with its leader Cobra Commander. Though as someone who greatly enjoyed the G.I. Joe franchise from the toys to the comics to the cartoons, I’ll be the first to tell you that there was something off about the film. It also seemed that the studio knew that as well.
The sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, was something of a 180 for the franchise. The laser guns were gone and there was much more of a realistic tone to the series. Cobra Commander returned along with a look that was much more recognizable compared to the look he had at the end of the prior movie This movie did turn out to be a hit and was critically received better than the previous movie. But it was released in 2013 and there has been no word of another entry in the franchise. So does this series need a fresh start? Absolutely.
The first movie sported all of the more popular characters within the G.I. Joe canon such as General Hawk, Duke, Scarlet, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Destro, Zartan and Cobra Commander. Only half of those characters returned for the sequel and one infamous moment had Duke being killed in badly edited segment fifteen minutes into the movie. Also none of these characters other than the exception of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow really resembled anything remotely to what made them popular. Changes with adaptations are perfectly fine and are necessary but it seemed as if the producers were scared of what made G.I. Joe popular in the first place.
The key to G.I. Joe is tone. While the first movie veered into goofy and the second veered deeply into realism as a response to the first, the key is in the middle. When looking at the toys and comics of G.I. Joe, there is always a bit of whimsy when it comes to it. There is no sugar coating that these are soldiers fighting a war with a charismatic extremist. People on both sides are routinely injured or killed. There is frequent usages of torture and brainwashing. Though people have things such a jetpacks and vehicles called HISS, this is a story about war.
A recent example would be the animated series, G.I. Joe: Renegades. It dealt with a small guerilla outfit composed of many of the popular members of G.I. Joe and as the series progressed, they encountered people who would eventually join the team. It also showed how an organization like Cobra could even come about as Cobra Commander poses a businessman who has his hand in just about everything and thus building a vast amount of resources and skills that he will need to build his terrorist organization. He also encounters many members who will eventually join Cobra.
G.I. Joe is a franchise that could and deserves to be bigger than what it is. It has a far reaching scale and has a central premise that is understandable by most cultures. G.I. Joe also has a diverse cast that you would not expect from this. Both organizations are full of men and women of various ethnicities and nationalities and none are played as stereotypes. It is only a matter of time before G.I. Joe returns to the big screen. I honestly hope that they get it right this time as I want others to experience what I experience.