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Saturday, August 28, 2010

G. I. Joe: Resolute (2009) review

Overall verdict: 8.5/10

The Good: almost movie quality animation, characters are exactly as fans remember them except better developed, keeps the good points of past productions and improves on the bad, talented voice cast, well written narrative and dialogue, realistic and gritty.

The Bad: too short, violence may put off those expecting something kid-friendly

Current Availability Status: not in singapore. Code 1 DVD available from online stores.

DVD features:
- 20 minute long interview with director, producer and art designer
- original internet promotional video
- character gallery and information


The classic G I Joe cartoons have always been the poster boy of sorts for non-violent, almost campy "good team versus evil team" type of story. Despite the toyline being based on the actual military, being marketed to children meant a certain degree of pandering to the kids. As a result, the original show from the 80s featured increasingly bombastic science fiction plots, villians who got dumber each episode and a military unit versus a terrorist organization using stun laser guns fighting a war in which absollutely nobody got hurt (save for some collateral damage and robot destruction). Suspension of Belief was the order of the day. Three TV series and two CGI movies later, "G I Joe: Resolute" was quietly released as a series of ten minute long videos online, designed to ride the publicity wave of the live action G I joe movie.

Ironically, this little gem of an animated movie recieved much better fan critical acclaim than its live action counterpart. Where the live action movie stuck with the cartoony nature of the G I Joe cartoons, G I Joe Resolute remained faithful to the concept of the toyline and the comics while reinventing the franchise in a more mature light.

Either set in a new continuity or as a loose sequel to the original animated series, G I Joe resolutes opens with a literal bang as the G I Joe team's main Aircraft carrier base is nearly destroyed in a terrorist bomb attack. Following this, key installations around the world are seized with lightning quick effeciency and one of Cobra Organisation's head honchos turn up dead on the steps of City Hall. What has happened is that Cobra commander, yes that cowardly bombastic buffoon from the classic cartoon, is back. Now a cold, calculating tyrant, he has seized command of Cobra by force. With a deadly new superweapon, a fool proof plan to hold the world hostage and the G I Joe team all but crippled, it falls on the remants of that team to pull together and launch an ambitious multi-pronged stealth counterattack. Their mission is to retake the seized facilities, shut down the orbital superweapon and discover the wherabouts of Cobra's base. But with time running out and their most crucial member, Snake Eyes, off to settle a personal vendetta, will the G I Joe team pull through in the end?

Clocking at only 60 minutes total, one would expect a truncated and watered down story. Not true. The story in G I Joe Resolute plays out very nicely over its allotted time, never feeling rushed at all, and has a decent conclusion which leaves some space for a sequel. The writers on this one seem to really know their stuff and have went for a more realistic portrayal of the titular paramilitary team. G I Joe members plan combat strategies, use actual military jargon and weapons that actually shoot bullets. Supporting the team is a huge collection of intelligence officers and maintainence crew, unlike the original series in which the G I Joe team were on their own yet all vehicles were always properly maintained and all battle plans were always at the ready.

The focus of the story is more on the main team of Duke, Scarlett and the ninja Snake Eyes, all of them exactly as one would have remembered from the old 80s cartoon series but with added dimensions. Gone is the all American Good guy boy scout, "do no wrong" Duke. Here, he is a "take charge" leader, but not without his flaws; he allows personal feelings to get in the way of his judgement and puts himself at unnecessary risk often for the sake of his team. Its those flaws that make him ever so much more human. There is a visible love triangle between the 3, but thankfully it is only implied and does not descend into anything overly sappy. Snake Eye's backstory is the only one that is fully fleshed out though, from his days as a ninja trainee to his vendetta with Storm Shadow. Many of the original characters that existing G I Joe fans would recognise reappear in this show too. The amazing thing is that Only five voice actors performed the roles for over twenty characters, yet each character manage to sound unique.

Special mention goes to Charlie Alder(the voice of Starscream in the Transformers 2007 movie and Revenge of the Fallen) who carries on the tradition of a Starscream voice actor doing the voice of Cobra Commander. This Cobra Commander is very much in keeping with his toy description and his comic portrayal. A ruthless, tyrannical, scheming overlord with no qualms of killing his own troops should they refuse to obey him. His portrayal here can be compared to Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in "The Dark Knight' or perhaps Hannibal Lecter. He is merciless and his new voice just reeks of evil. No more over the top schemes of world domination, this Cobra Commander cuts to the chase: surrender or die.

Similarly, G I Joe Resolute is an amazing technical achievement for OVAs. The artwork retains the designs of american comic books but with an attention to detail that rivals the best Japanese anime. The animation itself is smooth with dynamic shot angles and near perfect blending of CGI with the cel animation. Few animated shows can pull off a convincing 360 degree pan around a character or a believable slow motion shot without the scene looking jumpy but this one is an excepton. G I Joe Resolute has definitely set a new benchmark in animation. The battle scenes have also been taken to a whole new level. No more stun laser guns or shots missing at point blank range. No more "its only a scratch" or "he got shot but its just a flesh wound". THIS IS WAR. The battle scenes are very realistically planned out with the effects of war clearly visible in all its bloody glory.

Alas, with all these excellent aspects of this movie, its only flaw is that it is too short. Sure, it does not feel truncated or watered down, but a more visible build up in the tension and the story would have been a welcome additon. It is how one would like an enjoyable thing to last, but sadly this movie did not last long. Both long time fans and new comers to animation would love this latest G I Joe production that is easily the most realistic and mature entry into the franchise so far.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you want to see G I joe at its very best. Incorporating everything that worked in the past while getting rid of every aspect that did not work. Also go for it if you felt let down by the live action movie and would desire something more "true to the original"
Avoid it: if you expect the campy kid-friendly nature of the 1985 cartoon series

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Characters: A
Animation: A
Art: A-
Voice work (English): A
Replay Value: A
Brains: C+

Seamless blending of traditional cel animation (the runway personnel) and CGI (the plane).
In fact the plane looks completely like a cel animated plane, but it really is a computer generated model

The G I Joe team, assembled.
Same old recognisable characters given a modern makeover

Ninja Assassin!
G I Joe team member Snake Eyes prepares to dispatch an opponent

I Know Kung Fu
The action in G I joe resolute borrows stylisticly from "The Matrix", "Equillibrium" and other big hollywood action movies.

Macross missile massacre or Robotech rocket rain. Either way, its way cool.
Other influences come from famous anime like Macross, Sword of the Stranger and Jin Roh.

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