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6 Things Hasbro’s G.I. JOE Movie Reboot Needs to Get Right

6 Things Hasbro’s G.I. JOE Movie Reboot Needs to Get Right

Hasbro Studios wants to reboot G.I. Joe… again.

As we’ve known for a while, Hasbro is aiming to get into the cinematic universe game. A big part of those plans is G.I. Joe. The only problem: the G.I. Joe movies can’t seem to get things quite right, and Hasbro and Paramount are already talking about another reboot to the military superhero franchise. As Simon Waters, Hasbro Studios’ supervisor of consumer products, told the L.A. Timesthe company wants to shoot for “a more millennial approach.” Waters said, “The world has changed, and I think you’re going to see G.I. Joe changing with it,” adding, “There’s going to be a much more contemporary approach to the whole franchise, and that will allow us to develop different characters.”

There are plenty of ways to go about such an open-ended plan. My immediate thought is that they’ll make Cobra into cyber-terrorists, and the Joe team younger, maybe even teens recruited Power Ranger/X-Men style for their unique gifts. And that’d be one way to do it. I personally would be into a Brady Bunch Movie style comedic take on the ’80s stylings, but there’s little chance of that happening. (Besides, Robot Chicken may have had the definitive take on the Joes as anachronisms.)

So what does a decent G.I. Joe movie need? I’m glad, I asked, rhetorically, because I have some answers. Were I to have Hasbro’s ear, the following would be my suggestions:

Destro and Cobra Commander together at the same time

In The Rise of Cobra, Destro is the villain, although he doesn’t become the Destro we know until the end. In Retaliation, Destro is left in suspended-animation prison, and Cobra Commander is the villain. Switching off these two baddieshas kept us from the best dynamic on the cartoon; let’s call it a hate-bromance. Both were relative equals as arch-villains–Cobra Commander led the terrorist organization called Cobra, but Destro supplied the weapons. And each was willing to blame or outright betray the other at a moment’s notice.

The absence of this dynamic in the prior movies can be partly blamed on the special-effects approach to Destro. To make his metal mask move fluidly like in the cartoon, it became a budget-busting CGI effect. But it doesn’t have to. The mask could be redesigned so that the eyes and mouth are visible, not unlike Klytus in 1980’s Flash Gordon. And if they use the existing continuity, it doesn’t have to be the same Destro. The McCullen clan have been established as inheritors of the mask; all we’d need is a relative that Christopher Eccleston didn’t know about to fill the costume and the role.

Dreadnoks

Back in the ’80s, the Dreadnoks–the English and Australian-accented biker characters armed with power-tool weapons–seemed like the closest Hasbro could get to Mad Max-themed vehicles, since the actual Mad Max franchise wouldn’t license toys. In today’s world, they seem more relevant than ever, as a gang of outlaws used to carry out the evil organization’s dirty work. Think about the accusations today of paid protesters at political rallies, or of Russian soldiers going undercover in places like Ukraine and claiming to be a grassroots independence movement. G.I. Joe is best if it doesn’t mirror politics too closely, but a slightly sanitized version of this concept could make the Dreadnok idea really work.

Bring the base back home

Modern G.I. Joe lore stems from a storyline and concept subtitled “A Real American Hero,” so it was a massive facepalm moment in The Rise of Cobra when they were revealed to be an international organization headquartered in Egypt. It’s understandable that Hasbro and Paramount might be sensitive about how a movie featuring American military types might play elsewhere in the world, but I dunno, Captain America seems to be doing just fine, movie-wise.

Of course, this doesn’t mean excluding non-American characters from the team; the Joe team has had international members, and worked with other, similar elite teams from other countries. There’s the Oktober Guard in Russia, Action Force in Europe, and various ninja clans in the far East. If you want to be inclusive of other countries, have consultants from those forces join up with your key Joe characters.

Keep enough of it familiar

G.I. Joe as a toy concept has gone through reboots before. “Real American Hero” is technically a reboot, albeit one that retroactively incorporated the older toys into its canon. But every version since hasn’t fared as well. Remember G.I. Joe Extreme?

Or maybe Sergeant Savage?

Yeah, not so much.

Don’t betray the Baroness

sideshowbaroness

While many a lustful youngster had feelings stirred by the Cobra villainess’ hybrid dominatrix/librarian look, she was a strong and complex character in the comics as well. A European far-leftist whose rage at American policy led her to terrorism, the Baroness was a master of disguise, sabotage, and intelligence, and had a sometimes complicated romance with Destro. The Rise of Cobra not only reduced her signature look to generic black clothes and sunglasses, but more devastatingly, it took away her agency when it was revealed that her evil deeds were all due to mind-control nanomites, controlled (of course) by a man.

Baroness is still popular as the subject of both collectibles and cosplay. Do right by the fans who love those.

Lean into the absurd.

G.I. Joe (mostly) hasn’t been based on realistic military since the mid-’80s. It succeeded as well as it did after that by incorporating the appeal of properties like Star Wars and becoming a kid’s fantasy idea of what the perfect military would be, adding sci-fi elements and larger-than-life, WWE-style characters (including a literal one in Sgt. Slaughter). Being embarrassed by that fact is not doing the property justice.

Just as the Transformers movies falter when they get away from the core concept of robots that transform, G.I. Joe will falter if its colorful, larger-than-life aspects are ignored. And there’s plenty of precedent. Take The Avengers, replace their super powers with expert military specialties, and you’d have G.I. Joe. Every human character in a Michael Bay movie, from Sean Connery in The Rock to Mark Wahlberg in Pain and Gain, would fit in perfectly. And what are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s freeze guns if not the actualization of the Joe cartoon’s laser stun guns?

And then you’re ready for the inevitable Transformers crossover.

How would you want Hasbro to proceed with G.I. Joe? Leave your thoughts in comments, or talk toys with me on Twitter @LYTrules.

Featured image: Paramount

Baroness image: Sideshow Toys


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