TV Review: The Transformers – Original Miniseries & Seasons 1 & 2 (1984-1986)

Also known as: Transformers: Generation 1, Transformers G1 (informal titles)
Release Date: September 17th, 1984 – January 9th, 1986
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro and Takara Tomy
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Robert J. Walsh
Cast (voices): Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, Corey Burton, John Stephenson, Jack Angel, Casey Kasem, Scatman Crothers, Charlie Adler

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, AKOM, Claster Television, 65 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Sometimes even the wisest of man or machine can make an error.” – Optimus Prime

*Written in 2015.

The original Transformers television series, simply called The Transformers and now commonly referred to as Transformers G1 (for Generation One) was a sister show to Marvel/SunBow’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

It had the same art style, the same producers and directors and the voice cast of both shows were pretty much identical. It was also obvious to kids at the time but we didn’t care that Starscream and Cobra Commander had the same voice. All we cared about is that this show was just as badass as G.I. Joe.

Also, like G.I. Joe, this animated series was used as a vehicle to sell a tie-in toy line produced by Hasbro. It worked well, as the Transformers characters were some of the best-selling toys of all-time. In fact, after Star Wars, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe and Transformers lines have to be the hottest selling toys of the ’80s for boys.

In regards to the show, there were great multi-part episodes and many stand alone episodes. This was the typical format of male action cartoons of the era. We were treated to great stories, a rich mythos and interesting characters. The show was well executed and was one of the highlights of 1980s pop culture.

It has gone on to spin-off a bunch of other animated series, as well as live-action films (those are atrocious though), video games, comic books and thousands of toys. The franchise, born from this animated series, is still one of the most lucrative of all-time and continues to try and reinvent itself every few years.

In the end though, there has never been an incarnation of Transformers that has been as iconic and near perfect as the original animated series. And while people consider this era, the original miniseries and the first two seasons, which take place before the animated feature film, as the peak in Transformers entertainment, I am one of the weirdos that actually prefers the show after the film.

The reason why I wanted to single out the two halves with different reviews is that the second half, after the movie, is darker and has a slew of new characters and situations. The movie changed everything and it significantly altered the show’s tone. I will review the second half of this series at a later date.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow Transformers and G.I. Joe stuff.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 (2005-2006)

Original Run: September 10th, 2005 – October 28th, 2006
Directed by: Kobun Shizuno
Written by: Masaki Wachi, John Touhey
Based on: G.I. Joe by Hasbro
Music by: Russell Velazquez, John Siegler
Cast: Eric Stuart, Michael Sinterniklaas, Scott Rayow

4Kids TV, G4, The Hub, 26 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

If G.I. Joe, a great franchise, was rebooted into a show for really young Millennial kids with mediocre anime and obnoxious techno blaring at every turn, than this would be that show.

It’s friggin’ terrible. Seriously, it’s one of the most atrocious things I have ever seen with the G.I. Joe brand on it. Sure, maybe the DiC TV series from 1989 is a hair bit worse but this is just as unwatchable. Granted, the art style is actually much better than the DiC stuff but it isn’t what I would call good anime.

I hate the character design, I don’t like the CGI bits, which there are a lot of, and the people chosen for this much smaller Joe team are baffling choices. Sure, you need Duke, Scarlett and Snake Eyes but that’s about it. The rest of the Joe characters here seem like they were just picked randomly. Granted, I’ve always liked Tunnel Rat but he’s hardly iconic and his reinvention here is dogshit. I mean, the first thing you even see him do is eat a cockroach off of a sewer pipe.

Additionally, the Cobra characters are fairly decent choices but none of them have the presence of the old school G.I. Joe cartoon from the Marvel/Sunbow era. Destro and the Baroness are the first two that you see and they just don’t have charisma and seem like poorly crafted caricatures of their old school counterparts.

I really wanted to give this a shot, as it’s no secret that I’ve been on a massive G.I. Joe kick lately. I’ve been reading through the entirety of the IDW Publishing G.I. Joe comics and I recently revisited the original animated show. Sigma 6, sadly, didn’t come close to the quality of the two things I just referenced, however.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this to anyone. Not even a six year-old boy obsessed with anime, Americana and obnoxious nose bleeding techno.

All that being said, this must be put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: Banging your head against the bar in an obnoxious techno club in Estonia.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The DiC Era (1989-1992)

Release Date: September 2nd, 1989 – January 20th, 1992
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Stephen James Taylor
Cast (voices): Kevin Conway, Chris Latta, Sgt. Slaughter, Ed Gilbert, Maurice LaMarche, Morgan Lofting, Dale Wilson, Scott McNeil, Garry Chalk, Ted Harrison

DiC Entertainment, Hasbro, Claster Television, 44 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“What am I paying you for, anyhow?” – Cobra Commander, “You’re not paying me! I haven’t seen a dime from you in months!” – Destro, “…Minor detail.” – Cobra Commander

I recently reviewed the feature length miniseries that kicked off this era. I didn’t think that G.I. Joe could sink to lower depths than Operation Dragonfire but this series that followed proved me wrong.

Sure, I had seen these episodes before but not since I was in middle school when I didn’t have a refined palate.

The DiC era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is an example of what can happen when you take something perfect and try to replicate it with less money and shoddy resources. It’s not even like a Chinese knockoff it’s more like a North Korean knockoff. And for some reason, even though “American” is still int he show’s title, G.I. Joe are now presented as “international heroes”. So are they a U.N. thing? Or is that because the United States has a base in nearly every country anyway and this cartoon was pointing that out in a tongue and cheek sort of way? I doubt that it is the latter, as the people behind this show don’t seem smart enough to know how to flush a toilet let alone create some sort of clever, subtle and sarcastic “fuck you” to U.S. foreign policy and the military.

Well, this is an inadvertent “fuck you” to the military regardless, as it takes once heroic and badass soldiers that defended Old Glory and turns them into the Three Stooges with laser rifles. I have never seen dumber characters fighting for freedom than the ones represented here. And really, it’s a big “fuck you” to all the fans that loved G.I. Joe because the quality of the stuff before this (excluding The Movie) was friggin’ solid.

The biggest complaints I have about this era of G.I. Joe are the same as those I discussed in my Operation Dragonfire review. But to summarize, the character designs are ugly, the dialogue is atrocious, the animation looks like shit and the writing is painful and baffling.

Granted, Hasbro is probably to blame for the character designs but this show does nothing to make them better and in fact, it enhances the vibrant colors and goofy flourishes.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was once my favorite thing on television. Then DiC Entertainment came along and took a giant f’n shit on it.

And my god, man… that theme song they did is enough to make your eyeballs melt and your ears explode.

I must run this turd pile through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: Nothing good.

 

Ranking the Films of Tim Burton

Tim Burton was one of my favorite directors in the ’80s and into the ’90s. Things went downhill once we got to the ’00s but there were still some gems after the turn of the new millennium.

He was the first director to really tackle Batman and he gave us beloved characters like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. His style is unique and all its own, even if it has become a caricature of itself and a hindrance in recent years.

Here are all the films he directed, ranked. The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t here because although he created it, he didn’t direct it.

1. Ed Wood
2. Edward Scissorhands
3. Batman
4. Sleepy Hollow
5. Mars Attacks!
6. Beetlejuice
7. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
8. Batman Returns
9. Big Eyes
10. Corpse Bride
11. Big Fish
12. Frankenweenie (animated)
13. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
14. Planet of the Apes
15. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
16. Dark Shadows
17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
18. Alice In Wonderland

Film Review: G.I. Joe: Operation Dragonfire (1989)

Release Date: September 2nd, 1989 – September 6th, 1989 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Michael Maliani
Written by: Doug Booth
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Sgt. Slaughter, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Michael Benyaer, Jim Byrnes, Kevin Conway, Ian James Corlett, Lisa Corps, Lee Jeffrey, Maurice LaMarche, Dale Wilson

DiC Entertainment, Hasbro, Claster Television, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 22 Minutes (per episode), 102 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

If G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero jumped the shark with G.I. Joe: The Movie, than this is where they decided to just jump right into the shark’s mouth wearing a suit made out of chum and a sign around the neck that read, “I’m your tasty lunch, Mr. Shark Dude!”.

DiC Entertainment took over animation duties from Marvel/Sunbow. Apparently, Hasbro couldn’t reject their offer to take over the show, as they promised to do it for much cheaper than what Marvel/Sunbow could offer.

Well, I once bought a generic knockoff G.I. Joe in a baggy from a one dollar bin at Rite Aid when I was an idiot seven year-old. I discovered that the figure didn’t even come with accessories or elbows that bent. The thing is, you get what you pay for and what the fans got was the cartoon version of cheap Chinese G.I. Joe ripoffs. This era of G.I. Joe was to the first two seasons what Gobots were to The Transformers.

So what’s wrong with it? Well, just about everything.

The animation is terrible and I mean, super f’n terrible. It’s so bad when compared to the first two seasons of G.I. Joe that it almost gives you a headache. Plus, the character designs are appalling. Granted, this could be due to Hasbro reworking the action figures for their 1989 line but the colors of the uniforms were ugly and the new look compared to the classic characters was unnecessary and a total waste of resources. Hasbro could have created more new characters or altered existing figures colors in a way that wasn’t so vibrant, gaudy and goofy.

Operation Dragonfire was the five episode miniseries created to kickoff this awful era. It was done in the same vein as the original G.I. Joe: An American Hero miniseries, The Revenge of CobraThe Pyramid of Darkness and Arise, Serpentor Arise! And while it’s said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, imitation without soul is pretty much just dickish thievery.

At least this story tried to fix some of the problems with G.I. Joe: The Movie by wiping the slate clean, doing away with Serpentor (who should have been dead, actually) and reestablishing Cobra Commander as the leader of Cobra. And at least it had Copperhead in it, a favorite Cobra character of mine, and it gave us Python Force, one of my favorite things to come out of the toy line. However, the story used to establish Python Patrol was so stupid and asinine that it made me kind of hate those toys now.

Operation Dragonfire is, without a doubt, the worst of the feature length G.I. Joe stories. It’s dreadful and sitting through it in one sitting was a tremendous feat. I should be given a damn medal.

As horrible as this piece of shit is, I must run it through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Nothing good.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

Also known as: Action Force: The Movie (UK)
Release Date: April 20th, 1987
Directed by: Don Jurwich
Written by: Buzz Dixon (uncredited)
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Don Johnson, Burgess Meredith, Sgt. Slaughter, Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 93 Minutes

Review:

“I will stain my hands with your blood! No one defies Golobulus and lives… NO ONE! The last thing you will hear… is the cracking of your vertebrae… one… BY ONE!” – Golobulus

G.I. Joe: The Movie is where G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero jumped the shark. Granted, I don’t completely hate it and there are a few positives but at it’s core, this is not G.I. Joe.

This motion picture, which was originally intended to be a theatrical release but ended up being released on VHS instead, takes everything that was established in G.I. Joe and turns it on its head.

We find out that Cobra Commander is some snake dude and that he is from some secret Shangri-La like society called Cobra-La. The G.I. Joes and Cobra both get pulled into Cobra-La’s bizarre world and quickly discover a bunch of weird looking people who don’t use technology like humankind but instead have an organic type of technology. I guess it makes them similar to the alien Yuuzhan Vong from the polarizing New Jedi Order era of the Star Wars Expanded Universe continuity that Disney ignores now. Cobra-La is led by Golobulus, a creepy dude that sounds an awful lot like Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky movies.

The Cobra-La twist just really screwed G.I. Joe up. It didn’t feel right, at all. It just didn’t vibe with the great and rich mythos I had come to know before this movie hit video store shelves in 1987.

However, as I stated earlier in this review, there were some positives. So I’ll talk about those.

To start, I liked a lot of the new characters albeit not the Cobra-La ones. Lt. Falcon, who was voiced by Don Johnson, might not have had enough time to really have his story told properly, but he came a long way in this film and became a leader when it was all said and done. He started out as a womanizing, slacker douche but tragedy forced him to grow up and conquer insurmountable odds.

I also liked most of the new G.I. Joe recruits and it was cool seeing most of the old faces, as well. The scenes where Beachhead is annoyed at training the newbies makes for some good comedy.

Also, I like that the film scratched the surface with actual mortality. Duke dies in this. Well, they fixed it so that he was just in a “coma” and survived at the end (due to public backlash over Optimus Prime’s death in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie). Serpentor is also (presumably) killed when we see Lt. Falcon stuff his cape into a turbine engine, which sucks him in and grinds into his back as he screams in absolute agony and flies through the air to what should most definitely be his violent and gory death off screen. Although, he would be alive three years later in the Operation Dragonfire miniseries that kicked off the awful DiC Entertainment era.

The animation is consistent in style to the Marvel/Sunbow era of the cartoon. Although, the animation is also a bit better and a step up. That’s probably due to this having a bigger budget than the standard G.I. Joe television episodes. This would also be the last time we got the classic animation style, as DiC would take over after this film and they would turn out some really shitty looking art.

G.I. Joe: The Movie is better than the worst episodes of the Marvel/Sunbow era but it doesn’t come anywhere near the quality of the best episodes. Being that this was supposed to be the big theatrical film debut of G.I. Joe makes the end result a disappointment. It certainly isn’t unwatchable and was kind of fun in spite of its bizarre wackiness and major changes to the mythos. My mind doesn’t really consider this canon, even though it was made by the same people who gave us two great season of the show before it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 2 (1986)

Also known as: Action Force (UK)
Release Date: September 15th, 1986 – November 20th, 1986
Directed by: Ray Lee
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Sgt. Slaughter, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, Claster Television, 30 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Know that I am the one you seek! I am the one born to rule, destined to conquer! Let those who fear me follow me. Let those who oppose me die! For I am Serpentor, and this I command!” – Serpentor

As I discussed in my review of Arise, Serpentor, Arise!, which was the start of this season of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, this was where a lot of new members of G.I. Joe and Cobra debuted, as well as a slew of new vehicles. The cartoon was a vehicle to sell toys; so with every new year, this 22 minute, daily advertisement had to evolve to reflect the new product that was hitting the shelves.

The fact that this was a glorified toy advertisement worked to the show’s advantage and also, in certain regards, worked against it. Season two isn’t as good as season one but I’ll explain.

For the most part, everything is the same from a style point of view. We have the same animation, the same voice actors, the same music and everything is right tonally. However, the inclusion of a bunch of new characters forces some of the beloved characters from season one to take a back seat. The show did really well in its first season developing characters and fleshing out backstories. In season two, you really wanted to see the continued adventures of many of those unique individuals but instead, they’re brushed aside. You can’t give us that great Shipwreck story that was the finale to season one and not properly check back in with him. In season two, he’s just a buffoon that shows up for comedic relief and is usually the butt of jokes for the newer recruits.

Additionally, there isn’t a whole lot of Duke, Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. But then again, even the newcomers sort of get shafted due to how many characters are now packed into the series and because season two was really only half the length of season one. There just wasn’t enough time to tackle it all.

Even Serpentor, who is created to be the new leader of Cobra, doesn’t get much screen time. At least, he doesn’t get nearly as much as Cobra Commander did in season one and really, Cobra Commander probably still has more screen time than Serpentor in season two, as he’s always got some scheme to try and overthrow the new Cobra emperor.

Most of the episodes, at least in the first half of the season, aren’t quite the same quality of the majority of the season one episodes. In the back half of the season, things really start to improve but by the time the season finds a good groove, it’s over.

Following season two was G.I. Joe: The Movie, which I will review at a later date. Then the show was given to DiC to produce after that and it really dropped in quality. This season was the last of the great Marvel/Sunbow era and despite my complaints about it, it was still a damn fine show.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff.