G.I. Joe: Resolute (US - DVD R1)
Cobra Commander announces that he won't take anymore of Gabe's crap...
The child of anti-Reganites, I was not allowed to watch the ‘80s G.I. Joe series, or play with the toys. But children practice their own brand of osmosis, and group-mind-meld, so I learned the basics of the series anyway. Years later the original G.I. Joe animated movie became a guilty pleasure, something I’ve always enjoyed more than its wildly popular sibling film Transformers. I’m not really a fan, but I understand the phenomenon enough to get a little excited by G.I. Joe: Resolute, a decidedly more adult take on the animated heroes. The story is simple. After years of brute force terrorist attacks Cobra, lead by the ever emotive Cobra Commander, takes a more nuanced approach to world domination. The heroic Joes are caught off guard by the layered attack, and the future looks generally bleak.
Beyond being a series fan’s dream, G.I. Joe: Resolute is an action animation fan’s dream. Even those missing particularly fond memories of the original G.I. Joe series, or it’s several dozen iterations, should be excited by the mix of writer, director, and cast. Writer Warren Ellis is arguably one of the most consistently good writers in modern comic history (for my money he sits just behind Grant Morrison), and is recently known for bringing his own slant to popular series like Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. Director Joaquim Dos Santos hasn’t been on the block too long, but those of us that pay attention to such things will remember his name from some of the best action based episodes of Justice League Unlimited and Avatar: The Last Airbender. The dialogue track is filled-out by voice acting favourites like Grey DeLisle ( Avatar), Stephen Blum ( Cowboy Bebop, Wolverine and the X-Men), Charlie Adler ( Rocko’s Modern Life) and Eric Bauza. Actually, that’s the entire cast. Apparently these four people voiced the entire movie.
But I’ll be honest; I’m mostly here to see what Warren Ellis can bring to the table. Ellis’ more recent popular work (what I’ve read) has seen the writer less concerned with overt politics (as seen in his most influential creation Transmetropolitan), or spirituality, and more defined by his interest in developing real-world technology (his Iron Man run is a good example). The man is good at finding relatable means to realistically explain the most outlandish comic book elements. I still haven’t seen Stephen Sommer’s live action G.I. Joe flick, but from what I gather from the trailers it appears Ellis has put a whole lot more thought into the tech of Resolute, and there’s a lot of it. As a non-fan of the series Ellis also brings a refreshing perspective in some respects to the on-going G.I. Joe mythology, while still paying homage to the classic stories (painting Cobra Commander as a man who meant to be incompetent all these years is a definite highlight). The comic book dialogue is mostly fun, without overstepping his bounds into absolute stupidity (Scarlett’s expressions of love for Duke start to push it, but are reeled back in just in time). In short, the script services fans without placating them.
The Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow stuff is a little old hat, especially following years of Batman cartoons specifically concerned with martial arts and honour. Still, Ellis wears old hats surprisingly well (he wears lots of hats well, do a Google image search), and more importantly Dos Santos brings his A-game. The ninja fight itself features some of the coolest animated combat since Avatar: The Last Airbender ended, and the TV-14 rating allows for a little more oomph than the Nickelodeon series allowed. It ends with a sort of awkward homage to Kill Bill 2 (which was a less specific homage in itself), but overall, it’s pretty cool stuff. The non-ninja hijinx are pretty ace as well, including enough massive explosions, bloody shoot-outs, and epic machinery moments to please even hardened Joe fans, and in the end, it kind of is about the action.
Paramount is not releasing G.I. Joe Resolute on Blu-ray, but this SD DVD is presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen, which is better than the shorts looked streaming from the internet. Overall detail is a little fuzzy, and the colours are a bit dim, which is a common look for modern Anime. I have no idea why, but I think it’s often a stylistic choice. Even in HD the semi-recent Batman: Gotham Knight was a little dim and a little blurry. Perhaps the look is meant to make the film look more like a live action production. I don’t know. Non-stylistically speaking this particular standard definition transfer features quite a bit of edge-enhancement and black line jaggies. The colours, though a bit dim, are pretty thick, and beyond the edges are relatively noiseless. The red-baked interior of the Joes’ drop plane is surprisingly clean and rich, though, which points more towards the lack of hue intensity throughout the rest of the print being a purposeful element, for whatever reason. The digital augmentations are brighter and poppy without too many jaggies of their own. The rough blends appear to be another purposeful element, but it is a bit distracting on a large set.
The video quality is a bit iffy, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a glorious feast of melodramatic music, hardboiled dialogue, and aggressive special effects. The special effects occasionally lack punch, but the fact that the track is clear and pointed while still being so busy is pretty cool. Bombs and gunshots are obvious highlights, but the more subtle sound of swishing swords and whizzing bullets are the most satisfying elements and the most subtle throughout the stereo and surround channels. The dialogue is sharp and crystal clear, if not entirely a naturalistic part of the soundscape. The music is especially bassy, and the bass does not warble or lose definition during more intense moments. The score is also the most consistent surround element, often working as a duel side stereo track.
The special features are kind of slim, but definitely better than nothing. Things start with ‘Now You Know’ (02:00), an especially cool teaser trailer featuring footage not found in the film proper. It’s followed by an interview with the filmmakers (Steve Drucker, Joaquim Dos Santos and Dan Norton, 20:30). Ellis is missed, and the production is a little creaky (talking heads aren’t much fun), but the interview questions are actually pretty solid (if not a bit nerdy), and the results pretty informative. Things are completed with a storyboard gallery, character bios, and trailers for other Paramount releases.
G.I. Joe Resolute isn’t an instant classic, or a must see, but it’s a rare case of fan-service-meets-thoughtful improvement. The producers behind tripe like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen might want to take notice of this deft balance. With a little more room to breath Resolute could’ve made a perfect toy-based movie, and would’ve probably been $100 million cheaper than the live action Joe film fans got, and apparently hated. I still haven’t seen it. A Blu-ray would’ve been nice, but it’s a short feature, so Blu-ray prices might not have been worth a purchase. Worth a look for both the franchise’s fans, Warren Ellis’ fans, and fans of action animation.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 3rd November 2009
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Extras: Now You Know Teaser, Interview with the Filmmakers, Storyboards, Joe Files
Easter Egg: No
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos
Cast: Grey DeLisle, Stephen Blum, Charlie Adler and Eric Bauza
Genre: Action, Adventure and Animation
Length: 58 minutes
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