The first new GIJoe movie was apparently pretty successful, because we've just gotten a second. This time the Real American Heroes are facing off against genetically modified Cobra soldiers in the 80-minute Valor vs. Venom.
He'll fight for freedom wherever there's trouble; GI Joe is there. GIJoe is the codename for America's daring, highly trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra - a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world. He never gives up, he's always there, fighting for freedom over land and air. GIJoe - a real American hero.
Like SpyTroops: The Movie, the fully CGI VvV is really intended to be one long toy commercial. Of course, so were the original cartoons, so who can fault them for that? A rash of worldwide abductions and mysterious attacks leads the Joe team to believe that Cobra Commander is working on some new, nefarious plot - actually a pretty safe assumption.
The cartoon aims at the 8-to-12-year-old demographic, but older fans will find some appeal, as well. The plot is outlandish, but no more so than the cartoons we watched as kids. The Joes are the good guys, Cobra is the bad guy and that's all we ask.
That and ninjas.
The computer animation is slightly improved since the last outing, but it still has some problems. Cloth doesn't always behave as it should, some of the movements look too programmed and objects don't always seem to "stick" to surfaces realistically. Still, for the most part VvV looks really good.
We get a lot of returning characters, plus some new recruits. Duke, Snake-Eyes and Scarlett are back, and they've got General Hawk, Kamakura and Tunnel Rat with them. Over on the side of evil, Cobra Commander has to deal with the inepitude of not only Mindbender, Destro and the Baroness, but also dozens of new footsoldiers, B.A.T. commander Overkill and the new Cobra general, Venomous Maximus.
Obviously not everyone's favorite charcters are featured - Zartan's nowhere to be seen and the Joe team seems to be comprised of about a half-dozen guys - but the choices are all decent. The voice acting is improved, too; though Beachhead doesn't get a lot of lines, he's back to being a Southern-fried badass instead of a surfer dude. Tunnel Rat's got his Brooklyn accent, the Baroness sounds like Eurotrash and Michael Dobson still does a great Chris Latta impression as Cobra Commander.
One really annoying part - I don't know, maybe this'll appeal to kids - was the interaction of the two Cobra ninjas, Slash and Slice. These are guys who should potentially be able to hang with Stormshadow in a training session, but they act like the Looney Tunes' Goofy Gophers. Annoying annoying annoying.
You also have to feel bad for the writers who had to work in a plug for the now-defunct BTR toys - they had no way of knowing that the line would tank as badly as it did, and by the time it was fading, the movie was already too far into production to change things around. Fortunately it's a minor element.
The new GIJoe movies are connected to the Devil's Due comicbooks the same way that the old cartoons were connected to the Marvel comics: they have a few of the same character threads, but they're really independent creatures. You don't need one to enjoy the other.
The extra features on this movie aren't quite as in-depth as those on the first. To start things off, there's a 20-minute explanation of how to play the GIJoe trading card game. An exhaustive explanation. An exhaustive explanation that seems to go on forever. It would be quicker to go out, buy a copy of the game and teach yourself to play.
"Valor Vs. Venom: Making the Movie" is a 10-minute interview with various animators talking about how they made this or did that or what they had for lunch. Mostly it's just talking heads and clips from the film.
There are character profiles for 12 Joes and Cobras, each featuring a 3D turnaround of the character in question. A storyboard-to-film comparison lets viewers see how a few scenes came together. There's an untitled music video, the film's trailer and promos for other kid-friendly fare.
With a longer running time and a larger budget, Valor vs. Venom gets to stretch beyond the boundaries set by SpyTroops: The Movie. The story may be outrageous, but that's what fans have come to expect from the world of GIJoe.
What's better, the comics or the cartoon? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.