G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra explodes into theaters this weekend, and fanboys everywhere are wringing their hands in anxiety. Reactions to another certain Hasbro toy franchise’s film adaptations have been mixed in recent years, in part because of the liberties that have been taken with the characters and their distinct appearances. With this in mind, we here at RT decided it would be worth a walk down memory lane to see how the Joes of the big screen match up with their action figure and cartoon doppelgangers. Join us as we briefly examine the similarities (or lack thereof) between Hawk, Destro, and the rest of the major players in The Rise of Cobra with the toy line — created in the 1960s but popularized in the 1980s — that inspired them.
Dennis Quaid’s General Hawk is pretty close to the classic 1986 action figure design, with the camouflage pants and loosely fitting gun belt tilted to the side. He probably didn’t have to mimic the toy’s constipated posture, though; everyone knows General Hawk farts where he damn well pleases.
No one embodied “A Real American Hero” like Duke, who was so incredible in action that they draped him in the most unremarkable uniform. And who better to play the Joe poster boy than Channing Tatum? I mean, just look at the hair, that sideways glance, the lack of any visible neck. He’s a Ken doll in khakis, which is basically what Duke represents.
The Rise of Cobra Ripcord is significantly different from classic Ripcord in many ways, from the size of his role to his uniform to his, er, ethnicity. It’s a good thing nobody really remembers the original Ripcord, though, because they might have been put off by his transformation from Star Trek android lookalike into Little Man.
Alright, this one is pretty spot-on, but let’s be honest. The original version of Snake Eyes was so cool to begin with, there wasn’t much they could have done to make him better. Except for maybe casting Ray “Darth Maul” Park in the role. Which they did.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the casting director did a magnificent job nabbing Rachel Nichols for Scarlett, considering the action figure looks like a pacified Edward Norton with cone boobs. The film version of the uniform is the standard black G.I. Joe body armor, but honestly, in this case, who’s complaining?
While the brown hair and mustache are still there, the Michael McDonald beard is nowhere to be found, and the Southern accent has been replaced by an Arab one. The new Breaker is from Morocco, where Robocop suits and hi-tech monocles are all the rage.
A backwards neon green baseball cap, matching camo pants, a tattered sleeveless shirt, and space boots? That’s so 80s, amiright? Let’s throw some black armor on him and put him behind a ginormous Gatling gun. Oh, and let’s make him British while we’re at it. Nothing helps shed the image of a backwards baseball cap like a British accent.
Seemingly to lend a bit of real world credibility to Destro — now a major arms dealer working with the UN — the producers of Rise decided to scrap his low cut, V-neck jumpsuit and metal mask in favor of a smart three-piece ensemble and a conspicuous mole on the right cheek. Probably a good idea. Moles are far more ominous.
The Rise of Cobra took all the best parts of the original Baroness — the sexy librarian mystique, the tight, black leather body suit, the devil-may-care attitude — and amplified them to 11 on the sensuality meter. It suddenly makes sense why Destro revamped his wardrobe with chic Savile Row attire.
Only the baddest-ass of all ninjas would dare scamper about in a white outfit, as if to challenge his would-be foes. “Oh, you can see me? Really? Guess what? I just disemboweled you.” The film version of Storm Shadow expands on this theme by giving him coattails. Coattails! This is how you murder innocents in style, people.
Old school Zartan was a punk rock leader of a gang of Aussie mercenaries and a master of disguise. New school Zartan retains only that last bit about disguises, as you see him here in Joe-like military fatigues. Seems a little underwhelming, until you discover he changes color in sunlight just like the action figure did! Okay, that’s not true. He mostly lumbers around, whistles a lot, and stabs people. And that is so punk rock.
If you don’t already know who plays Cobra Commander in the film, we’re not going to spoil it for you. What we will say is that he looks nothing like any of his previous incarnations — as a toy or cartoon character — and being that this is an origins story, we really hope the hamster ball on his head from which he peers at us with perpetually startled eyes isn’t his final form.
Just for giggles, here is a compilation of those recut and redubbed G.I. Joe Public Service Announcements from a few years back. (Some language may be NSFW.)