Film Face-off: 'G.I. Joe' vs. 'Transformers'

Film Face-off: 'G.I. Joe' vs. 'Transformers'

Mar 29, 2013

Robots in disguise and real American heroes have been a part of our lives for many years. There is a reason thirtysomething men (and plenty of women) continue to believe G.I. Joe and Transformers should be the greatest cinematic moments in their adult lives. These Hasbro products have most likely had some sort of influence in your childhood, and maybe even your child's life. It makes perfect sense for these iconic toys/TV shows/movies should battle in a Film Face-off to see which product takes the top spot. We can all agree that freedom is the right of all sentient beings, and knowing is half the battle, so let's get it on.



G.I. Joe Transformers
No, we are not talking about the 12-inch figures, this is all about the guys who are less than four inches tall. It was the Joes vs. Cobra. There were hundreds of figures (Major Bludd was my favorite), vehicles and playsets. The big leap forward was bendable knees and elbows, which Star Wars figures didn't have. The Autobots vs. the Decepticons literally transformed toys in my lifetime. One toy purchase led you to having a robot and a vehicle (or dinosaur, or boombox) all in one. Boys would duel to see who could transform his toy the fastest. Eventually jaws dropped when Transformers could transform onto one another.

Winner: G.I. Joe. First let's compare price. A G.I. Joe figure cost $2.76 with tax (back in the day). I know this because my $5 allowance wasn't enough to buy two a week. Optimus Prime cost over $20. Choosing between these two toy lines was one of the first ways I understood which of my friends was "rich." I'm still jealous that Shannon had the Constructicons, but there was just as much prestige owning the original Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. I invested the majority of my playtime, gift requests and allowance in G.I. Joe and I don't regret it.

Sure, a thumb could pop off pretty easy on the original Duke, but then a little glue meant he'd never be unarmed if Destro was planning a sneak attack. When a Transformer was past his prime, it meant driving him on three wheels instead of four, or playing with an incredibly limp robot. Plus, if you didn't own Transformers, you pretty much stopped playing, asked your friend to transform him, and then continued the battle. Yes, the conceptual leap is much better with Transformers, but this is about kids playing with toys, and that's why G.I. Joe wins. For everyone who thought this category should have been titled "Collectors Items," you're missing the point.


The Logos


G.I. Joe Transformers
G.I. Joe's logo for the good guys is simply "G.I. Joe A Real American Hero." Cobra's is obviously a snake head, complete with fangs. It somehow manages to look like a snake-building of some sort, at least that my nine-year-old mind thought so. Metal, sharp, colorful and cool sums up both the Autobots and Decepticons logos. The Autobots blend the American flag colors for some not-so-subtle patriotism. The Decepticons pull off purple and blue pretty well.


Winner: Transformers. In the '90s many Ultimate Frisbee teams around the nation used both G.I. Joe and Transformer logos for jerseys, which proves they're both insanely hip... right? The trouble comes with G.I. Joe not even having a symbol on their uniforms. The Cobra logo is great, but it can't possibly beat out both the Autobots and Decepticons by itself. Plus, the Transformers logos harken (yes, I said harken) back to a vibe of knights putting on their armor for battle.


Animated Show


G.I. Joe Transformers

The Joes caught wind of Coba Commander's evil plans, fired a ton of red lasers that never killed anyone, and saved the day. There were PSAs at the end of each episode, and these were the lyrics to the insanely great theme song ...

Yo Joe!
He'll fight for freedom where ever there's trouble.
G.I. Joe is there.

It's G.I. Joe against Cobra the enemy
Fighting to save the day.
He never gives up.
He's always there,
Fighting for freedom over land and air

G.I. Joe, a real American hero
G.I. Joe is there

G.I. Joe is the code name for American's daring, highly trained special mission force. It's purpose, to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

He never gives up.
He'll stay til the fight's won.
G.I. Joe will dare.

G.I. Joe, a real American hero
G.I. Joe

The Autobots caught wind of Megatron's evil plans, fired a ton of lasers that never killed anyone, and saved the day. There were PSAs at the end of some episodes, and these were the lyrics to the pretty good theme song ...

The Transformers,
More than meets the eye.
Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons.
The Transformers,
Robots in disguise.
The Transformers,
More than meets the eye.
The Transformers!


Winner: Transformers. This is hard to admit, mainly because G.I. Joe crushes Transformers with the PSAs. "...And knowing is half the battle," has come in handy for many social situations. The main advantage for the Transformers comes with the limitation of the toy. In the cartoon, it was always easy and fun to watch them transform, always. Somehow Megatron and others even seemed to change size. Don't get me wrong, G.I. Joe had its moments, like when Shipwreck had his Twilight Zone-like episode entitled "There’s No Place Like Springfield." It just doesn't compare to the fantasy world of giant, flying robots.


Animated Films


G.I. Joe Transformers
G.I. Joe: The Movie has Cobra Commander kicked out of the group now led by Serpentor. The Joes must now stop the Cobra-La who use biological weapons and could take over the world. Besides the original voice actors, G.I. Joe: The Movie landed Don Johnson and Burgess Meredith. Transformers: The Movie has an evil, planet-eating robot heading toward Earth and is after the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Optimus Prime and the others must stop it. The voice actors include Orson Welles, Robert Stack, Leonard Nimoy and Scatman Crothers.


Winner: Transformers. We all love when Cobra Commander spits out, "I was once a man!" but G.I. Joe: The Movie is all kinds of weird. The odd thing is Transformers: The Movie is partially to blame. Duke was going to be killed off, but after Optimus Prime's issues in Transformers: The Movie they decided Duke was just in a coma. Also, I remember stumbling upon G.I. Joe: The Movie on WGN on a Saturday. Cable or video is how you found it. Again, that's the fault of Transformers: The Movie for not making enough money. But remember people, the size of your box office doesn't determine if you're a good or bad movie. Even if all other things were equal about these movies (which they're not), then Transformers: The Movie would win because of the song "You've Got the Touch" by the one and only Stan Bush.


Feature Films


G.I. Joe Transformers
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans and more as the elite military group trying to take down an arms dealer. G.I. Joe: Retaliation features Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki and Bruce Willis. Now the Joes are considered enemies by the president, and they have to stop the growing power of Cobra.  TransformersTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon feature Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro. The first two films featured Megan Fox. In each movie, the Decepticons attempt to take over the world, and the Autobots try to stop them, and plenty of bloated plots fill in the rest of the time.


Winner: G.I. Joe. Neither one of these franchises should win this category, but I'm going with the theory that less is more. I would much rather sit through two G.I. Joe films than all three Transformers movies. This is strictly based on how long it would take to watch the insanely long Transformer films. Years from now, it will be delightful to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt go for it in a really odd performance in the first Joe. Both film series have their visual moments (yes, I'm including Megan Fox in the visual component), but neither have any emotional weight at all. The first films in both Hasbro franchises are better than any sequel, though that's not saying much. Right now, Transformers has a little more hope for the future because of the fourth film in the works starring Mark Wahlberg.


OVERALL WINNER: Transformers three, G.I. Joe two. Wait a minute. I need to check my math. Sigh. It's true. I realize knowing is half the battle, but I thought this battle would end with real American heros taking the prize. At one point, nothing, not even my cat Pepper, was more important than playing with G.I. Joe figures in my backyard. I even had the hovercraft. I would have given my allowance for a year just to see Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow battle it out on the big screen. Now, thanks to terrible screenwriting, and truly flat acting neither G.I. Joe or Transformers are the joy we deserve. If only we had the power to not watch. If only.

Categories: Features, Geek
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