G.I. Joe Series 2 Season 2 DVD Review

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THE SET-UP
Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Duke and Scarlett join General Hawk as they continue to battle COBRA and assorted enemies in the final season of G.I. Joe’s second series. This three disc DVD set includes all 20 episodes of season two.

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THE DELIVERY
For die-hard G.I Joe fans, there is a huge dividing line between series one (which was produced by Sunbow in the 1980s and featured the guiding hand of Buzz Dixon) and series two (which ran from 1990 to 1992). Where Series One became a classic 1980s cartoon, the 1990s Series Two did not quite catch on. Fans of the original handily rejected the changes made to the brand and its characters.

Series Two tries to recapture the look and feel of the 1980s series, but does not quite live up to the original. Of course, we must be honest, Series One is not perfect, nor is it a realistic military action/adventure. It does have its silly moments, and a few groan-worthy episodes. Still, it was faithful to the comic book and entertaining. It had some nice character development, clever stories, and overall never insulted the viewer’s intelligence.

Series Two, on the other hand, has inferior animation (DIC took over for Sunbow) and vastly inferior writing. Most of the stories made little sense and were usually based on a silly premise. The logic was juvenile and the humor was geared to eight-year-old viewers. The ninjas on the show acted like total buffoons (with names like Slice and Dice, no wonder) and weren’t nearly as cool as they were in the original show. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow get makeovers (I suppose to sell new figures), but when Snake Eyes’ outfit looks like paintball gear, you know there’s trouble.

Now, I realize we are talking about cartoons here, but the episodes in Series Two missed the entire point of what made the original series great. Series One (aka the “A Real American Hero” version) took a serious storyline and made it accessible for kids. There was always a baseline in military reality that grounded the stories and gave them some gravitas. When every military vehicle in Series Two sports day-glo pink, green and yellow colors, all of that great G.I. Joe credibility goes out the window and you hit a new low in silliness. The “Python Patrol” and the “Ninja Force” concepts they took on did not make things any better.

The characters bear little resemblance to the originals, in more than outfits (as detailed earlier). Scarlett acts like a shopaholic damsel-in-distress, nothing like her original character. Gen. Hawk spends one episode constantly falling over and lamenting the fact that no one listens to him. On the plus side, we do get the late great Chris Latta as the voice of Cobra Commander, which is always good. But that’s about it.

I realize that there are a lot of folks who grew up watching these cartoons in the 1990s and have a sense of nostalgia for them. That’s great, and I hope this DVD set is a nice throwback for them. However, when viewed as a companion piece to Series One, the differences are night and day. For the Power Rangers generation, these might be fun. For hard-core G.I. Joe fans, they fail to impress.

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VIDEO AND AUDIO
The quality of the video for the cartoons is fair. While the print used for the video transfer is mostly clean, it does not look great. This is a standard DVD, but even so, the image is not very sharp and overall seems muddled. It is a step above VHS, but not by much. This may be due to less-than-ideal source material, but I expected better than this. The soundtrack is the original mono mix, and actually sounds very good. It won’t be blowing you out of your chair, but there is nice clarity here..

SPECIAL FEATURES
The only extra included here is a featurette about the line of G.I. Joe toys that Hasbro produced in conjunction with the cartoons. Several Hasbro designers discuss the line and how it came to be. We do get explanations of why day-glo colors were used, which you can partly blame on the fashions of the time. It is interesting and fun to watch, especially if you collected the toys of the time.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Show: 5
Video: 6
Audio: 7
Extras: 4
Overall Grade: 5.5

G.I. Joe Series 2 Season 2 falls well short of the original series in nearly all areas, but it will hold a certain amount of nostalgia for 90’s kids who grew up with a love of day-glo colors. The DVD set offers a good, but not great technical presentation. Video is just OK and audio is a simple mono but solid. G.I. Joe fans will want to rent it, mostly for laughs, and as a companion piece to watching the original cartoons.

DVD SPECS
Release date: July 10, 2012
Rating: Not rated
Running time:  7 hours (approx.)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Mono
Subtitles: None
Special Features: Hasbro Toy Makers Retrospective

G.I. Joe Series 2 Season 2 is now available from Shout! Factory
Click here to order G.I. Joe Series 2 Season 2 on DVD from Amazon!