When I was a boy, with a keen sparkle in my eye and a head full of dreams, nothing was cooler than G. I. Joe. Despite growing up in Canada, nothing got me more excited than the ring of the school bell at 3:30pm, because that meant I could go home and thrill to the poorly animated adventures of those real American heroes. As a kid, I wanted to be Snake-Eyes when I grew up. In fact, I still think I want to be Snake-Eyes. He was a ninja with a killer outfit and he got to periodically make out with Scarlet. Seeing as I have a thing for ninjas and redheads, it all kind of adds up, now that I think about it.
But I digress.
Those loveable patriotic super solider types are back, and whereas they used to be poorly animated by hand, now they're all CGI-riffic and looking like something out of a Final Fantasy game for the PS2. It's all good though. Many of the old characters are still here (along with some keen new ones), and the Cobra soldiers still have really bad aim. Valor Vs. Venom is simply an updated, very polished version of the same cartoon I loved as the sparkly eyed lad that I used to be. Hopefully the current generation of sparkly eyed lads out there will dig on this new version as much as I dug on the old one.
The Joe team is off doing some charity work one day with the evil minions of Cobra kidnap groups of adults from all corners of the globe. Why? Because Cobra Commander needs victims to subject to his new super solider idea – he's going to cross them with animals and create and army of super Cobra soldiers. To make matters worse, Destro, along with everyone's favorite leather clad villainous, The Baroness, kidnaps Hawk. They figure Hawk is a sure bet to lead the new army of manimal soldiers, and now that they've got him, they're unstoppable!
Hawk's right hand man, Duke, he's got other plans. He gathers up the team and kicks "Operation Find Hawk And Get Him Back" into high gear. It's too little too late for Hawk though, as Destro and Cobra Commander succeed in mutating him, redubbing him with the ominous moniker of Venomous Maximus! Will the Joe's be able to steal Hawk back and reform him to his previous in carnation? Will they be able to stop Cobra and their army of Venom warriors from taking over the world? I'm not going to tell you that. That would ruin all the fun.
G. I. Joe – Valor Vs. Venom is a lot of fun. Sure, the dialogue sounds like it was written by a twelve-year-old but hey, look at their target audience – this is a show geared towards boys so maybe it's supposed to sound that way. Either way, the show runs along at a nice quick pace and provides plenty of action and adventure, spills and chills and whatever other clichés you want to throw in to describe a good, solid adventure cartoon.
The 1.33.1 fullframe image looks quite nice, with nice bright color reproduction and a noticeable lack of compression artifacts and edge enhancement. There are a few scenes in the movie that are a little bit shimmery in a couple of places but other than that, this movie looks great. Black levels are deep and solid and remain that way from start to finish and the colors never bleed into one another as sometimes seems to happen with cartoons.
Paramount has opted to release the movie in a nice, robust Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound track, both of which are in English. If you've got the hardware to make it happen then the 5.1 mix is definitely the way to go. It's quite active and makes nice use of the surrounds especially during the action scenes. Dialogue is clean, clear and never a problem to understand at all and the background music comes in at just the right levels to accent the onscreen action. Optional English subtitles are also included.
The G. I. Joe – Valor Vs. Venom: Trading Card Game Guide clocks in at almost twenty minutes and is a pretty in depth look at the different functions of each card that makes up the game and what their specific functions are. The featurette also shows us a demonstration game, to give viewers an idea of how it all comes together and works. Cobra Commander narrates the segment, staying in character and making the feature more interesting than it might have been otherwise.
Making The Movie is an eleven minute piece on how the film was created from the ground up through interviews with the director and some members of the animation team that developed the film. There is some interesting technical information inside and the segment is interspersed with clips from the film. Other extras include character profiles for most of the major Joe and Cobra characters, as well as a Storyboard To Film Comparison and a music video for an untitled song that plays over the end of the movie.
Rounding out the extra features are a trailer for the main attraction on the DVD as well as trailers for Spongebob Squarepants – the Movie, Transformers – Energon, Dual Masters, Spongebob Squarepants Season Two, and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Inserted inside the keepcase was a collectable Valor Vs. Venom trading card.
G. I. Joe – Valor Vs. Venom looks and sounds really good, and Paramount has actually supplied a few interesting extra features for this release as well. The movie is a decent action cartoon and while I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the 80s series, this is a worthy successor to that show and it's treated nicely on this DVD release. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.