The 7 Best and 7 Worst G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Toys
By Kevin J. Guhl
You might have heard there’s a live-action G.I. Joe movie coming out soon (Aug. 7) and that means that Hasbro has already begun a blitz of new toys. Movie toylines like this can be just as much a blockbuster as the actual films, blessed with big budgets and exploding onto the scene in a larger way than anything based on a TV show alone. The usual conservative G.I. Joe offerings of 3 3/4-inch and 12-inch action figures have been replaced by not just oodles of action figures in those scales, but by toys of all shapes and sizes to help market and profit from the “Rise of Cobra” movie. Like almost any big summer movie toyline, though, good toys are available in about equal number to poorly-conceived and designed products pumped out to meet a demand for volume rather than quality. As you prepare to go experience the wonder or disaster (or both) that will be live-action G.I. Joe, have a look at some of the best movie toys released thus far, and some of the abysmally worst.
7) 12-Inch Baroness
6) Ice Viper
Coursing through the snow, icing G.I. Joe, it’s Cobra, Cobraaa!!! Most of the Cobra troopers from the film don’t look as neat as the original designs, but the Ice Viper is something special. Each one is decked out for cold weather in grey camo and a white parka packed with supplies, and wears a sweet visor. These figures are totally cool, and you can army-build them to your heart’s delight — if you can find them.
Destro traded in his open-shirt pimp outfit for a smart business shirt and tie and a sharp military uniform. This is not a bad thing. And you know that under his silver battle mask, a family heirloom, is the face of Doctor Who! This is one of the greatest Destro figures Hasbro has ever made. Compared to the excellent 25th Anniversary/Modern Era G.I. Joe toyline that immediately preceded the movie toys, that’s saying a lot.
4) Night Raven
One of the coolest airplanes from the superb selection of vehicles in the original G.I. Joe toyline was the Night Raven, Cobra’s spy plane that was obviously inspired by the SR-71 Blackbird. For the movie toyline, Hasbro decided to remake the Night Raven, and it is still the most awesome plane on the Cobra Island airfield. It comes with the same badass Air-Viper the original came with (only updated to modern G.I. Joe action figure standards). And if you would like help in swooshing your Night Raven around, it includes a swing-down handle. Also, the cockpit drops down and the Night Raven can fire several missiles — It ain’t all about stealth!
3) Snake Eyes (Paris Pursuit)
This may not be the #1 greatest Snake Eyes figure ever made, but it’s the first to wear an awesome trechcoat, and for that reason is absolutely necessary to own if you collect G.I. Joe. He even comes with his pet wolf Timber (who can be found with either gray or black fur), not to mention his trademark katana and other weapons. Snake Eyes stole the show in the comic books but was underused in the old cartoon. Let’s hope the movie captures the greatness of his counterpart from print.
2) Scarlett (Desert Ambush)
The makers of Rise of Cobra sure didn’t disappoint when they chose Rachel Nichols to play G.I. Joe’s sexy marksman Shana “Scarlett” O’Hara. The skintight, all-black uniforms worn by the Joe team in the film haven’t gone over well with fans, although few fanboys are complaining about how Scarlett wears the uniform. The toy captures her look as best as could be expected and is possibly the best Scarlett figure ever.
During the course of the long-running G.I. Joe comic, arguably the superior source of Joe fiction, America’s highly-trained, special mission force was most often headquartered in a massive underground base called the PIT. There’s never been a toy of it, so long-time Joe fans can finally fill that massive hole in their collection with this giant toy from the movie toyline. It’s been awhile since such a HUGE playset, a staple of 1980s action figures lines (especially the original G.I. Joe, which offered the gigantic USS Flagg air craft carrier), has been given shelfspace in toy stores. It may be $100, but it’s worth it. It offers everything a G.I. Joe HQ playset should — plenty of room to plan ways to next embarrass Cobra, a moving elevator, secret trap door, lots of guns and a missile launcher, battle sounds, and a wall that Cobra can knock down when they stage an attack! Not only that, the base converts into an APC the size of Kentucky and includes team leader General Hawk!
Knowing the good stuff is half the battle. Check out the bad stuff on the next page.
7) Accelerator Suit Duke
It’s been awhile since Robocop had a figure on the shelves, so Hasbro apparently saw fit to rectify that. So much is wrong about this toy. This gargantuan figure should be cool based on its features. It speaks over 50 phrases with its moving mouth; it has running action; and it recognizes and responds to its weapons, among other things. Hell, it practically is a robot, and plenty of kids will surely think it’s the greatest thing since they rode across the dining room on Kota the Triceratops. But this Duke figure represents one of the worst creative choices in this movie – the need for the Joes to wear “accelerator suits” that turn them into superheroes instead of specially trained soldiers with amazing but human skills. The proportions of the toys are barely human, which is fitting. Another travesty is that this large reminder of a bad idea costs about 70 bucks. If you buy it, that could be an expensive mistake.
The Rapid Rollers were obviously made for the younger set, but that doesn’t forgive them for being crappy toys. By trading in Storm Shadow’s stealth and martial arts skills to drive a gaudy approximation of the beloved HISS, Hasbro has managed to make the worst ninja toy of all-time, and the worst of a butt-ugly squad of vehicles and drivers made to slam into each other like dollar store bumper cars.
This sad Scarlett figure ended up being saddled with all of the bad points of the 3 3/4-inch movie toyline. Some of the face sculpts aren’t the greatest, and this Scarlett figure ain’t no doll. Ultra-hot redhead (at least in this movie) Rachel Nichols is depicted on the package, but the toy inside looks more like Willem Dafoe. She also comes with one of those ridiculously large missile launchers that are wastes of plastic and come with every figure, but at least there are still plenty of normal accessories. You can just toss the launcher. Lastly, Scarlett’s uniform is symptomatic of one of the biggest problems of the whole toyline and the film – most of the characters are wearing either black, gray camo or a combination of the two. While it might be more like real military practice than the colorful uniforms worn by the original Joe team, the result is a very boring visual aesthetic in which all the characters start to look the same. The tedious uniformity could be a big problem, as is stops even the better toys from really standing out on the pegs.
4) Action Battlers Duke
This set of doofy toys are the inbred lovechildren of the G.I. Joe Sigma 6 figures and the recent DC Super Friends toddler toys. These barely-articulated hunks of plastic feature quick-draw action triggered by squeezing their legs together, an action feature that hasn’t been exciting since about 1984, and feature cartoonish proportions. Who is actually going to play with these things? Any kids old enough to see the movie are likely to want real G.I. figures, not these baby toys.
Hasbro must have slapped together the 12-inch figure line about 8 minutes before they were due to ship, which is a shame since the 12-inch figure is G.I. Joe’s most classic format and should have been a priority in this toyline. You know that adults who grew up with the 12″ G.I. Joe will take their kids (or grandkids!) to this film and then head to the toy store to see how old Joe is doing. This is what they’ll find. Oh man, are most of these figures bad. Duke here is a prime example of the abundant crapitude of these toys. Although the face does look a bit like Channing Tatum, it looks like Channing Tatum in the co-starring role of A.J. McLean in the Backstreet Boys movie. He’s wearing plain khaki pants, black Doc Martens, a black protective vest (with no shirt on underneath!) and a black knit cap. Seriously, Hasbro, was this outfit from the leftover pile? Because Duke looks like he jumped out of bed wearing whatever he passed out in after a long night of clubbing and raced off to fight Alley Vipers!
1) 12-Inch Cobra Commander
The movie version of Cobra Commander is just bad in any format, but it’s the 12-inch figure that’s the biggest eyesore by default because it’s the biggest, poisoning your eyes with its terrible costume design. The first problem is that the creators of the film discarded the look of G.I. Joe’s most iconic character after suffering a case of hysterical political correctness, mistakenly fearing that anyone with at least half a brain cell could mistake Cobra Commander for a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Yeah, a blue one, who also has an alternate helmet with reflective mask they could have used but that wasn’t good enough, either. Instead they came up with Crunchberry Commander, whose face is a mass of raw hamburger meat behind a clear mask and who wears a “kewl” black outfit that makes him look a Mortal Kombat entrant instead of anything resembling Cobra Commander. The makers of the film seem pretty far up their arses about how great they think their new Cobra Commander is, but these figures deserve to be mulched.