The
Film:
G.I. Joe: Arise, Serpentor, Arise (1986)

The Principals: Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Hawk, Beach Head, Low-Light and a shload of Joes, Dr. Mindbender, Destro, Tomax, Xamot, Zartan, Zandar, Zarana and the Dreadnoks, Serpentor, Battle Android troopers (BATs).
 
The Premise:
In the wake of yet another failed attack on the Joes under the leadership of  Cobra Commander, Dr. Mindbender, Cobra’s chief scientist, has a recurring dream where he’s destined to create the perfect leader from the DNA of history’s greatest conquerors.  So Cobra sets out on a worldwide campaign to obtain DNA samples from the tombs of Napoleon, Vlad Tepes, Alexander the Great, Montezuma, Sun-Tzu, Ivan The Terrible and dozens of other past warmongers.  This is of course, over the continued objections of Cobra Commander.  However, as most of Cobra has turned against him, he’s powerless to stop the plan.  The Joes, led by Sgt. Slaughter and Gen. Hawk, set out to stop them, without knowing the specifics of Cobra’s plan. 

Despite the Joes’ best efforts though, Cobra has an unusual string of victories against them as they succeed in collecting the DNA required to create the perfect leader.  That is until Slaughter succeeds in preventing the harvesting of Sun-Tzu’s DNA. So Dr. Mindbender decides to capture him and replace Sun-Tzu’s DNA wth Slaughter’s.  After a bit of sabotage from Cobra Commander, which results in a mindless monster rampaging through Cobra Island, Dr. Mindbender succeeds in resurrecting the combined DNA of all of the conquerors into Serpentor, an arrogant and tyrannical new ruler.  It then falls to the Joes to regroup and attempt to stop him and Cobra after he launches a full scale assault on Washington, D.C.

Is It Good:
It’s okay, definitely better through the eyes of a
14-year-old, though.  These G.I. Joe movies / mini-series weren’t intended
to be much more than launching pads for the next generations of
toys.   Each one usually featured new characters who would see most
of the action.  For instance, in The Mass Device, it was the core group of
Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes and Stalker.  In Revenge of Cobra, it was Flint,
Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Shipwreck and Gung Ho. And by the time of his fourth
film, it was Gen Hawk, Sgt. Slaughter, Beach Head and Low-Light.  On the
Cobra side, Zartan brought in his siblings, Zandar and Zarana, along with two
new Dreadnoks: Monkey Wrench and Thrasher.  And Dr. Mindbender took
center stage, with Tomax and Xamot seeing most of action.

As a kid, I watched the cartoon and I thought the inventiveness of the stories
of these five-part mi-series usually made for a fun watch.  They definitely
had my attention during the week after school.  This was the most macabre
of the G.I. Joe TV mini-series, with Mindbender playing a high-tech Dr.
Frankenstein.  As an adult though (allegedly), it’s nostalgic to watch,
but a little hard to put up with the general buffoonery of the characters and
the fact that damn near no one on either side could hit the side of a
battle ship with a laser gun.  I also didn’t like, especially back then,
that most of my favorites sat on the sidelines in this one. 



It’s fine to introduce new characters, but where the hell were Scarlett,
Snake-Eyes and Lady Jaye among others in this?  Duke saw some limited
action in Russia,
but otherwise, the G.I. Joe core was MIA.  On the Cobra side, Destro was
reduced to basically a flunky, and Zartan’s siblings were wastes of
space.  Also, more Baroness is always required, not less.  The BATs
started out briefly as imposing new weapons, but it wasn’t long before they were
walking garbage.  Serpentor was an interesting addition to the cast, though, definitely breaking up the Cobra Commander / Destro monotony at the top of Cobra.  You could probably do a drinking game with the number of times he says his signature line.

Is It Worth A Look: > 30: For some nostalgia sake maybe.  To see all the toys you wanted so badly back in the day and probably couldn’t name now to save your life.  Personally, I wanted a Night Raven and Conquest the most.  For those on the better side of 30, you’ll probably find it quaint more than anything else.  The animation is definitely better than what was on the regular daily cartoon, with hints of that mid-’80s Anime; but nothing too spectacular, and oftentimes blocky and unrefined.  On a side note, just noticed for the first time the Nazi salute Cobra gave Serpentor when he first rises and kicks Slaughter’s ass.

Random Anecdotes: The late Chris Latta, the voice of Cobra Commander, Gung-Ho, Horror Show and Ripper, was the original voice of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Cinematic Soulmates: G.I. Joe: The Mass Device, G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra, G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness, G.I. Joe: The Movie, Transformers: The Movie.