Rounding out this trio of Hasbro toy-based films put out by Marvel/Sunbow in the mid-1980s, “GI Joe: The Movie” has the dishonorable distinction of being funneled straight to video and subsequently syndicated on television due to the lack of success for the “Transformers” and “My Little Pony” movies at the box office the year before. But does that mean it’s a bad film? Well, some might argue yes, others hell no, and many more fall under the category of loving it because it embraces its flaws and plays them up to maximum entertainment. Don Johnson and Burgess Meredith provide voices for this completely off-the-hook action-adventure-science fiction extravaganza that serves as a precursor to the dumb-but-fun action blockbusters people either love or love to hate from the 1990s.
Marvel joined with Sunbow to deliver the first of four animated feature films based on Hasbro toys in the 1980s with 1986’s MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE, which took the popular toy line of dolls resembling ponies and other animals (plus a few humans) and pitted them against three dastardly witches who can’t stand their rampant pleasantness. Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Rhea Perlman and Tony Randall do their best to bring this colorful musical adventure to life. Critically and commercially tanking at the box office at the time, it’s about time we look this gift horse in the mouth and see what we find with this retrospective review!
The first of four feature-length ventures between Marvel Productions and Sunbow Entertainment that centered on toys made by Hasbro, THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE would make for an ambitious way to not only sell toys and entertain fans, but also to set for a new course for the animated TV series, in this bridge between the second and third seasons of the show. A critical and commercial misfire, the film has gained cult status among Transformers property aficionados and lovers of cultural oddities of the 1980s, not only for its bold story choices, but also for its eclectic voice actors (Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta Jr, and Scatman Crothers), as well as its driving hair-metal soundtrack.
The Cannon Group took a bath with the failure of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE in 1987, a film that had gone over budget and well beyond schedule.
The film starts off in the mythical land of Eternia, where the ruthless villain Skeletor (Frank Langella) has managed, with the help of a powerful musical cosmic key, to capture Castle Grayskull, the source for a wealth of magic and power in the region. Skeletor has taken the powerful good Sorceress (Christina Pickles) prisoner and has been draining her of her essence to channel into his own, making him more powerful as time goes on. However, the great hero of Eternia, He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), is still free, and with his cronies, the faithful Man-at-War (Jon Cypher) and his daughter Teela (Chelsea Field), he seeks to thwart Skeletor’s plans for dominion over Eternia and restore Castle Grayskull back to its original state.
Their plans go awry when the cosmic key’s creator, the dwarven creature known as Gwildor (Billy Barty), opens up a portal to modern Earth with a prototype of the same key for them to escape Skeletor’s clutches. The key is lost on arrival to Earth, soon found by a couple of high school aged teens named Julie (Courteney Cox) and Kevin (Robert Duncan McNeill), who activate it thinking it must be some newfangled musical device. However, using the device alerts Skeletor as to its whereabouts, and once he has pinpointed its location, he sends a band of mercenaries to recover the key and ensnare He-Man, of whom he plans to make an example of in custody to break the will of any would-be heroes left in Eternia.