M.A.R.S. INDUSTRIES OFFICER v.1 (2009)
I can’t tell you how excited I was for the first live-action G.I. Joe movie. As a comic book nerd / sci-fi geek I get excited about a lot of movies but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (ROC). I closely followed every morsel of news relating to the film’s production. I’d get excited and change my facebook status to “Arnold Voslo is Zartan!” and people would reply “who is what?” But my excitement dwindled as the release date drew near. I don’t recall exactly what order this news came in but it seemed as though almost all news was bad news for a while. Channing Tatum as Duke. Meh. Marlon Wayans as Ripcord. What? Stephen Sommers directing. Did you see Van Helsing? Yeesh. And then there was the Cobra Commander reveal. What the hell?! It was a bad scene but I digress.
The first movie-based action figures released were two MARS Troopers and one MARS Officer all included in a MARS Industries 3-pack. M.A.R.S., which stands for Military Armament Research System, is the weapons company owned by Destro. Casual Joe fans may remember Destro as a high ranking member of Cobra often found at Cobra Commander’s side but in fact he wasn’t part of Cobra at all, he was just their arms dealer. Even in the old comics and cartoons Destro acted as an independent third party. He spent a lot of time hanging around Cobra headquarters but he was just there to make a buck by selling them his latest doomsday device. It was firmly established in 1988 that Destro had his own thing going with the release of the more regally dressed Destro version 2 along with the very first MARS trooper, the Iron Grenadier. For the next few years every new assortment of Joe toys featured at least one new figure to add to Destro’s growing Iron Grenadier army. He soon as his own frogmen (Undertow), pilots (Nullifier) airborne assault troopers (Annihilator) jet pack troopers (Target), and even his own General to lead them (Voltar). I was a big fan of all the various Grenadier designs.
So, when it was announced early on in the ROC production process that the plot would focus on the birth of Cobra, with Destro being the lead villain I wasn’t overly disappointed. Sure I wanted to see Cobra’s forces on screen but I was sure there’d be plenty of time for that in the inevitable sequels. An initial movie focusing on Destro and his army still had a ton of potential because there were so many cool Grenadier designs to pool from.
But in continuing the disappointing trend of disregarding so much of the source material we got our first look at the movie Grenadiers with the release of the MARS Industries 3-pack. The outfits on these guys don’t appear to be influenced by any of the previous Grenadier designs. Instead of the slick black, red, and gold color palette and flashy designs of the original Grenadiers we got two identical guys wearing gray turtle neck sweaters with matching gray pants and one more nearly identical guy wearing a brown turtle neck sweater and matching brown pants. Underwhelming to say the least.
But I’m making them sound worse than they are. The MARS Industries figures actually aren’t bad looking figures, they just don’t look like any of the established troopers that fans wanted to see on screen. I will say that I prefer the Officer to the two troopers. The base figures are the same but the Officer has different webgear and a different helmet with a ranking emblem. I also prefer the brown outfit.
So while this figure missed the mark in regards to offering up a live-action version of a beloved Iron Grenadier figure from my childhood it still holds up on its own merits. The entire sculpt was brand new at the time; no 25th anniversary parts were used. The figure is proportionate and has decent articulation. He lacks flair but I can appreciate the realism of his design. I can totally imagine a real-world militant wearing something like this as opposed to say the orange and purple helicopter-bladed outfit of the Annihilators. The helmet fits well and is somewhat reminiscent of the blue helmets worn by the original Cobra Troopers. When placed correctly the figure’s eyes align nicely with the helmet’s eye holes. Interestingly the file card illustration on the back of the package makes it appear as though these MARS troopers were intended look much more like the movie Neo-Vipers, with a metallic alien-like face.
As I stated earlier, this figure was released in advance of the initial wave of movie figures as a sneak peek of what we could expect to see in the movie. That’s all well and good except the MARS Industries troopers and Officers never appeared in the film. At least I don’t recall seeing them and I’ve seen the film many times. It’s fairly standard practice to include figures of characters that don’t actually appear in a movie in a toyline based on that movie. Just look at all the different movie-based Transformers figures that are available out there; far more than there were actual Transformers in the movies. But it does seem weird that Hasbro would release a set of three figures that don’t appear in the movie as their “first look” at their new movie-based toyline.
Along with his removable helmet and webgear the MARS Officer also comes with a submachine gun, a pistol that can be holstered in his webgear, and a large knife. Also of note is his rounded dog tag shaped display base which was kind of neat.
MARS Officer is an odd duck being a figure from a movie he never appeared in based on a cartoon he never appeared in, but he’s a decent figure. I used to really despise this figure simply because I wasn’t happy with the movie aesthetic in general. But time has made me less critical of the ROC figures. Nowadays I don’t mind him at all. 6 out of 10.