We've seen fan films that are extremely grim takes on their source material and those that cast characters from entirely different franchises. Mark Cheng's G.I. Joe fan film Operation Red Retrieval mixes these two elements with aplomb.
According to Cheng, this handsome-looking film took 20 months to complete but was dreamt up 25 years ago:
Through working on this film - a process that took a year and a half - I realized the significance that GI Joe played in my childhood. Batman works alone, X-men was about strength in diversity, Transformers was pure awesome robots. But GI Joe was about a team of heroes working together, taking care of one another, never giving up, and staying until the fight was won. That's what I saw in my head, kept in my heart, and what I've tried to put into this film. As adults we've lost some of our innocence and, tragically, some of our idealism. We know heroes don't dodge bullets by doing cartwheels. Sometimes they get hurt, sometimes they don't come home. But under layers of dirt, grime, and blood, the hero is still there and he still sacrifices. And it's under those same layers of dirt and blood, that the spirit of GI Joe will always live.
The other thing I wanted to capture is that feeling from when I was 8 years old lying the floor with my action figures. I'd line up my GI Joe figures next to my Star Wars figures next to my He-Man figures and next to my Autobot Transformers. It didn't matter that the toys were of a different scale, possessed inexplicable powers, came from different brands, or lived in different universes. The ONLY things that mattered was that Good was about to defeat Evil, and that it was going to be SOOOO AWESOMEEEE.
And here's his visual effects breakdown for those interested.