SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS
PG-13, 121 mins.
2021, PG-13, 121 mins.
Henry Golding as Snake Eyes / Andrew Koji as Tommy / Storm Shadow / Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness / Samara Weaving as Scarlett / Haruka Abe as Akiko / Takehiro Hira as Kenta / Iko Uwais as Hard Master / Steven Allerick as Father / Peter Mensah as Blind MasterDirected by Robert Schwentke / Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse
awkwardly titled SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS might be one of the dullest
films about a super sweet action figure that I can ever recall.
comes after two previous silver screen adaptations of one of the most
popular toy lines of the 1980s (of inconsistent worth) in 2009's goofy and
just-okay G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF
COBRA and the fairly terrible sort-of-sequel, sort-of-soft-reboot G.I.
JOE: RETALIATION from 2013. Both
of those militaristic Hasbro toyetic films featured every kid's favorite
mute assassin in Snake Eyes, and now comes his very own film here,
which serves as a origin tale and a larger and complete redo of the G.I.
JOE cinematic universe as a whole. Despite
having some decent production values and a more insular focus, SNAKE EYES:
G.I. JOE ORIGINS kind of pathetically fails as compelling backstory tale
for this character, not to mention that it seems like one big placeholder
film for more fully realized future entries to come that may or may not
even come in the first place.
Eyes here (played in a not entirely convincing performance by CRAZY
RICH ASIANS' Henry Golding) must avenge the death of his papa.
That's the overriding arc of this picture.
His father died cruelly after an assassin's attack when Snake Eyes
was just a little boy, but as he grew up and into adulthood his rage to
find his dad's killer only intensified, leading him down a dangerous
rabbit hole of vengeance. But,
well before he dons his signature all black suit and goes completely mute,
Snake Eyes works a less glamorous job as a fishmonger with ties to
organized crime. He also
spends much of his time honing his mind, body and spirit as a cage
fighter. One day he's
recruited by Kenta (Takehiro Hira), a local yakuza gun supplier, and it's
through him that he hooks up with Tommy (Andrew Koji), who in turn is a
member of the Arashikage Clan, a celebrated ninja clan.
Tommy is the main heir to this clan, making him a relatively
important figure in it, and when his life is saved by Snake Eyes he gives
him a new home back in Tokyo and offers him a chance to train in the ways
of the Arashikage.
in training, Snake Eyes has a target on his back, so to speak, placed by
Arashikage security chief Akiko (Haruka Abe), who believes that something
just doesn't smell right about this mysterious newcomer.
Things get dicey for Snake Eyes when he's approached by Kenta, who
makes a promise to deliver his father's killer and his whereabouts if
Snake Eyes does one thing: Turn over an all-important mystical MacGuffin
stone that's in the possession of the ninja clan that he now calls home.
Of course, the Arashikage clan have sworn to protect it at all costs,
placing Snake Eyes between a rock and a hard place, and when agents of
Cobra begin to make their appearance felt (they also want the stone),
Snake Eyes soon begins to have a crisis of conscience.
Does he betray Tommy and his clan to find his father's killer?
Does he steal their magic artifact and risk having it be taken by
Cobra and used for nefarious purposes?
What's a Snake Eyes to do???
appreciate the genuine challenge that a film like this places on its
makers. Director Robert
Schwentke has to somehow re-imagine the G.I. JOE film world from the
ground up and do so by focusing in on one of its more enigmatically cool
personas that's best known for his cool suit, martial arts abilities, and
obsessive manner of keeping his mouth shut.
In some ways, I can modestly admire the film trying to forge a
coming of age tale for this character and introduce us to him when he's a
far cry away from his legendary JOE status.
That, and SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS is a much smaller scale film
about this toyline than the massive (and some would say overproduced)
scale of G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.
Instead of having to wade through heavy expositional waters for
dozens of JOE heroes and Cobra villains, this film tries to tell a more
intimate narrative about one man seeking revenge.
But, yikes, is this film ever a watch checking chore to sit through. At 121 minutes, it felt like 221 at times. I think one major question that this film poses and never thoroughly answers is whether or not someone so famously detached and calculated like Snake Eyes really needs to have his history fleshed out and explained in the first place. Some characters work better when the inherent mysteries that surround them remain intriguingly aloof (call it the Boba Fett effect). That, and some G.I. JOE fundamentalists may cry foul at the idea of having a fresh faced, chatty, and quippy Golding in this role, who struggles mightily throughout this film to make me believe that he'll ultimately become the clandestine badass of our childhood toy closet memories. Golding has a decent presence and has the physicality to fill the shoes of this action heavy role, but he's hopelessly wooden and lacking in intimidating charisma here; there's simply no ethereal intensity on display. He's not assisted by a screenplay that doesn't give him much to work with, outside of posing, fighting, posing some more, fighting...rinse and repeat. There's also a fundamental lack of tension to be had in the film, most of which boils down to which person Snake Eyes will betray: Will it be Kenta or Tommy? As the film unfolds and reveals Snake Eyes' choice it's hardly surprising in the least, which makes story momentum kind of null and void.
when the scripting kind of fails to percolate audience interest all we are
left with essentially are the action sequences, which I'd argue is one of
the main reasons why we want to see films like this.
Unfortunately, Schwentke is an extremely uninspired choice for this
material, having previously helmed two instantly forgettable DIVERGENT
sequels and the ungodly in its awfulness R.I.PD.
The martial arts heavy scenes should have made for easily
digestible guilty pleasure food here, but SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS is
yet another modern action film on an mournfully long list of
genre efforts as of late that are so aggressively slavish towards using
every eye fatiguing and headache inducing trick in the book.
We get mind numbing shaky cam permeated throughout the film on top
of editing that's so choppy and so amateurishly lacking in basic coherence
and fluidity that you feel obligated to reach out to the makers here and
check their pulses to see if they even know what kind of action picture
they're even trying to attempt. I
keep referencing it so often in action film reviews, but the JOHN
WICK trilogy has become such a go-to, upper echelon benchmark for
how to do these kind of films that when directors go in the polar opposite
stylistic and qualitative direction you just want to throw your hands up
in the air in disgust. And so
much of SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS looks shoddy and cheap at times: Look
at one high speed chase sequence - that seems inspired by a similar high
speed chase in THE MATRIX RELOADED, which featured characters battling on
moving vehicles - and it looks so horribly fake here compared to what we
got nearly twenty years ago. Was
this film's not-so inconsiderable $100 million budget spent on travel and