Snake Eyes: A G.I. Joe Origins Review!
PLOT: The first cinematic origin story for G.I. Joe explores the beginning of the iconic character, SNAKE EYES.
REVIEW: It all started fine with the occasionally entertaining G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra directed by Stephen Sommers, way back in 2009. Things got a little better with the 2013 release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation with a little help from Dwayne Johnson. The sequel, directed by Jon M. Chu, maintained some of the original’s clear but slight charms and added a more satisfying action element. And now, Paramount has yet another offering in the G.I. Joe universe. Instead of taking on a group of characters, this particular “Origins” story places focus on the titular character, Snake Eyes. Considering there was a slight improvement between the first Rise of Cobra and Retaliation, at least for this viewer, you’d hope that a few years of preparation and a popular actor like Henry Golding would create an action-packed sequel and at least be entertaining. Unfortunately, the Robert Schwentke directed sequel takes the franchise down a couple of notches.
The film begins with the introduction of a young boy (Max Archibald) and his father (Steven Allerick), who are staying at a cabin deep in the woods. When it becomes clear that the two are in danger, the father attempts to hide his son, only to face his own demise. The boy survives. Years later, that young man grows up to look a lot like Henry Golding, and we meet Snake Eyes. Soon, fate brings him to an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after he saves the life of their heir apparent. Once he arrives in Japan, he’s trained and tested to be a part of this ancient clan. However, there is a darker desire for him, a need for vengeance for what happened to his father. Will he betray those that trusted him? Or will this iconic character find a place with the Joes?
The trailer for Snake Eyes offered a little promise. It helps to hire solid actors like Golding, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness, Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Iko Uwais as Hard Master, Peter Mensah as Blind Master, and more. And there are many interesting tales that could’ve been told about Snake Eyes within this world. Yet this first origin story is lackluster in nearly every single way. While Golding is a good actor, the script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Joe Srapnel didn’t do him any favors. If you want the goofy little one-liners that don’t quite work, you’ve got that in spades. What you don’t get, however, is a film that truly explores Snake Eyes in an exciting way. Neither does it do much for the other popular G.I. Joe characters making an appearance here. There is very little to get inspired by in this unexceptional world the filmmakers have created. It’s hard not to see this as a bit of a missed opportunity.
The first major action sequence involves Snake Eyes in a no-holds-barred cage match. The scene is muddy and messy, and the shaky camera work is a bit frustrating to watch. Perhaps it was simply that the director wanted you to feel what it was like to be in the ring. Nope. It’s all like that. The action sequences are all a series of close-ups, with the camera constantly moving and shaking as you try and get a glimpse of what is going on. What’s even more frustrating? There are some truly inspired images on-screen. Some that come so very close to bringing some life to this less than spectacular feature. Ironically it is the softer moments that are the most impactful. That’s when we get a little more insight into Snake Eyes, and the struggles he faces.
Oh, and are you ready for weird CGI beasts? Well, there’s that as well. You see, to earn his place with the clan, he must face off against three challenges. One of them involves massive snakes, and it may be one of the weirdest moments in a G.I. Joe feature that I’ve ever seen. Yet perhaps a bit more of the weird may have made this feel like a more intriguing exploration of the character. A little more personality wouldn’t hurt either. The new flick rarely goes anywhere past generic fight scenes, corny dialogue, and maybe a hope for a better film. Unfortunately, this is not a good start for bringing the Joe’s into origin territory. If you enjoyed the trailer for this film, well frankly it’s far more satisfying than the actual film. And if you didn’t like the trailer, I’d probably recommend that you see something else this weekend.
Snake Eyes is a massive disappointment. There are good ideas here. Some of the imagery on display was quite gorgeous, and the score had a fun electronic feel. Yet even with the star-of-the-moment Henry Golding, and a strong supporting cast, the first G.I. Joe Origin Story fails to ignite a spark. I’ve certainly appreciated Schwentke’s work before, but perhaps his talents aren’t as well suited for a non-stop action blockbuster such as this. What’s even more frustrating is that you can see there was something in this mess. But the constantly shaking camera work, the generic script, and a would-be villain that kind of looks like Lisa Loeb don’t give this flick much of a bite. Perhaps you’ll appreciate this more than I did, but ultimately, Snake Eyes is just a bland continuation that failed to explore the mystique of a character far more intriguing than the film with his name.