Is it hard to believe that another G.I. Joe movie is terrible? Snake Eyes is an uninteresting, dull, and plodding origin story that fails to revive the franchise.
This is not the first time these famous action figures have received the big Hollywood blockbuster treatment. Back in 2009, the first live-action G.I. Joe film, The Rise of Cobra, was released and did somewhat well at the box office, calling for a sequel four years later with G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013). Eight years after the failed sequel, the franchise has been rebooted with an origin story on one of the most recognisable characters, Snake Eyes. Using a ninja-style storyline with a stacked cast could have worked for the better; however, it lacks in every department.
An old Japanese clan called the Arashikage welcomes Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) to stay with them after he goes rogue from the Yakuza and saves the life of their heir, Tommy (Andrew Koji). When he arrives, he is told to take three tests to become part of the clan. He is trained by the Blind Master (Peter Mensah) and Hard Master (Iko Uwais), as they teach him the ways of the ninja. However, Snake has a secret that tests his honour and allegiance, leaving him in a battle against his own beliefs, even if it means losing the trust of those closest to him.
During the first ten to fifteen minutes, Snake Eyes is an interesting movie because it has a “grounded” feel and doesn’t seem like it is a franchise reboot, even though it comes with every trope possible. After that, it starts to get more boring by the minute, mainly due to its awful script. The narrative doesn’t make much sense either, banking on name rather than storytelling to drive the film. It would’ve been more acute and precise had it stuck with its “grounded” tone.
It isn’t until the G.I. Joe element comes into play that ruins the film. But what else could you expect? The filmmakers aren’t going to make an action blockbuster that pleases everyone; they will side with the fans of the franchise. That isn’t the problem; the problem comes when the film starts mixing all the subplots to fit right into the team-up finale. The screenwriters chose the most obvious ways to deliver the characters to the screen. You could guess everything that was going to happen just by watching the introduction.
It’s the same old rogue origin story where you know Snake Eyes has secrets, and his “trust” is tested between the good and bad guys, but once he learns the mystery of it all, he sides with the heroes. It makes it pointless to make such a film and not look like a cash grab. The movie then adds a supernatural element in a stone that harnesses the sun’s power, and that’s when you lose the little patience you had with it. It doesn’t have anything else to give, so another subplot is added to the already rushed and muddled story.
The action set-pieces, which are supposed to be the film’s main attraction, are very poor. Each action sequence is almost the same except in a different location. They could have gone ninja-style all the way, and that would’ve been fun to see; instead, we get repetitiveness and no inspiration. The only sequence where things change is the final one, where everything blows out of proportion, literally. Also, for some reason, the film changes from day to night instantaneously. There is one scene where Snake goes to a harbour for at least five to ten minutes, and it’s pure daylight. When he leaves, it is dark as night. Even the film doesn’t know what to do. Everything is out of order.
Henry Golding as the titular Snake Eyes may have been a good choice on paper, though he doesn’t deliver enough energy or swagger to keep the famous character interesting. He reacts with the same bland expressions throughout the entire film, even if it’s an impactful moment or a fight scene. You can see the same thing with Takehiro Hira, who plays the antagonist, Kenta, in the driest fashion imaginable. Both of them try, but it seems that they can’t hold their characters together. As for Andrew Koji, he does a better job at selling the awful lines.
The best parts come from the badass female duo of Samara Weaving and Úrsula Corberó. Both produce the most enthusiasm out of the cast. You see that they are trying their best to deliver the lines from the poor script, and it starts to work well until another character pops into the screen and ruins the fun. The moment each step into their respective scenes, they elevate the film to a great degree. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them. You just wish for them to come back every chance they get since they are the few bright spots in the film.
Snake Eyes drags through its uninteresting story, leaving a trail of disappointment and dullness. The dialogue is the worst kind of camp, and the action sequences are poorly edited and paced. It lacks a sense of self or uniqueness, looking like a second-rate copy of all the blood-soaked exploitation or grindhouse ninja flicks from the 1980s with a “modern” touch and action figures attached to it. It has a messy story filled with numerous action sequences, but nothing happens. You just wish they would have made an origin story for Scarlett and the Baroness instead of Snake Eyes since Samara Weaving and Úrsula Corberó deliver the goods.
Snake Eyes was changed from a Caucasian character seen from the comics, animated series, and both of the live action films to a mixed race character due to actor Henry Golding who’s both English and Malaysian.