I couldn’t tell you much about the G.I. Joe universe. I know the pamphlet description: a group of U.S. anti-terrorists militants devoted to truth, justice, and never skipping leg day. I know that there are not one, but two live-action movies that I remember seeing, but couldn’t recite either premise even under pressure. And now, I know that whatever those other movies were doing, they were definitely focusing on the wrong Joe.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins changes that by shifting the focus to one of the only members of the “Joe-Bros” that definitely wouldn’t complain about having to wear a mask. Serving as both an origin story and a reboot (the soft or hardness of which will be determined in future sequels) for the franchise, Snake Eyes follows the titular character’s journey to become the silent soldier we all come to know and love. Along the way, he gains friends, loses some, and learns a valuable lesson on revenge and redemption.
Snake Eyes came just in time for the G.I. Joe franchise, which many had probably considered as done as Duke since the franchise’s second entry, Retaliation. Luckily, Snake Eyes breathes some fresh life into the G.I. Joe franchise. Although, the packaging is admittedly pretty basic.
The film follows Henry Golding’s anti-hero as he comes into contact with the Yakuza, the honorable Ashikage clan, and his eventual future Joe-mates. Serving as something of a reboot for the franchise, Snake Eyes is certainly different from its predecessors. For one thing, it isn’t as action-packed as you might expect. You’d be right to guess that a movie centered around a modern-day ninja assassin would have a ton of high-octane action scenes in it, but you’d be wrong. Snake Eyes is particularly weak in the action department, with the few moments of butt-kicking being spoiled by lackluster choreography and a shaky camera that was nauseatingly present throughout most of the film.
Fortunately, The saving grace of the film is the cast. Henry Golding and Andrew Koji portray Snake Eyes and Tommy Ashikage aka Storm Shadow, respectively. They work extremely well together, bouncing off each other’s energies to deliver some truly powerful scenes that foreshadow their eventual rivalry. The supporting cast is rounded up with phenomenal performances by Haruka Abe (Akiko), Takehiro Hira (Kenta), Iko Uwais (Hard Master), and Peter Mensah (Blind Master) and with some surprise appearances from Samara Weaving (Scarlett) and Ursula Corbero (The Baroness). The performances delivered by the cast escalated the movie to a higher level, and truly helped make the choppy fight scenes much more tolerable in the long run.
However, Snake Eyes won’t just subvert your expectations for an action movie. It also changes a lot of what you’d expect to see in a Snake Eyes movie — like the silence and anonymity of the character. That’s all thrown aside to allow for time with Golding’s attractive face and decent American accent. The British actor does a great job portraying this version of Snake Eyes, but fans of the Ray Park version in the previous films may be disappointed. It’s this subversion of expectations that seems to be the most divisive aspect of Snake Eyes. Director Robert Schwentke does what he can with a smaller budget and a rather typical plot. And, to his credit, Snake Eyes definitely left me feeling a little more excited for the future of the G.I. Joe franchise.