Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Úrsula Corberó, Samara Weaving
G.I Joe dates back to the early 1960s as a series of toys. The term ‘action figure’ was coined to avoid using the word doll when marketing the toys. For almost sixty years the toy-line has been rebranded and refreshed in every way possible. In the 1980s, to tackle the huge popularity of the smaller Star Wars toys, G.I. Joe was rebranded as ‘A Real American Hero’, with a line of toys the same size as the Star Wars ones from Kenner. It was during this period that the most well-known characters associated with G.I. Joe were created, including Snake Eyes.
After two reasonably successful films in 2009 and 2013 it’s been a long time since G.I. Joe has been shown on the big screen. Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is intended as a reboot of the franchise to bring the characters to a new generation and kick-start a new series of films. Since the last G.I. Joe film, Marvel has run supreme at the box-office, taking several spots of the highest grossing films of all time list. Snake Eyes at time feels like a Marvel-lite film, showing everything that a Marvel film would usually show, just without the insane budget.
Snake Eyes gives us the origin story of the title character before he joins G.I. Joe. As a child he witnessed the murder of his dad and vows to spend the rest of his life tracking down the murderer. That journey leads him to join the Yakuza before leaving to join a Ninja clan known as the Arashikage clan. To join them, Snake Eyes must complete 3 challenges.
There is no doubt that Snake Eyes is a family action/superhero film. It feels like a Marvel film from the opening scene and keeps that tone throughout. Even so, there are some moments where the film feels like it wants to go darker. There is a lot of death in this film, from Snake Eye’s father to the countless henchmen that the good guys mow down during the journey. The nameless people die quickly and with little blood, but it’s still a little shocking and refreshing to see the good guys cutting people down with swords (especially after the recent Marvel films where they go out of the way to show that no one got too badly hurt). There is one scene, towards the end, where it feels like this was meant to be darker. Snake Eyes is given a choice and everything leading to that point feels like it should go one way, but it doesn’t. The darker choice is avoided. It would have been interesting to see a darker version of this film.
Likewise with the action, it’s not graphic in the slightest. People don’t seem to bleed when being impaled on swords – everything is very clean. The action is nicely choreographed, but to avoid showing anything too brutal, the camera is a little messy. At points it can be hard to actually see what’s happening on screen.
The plot has some nice twists and turns that keep it interesting, even if the film does outstay it’s welcome slightly. Most of the plot is predictable with lots of moments that feel familiar, but it’s still entertaining while it lasts. The characters are all interesting and work well together. Sadly, Snake Eyes is the least interesting of the lot. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) just isn’t that great in the role. He’s lacking the screen presence needed to carry a superhero film as the lead.
Snake Eyes is a pretty decent film, with some nice characters and action sequences. It does feel a little restrained by its age rating and the lead isn’t that great in the role. Thankfully the story is entertaining and the side characters more than make up for what is lacking from Snake Eyes himself. Hopefully any possible sequels will build upon the solid groundwork and be even better.