Friday, July 23, 2021

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins - Review

 Over a decade ago, way back in 2009, an attempt was made to bring the long standing toy line of G.I. Joe to the big screen. That film did not work, so much so that not even Dwayne Johnson could save its eventual “sequel”. But here we are, twelve years later, for a new attempt, this time starting with just one character, Snake Eyes, the character who famously doesn’t speak or have much of a backstory, and giving him an origin film to spark this new franchise.

An ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage welcomes tenacious loner Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) after he saves the life of their heir apparent (Andrew Koji). Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach him the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing him something he's been longing for: a home. However, when secrets from Snake Eyes' past are revealed, his honor and allegiance get tested -- even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.

If you stripped away the somewhat convoluted reasons to include other characters from the G.I. Joe lore, this film would be entirely forgettable. For the first hour or so, the story follows a slightly standard beat for beat, outsider joins a mysterious society to be tested and trained, style plot, just with a character un-ironically called Snake Eyes in the middle of it. But then the franchise seeding has to start. Cobra and the Joes become so quickly inserted and involved in the other storyline, you might get whiplash from the shift.

With all that being said, the cast is a ton of fun. Henry Golding, getting a much deserved leading role here, doesn’t possess a ton of range, but is undoubtedly destined to be a star. Throw in some interesting supporting performances from Andrew Koji and Haruka Abe, and some criminally underused actresses in Samara Weaving and Úrsula Corberó, and you have a cast that can carry a film, even if the material around them can’t come even close to measuring up. 

Finally, the real centerpiece of any blockbuster in the 21st century: the action. Shaky and poorly shot don’t even begin to cover the disservices done to the choreography and fight scenes at play here. While there may have been an idea of an action film with swords and hand to hand combat pitched at one point, the final product went so far in the other direction that it became just another blurry and hard to follow mess. There is little in the way of a visual imagination, and the screen is often filled with sequences of poorly lit set pieces stacked on one another. 

And in spite of all the negative things one can say about the terrible action filmmaking and the shoehorning of characters and world building into the story, seeing a sequel wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Yes, this film is a misstep, but the chance to see this cast suit up again and delve further into the world of G.I. Joe is, shockingly enough, kind of exciting. It’s a weird feeling to not really enjoy a movie overall, yet still have hope for a sequel, but Snake Eyes has somehow accomplished it.

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