"Snake Eyes" stars Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Iko Uwais, Úrsula Corberó, and Samara Weaving. Released on July 23, 2021, the film depicts the origin story of Snake Eyes.
The film is directed by Robert Schwentke, who also directed films such as "Flightplan", "The Time Traveler's Wife", "Red", and "R.I.P.D.". It is the third installment in the "G.I. Joe" film series, which is based on a series of toys and comics of the same name by Hasbro. There are three things that came to my mind whenever someone brought up the Hasbro brand: Transformers, My Little Pony, and G.I. Joe. Even though I'm more familiar with the former two than the military-focused franchise, there's no doubt that I'm more than willing to see the G.I. Joe come to life on the big screen and this latest action film I'm looking at this weekend is no exception. The G.I. Joe made their big-screen debut in 2009's "The Rise of Cobra", which turned out to be a live-action Saturday morning cartoon that's a bit too cartoony and CGI-heavy for its own good. It was then followed by 2013's "Retaliation", with Dwayne Johnson leading the crew. Despite the negative reviews from critics, these two movies managed to become box office hits, although they're not as successful as the "Transformers" films. Less than a decade later, Paramount and Hasbro decided to take the "Bumblebee" route and reboot the franchise with an origin story of one of the team's members; One that is both silent and deadly. "Bumblebee" served as a great reintroduction/spin-off of the live-action "Transformers" film series, so I was inquisitive to see if this spin-off/reboot would do the same to the "G.I. Joe" brand. With that in mind, let's see if this origin story can slice and dice its way to greatness.
The story chronicles the early days of Snake Eyes (Goulding), a lone fighter with a mysterious past who roams around the country and attempting to make an honest living. One day, after saving the life of Tommy Arashikage (Koji), an heir of an ancient ninja clan, Snake Eyes is recruited into and trained by the organization known as the Arashikage. During his training, he finds his beliefs tested when the secrets of his past start revealing before his eyes. Snake Eyes then begins his journey to outsmart his enemies, including an elite terrorist operative called the Baroness (Corberó), and become the hero we know and love. As mentioned earlier, the film serves as a new starting point for the "G.I. Joe" film series with a new diverse cast and plenty of ninjas. That's right. There's no Channing Tatum, no Dwayne Johnson, and especially no Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander. There's only Henry Golding from "Crazy Rich Asians" and some suitable doses of Japanese culture. Oh, and a few references to the G.I. Joe and Cobra organizations, just to let its audience know that it's a G.I. Joe movie. However, even with those helpful elements, the film couldn't acquire the proper skills to restart the franchise with a bang. There's nothing too special about "Snake Eyes" that makes this a must-see event for G.I. Joe fans, but I will also admit that it's enjoyable enough to warrant the big-screen treatment. To the film's credit, it did manage to improve upon the previous "G.I. Joe" films by balancing the action set pieces with an effortful storyline. Rather than showcasing the razzle-dazzle of its big-budget explosions, shootouts, and CGI, "Snake Eyes" offered a character-driven plot that's part revenge story and part ninja film. While the effort for the story and the characters was there, it was sadly bogged down by its genre cliches, the lack of solid character moments, and some mundane pacing. It's a lot less idiotic than "The Rise of Cobra" for sure, but it's also far from a good "G.I. Joe" adventure. One of the things that were able to make its flawed story entertaining for me was its cast. Henry Golding was challenged to showcase himself as a reliable action star and deliver his own representation of Snake Eyes, who Ray Park played in the previous installments. For the most part, Golding managed to conquer that challenge by effectively manifesting the character who's driven by revenge. He was also not afraid to provide some small bits of humor without losing his character's edge. Since Snake Eyes is known for being the silent type, it does feel odd hearing the character speak louder than his actions. Fortunately, the presence of Golding and its plot managed to make this little detail work. Thankfully, it's not as painfully embarrassing as Snake Eyes's mask in "Rise of Cobra". Andrew Koji was also respectable in his role as Tommy, also known as Storm Shadow, and Samara Weaving proved to be a decent addition to the cast as Scarlett. The action sequences were also pretty entertaining, primarily because they're not as overabundant or headache-inducing as the other G.I. Joe films. They're more reliant on sword fights, hand-to-hand combat, and gunfights rather than massive explosions and CGI effects. What kept them from being memorable was not just the direction provided but also the film's poor use of shaky cam. The shaky camera work and editing were highly irritating during the first couple of fight scenes, but they happen to be a bit better as the film went on, but not by much. The people in Hollywood should've known by now that shaky-cam does not always make the action scenes better.
Overall, "Snake Eyes" showcases a noticeable step in the right direction regarding the "G.I. Joe" brand. But it also served as a run-of-the-mill origin story that's not as silent and deadly as its titular hero. It failed to reach the same heights as "Bumblebee", another origin story/solo film based on the Hasbro toy line. Yet, it has enough entertainment value in its action and Golding's performance to please a good amount of G.I. Joe followers and casual viewers. There's a solid installment hidden in its shadow based on the direction it went. It just wasn't able to come out of it. If they manage to continue the franchise with this direction, I think there's a good chance they'll find a good G.I. Joe film sooner rather than later.