Between the many Transformers films, 2012’s Battleship and even the two previous G.I. Joe films, movies based on toy lines don’t exactly have the best reputation. But Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins manages to wipe that slate clean, rebooting the G.I. Joe film franchise and proving a solid and substantial addition to the list of films based on toys.
Henry Golding steps into the mantle of Snake Eyes, previously played by Ray Park in the 2009 and 2013 films, and as he usually does, Golding brings a lot of charm and charisma to the character. Snake Eyes serves as a standalone origin film for everyone’s favourite G.I. Joe character, although there’s no doubt that sequels and spin-offs will follow in the near future. In Snake Eyes we
get to learn a bit more about the masked man – although fans of Golding shouldn’t be worried, as for the majority of the film he’s unmasked and you do get to see his face.
Following an opening prologue set 20 years ago where a young Snake Eyes witnesses his father being murdered by a mysterious hitman, we jump forward to the present day where Kenta (played by Takehrio Hira) offers Snake Eyes a job smuggling guns for the Yakuza in exchange for finding the man that killed his father. Whilst working for the Yakuza, Snake Eyes saves the life of Tommy (Andrew Koji), the heir of an ancient Japanese clan known as the Arashikage, and as a result, Snake Eyes is welcomed in and taught the ways of being a ninja, as long as he can pass the three challenges to cement his status in the clan. But secrets from Snake Eyes’ past are revealed, testing his loyalties and setting him on a path of violence, leading him to becoming the G.I. Joe hero we all know and love.
The whole film has a very slick and stylish feel to it, offering up cool vibes and a nice atmosphere throughout. The action scenes are well choreographed and look very polished, making them very entertaining to watch. The sound design also really helps to immerse you into the world of the film, making it a feast for the ears as well as the eyes. From swords swishing to snakes hissing and motorbikes revving, the sound design fully draws you in to the action scenes.
In terms of the cast, Henry Golding is great as the film’s lead and Andrew Koji plays the role of Storm Shadow with enough proficiency and dexterity to keep you entirely engaged, while the relationship between the two is built up very well and will hopefully be explored further in future G.I. Joe films.
However, as for the rest of the cast, there were quite a few missed opportunities and many of the supporting characters felt rather underused. Perhaps this is because we might see them again in future films as Snake Eyes merely serves as an introduction to these characters, but nonetheless, many of the supporting actors could have been given a bit more to do. Samara Weaving plays Scarlett, however despite being one of the original G.I. Joe team members, she only appears in the film for a couple of scenes.
The Baroness, played by Úrsula Corberó, is set up as this really intriguing and mysterious figure, who’s an elite operative for the terrorist organization Cobra. We want to know more about her, but much like Scarlett, she just doesn’t get enough screen time and they feel like they’re both there purely as set up for when they’re seen again in sequels and spin-offs. And to top off the underused cast, Snake Eyes also stars legendary Indonesian actor and martial artist Iko Uwais, best known for his work in The Raid and its sequel. But once again, he’s completely wasted, as he often seems to be in American films, and we get to see very little of him in action, beating people up.
There are a couple of points around the midsection of the film where it slows down a bit and there’s a lull in the action, but it ramps everything up a notch for the film’s climactic showdown, which just seems to keep going with more and more action. By the end of the film when the action finally comes to a halt, it feels like we know much more about the character of Snake Eyes and the film’s served as a good origin story and a much better G.I. Joe film than the two previous live-action adventures.
Snake Eyes is a film that’s pleasing enough and a good addition to films based on toy lines. It’s not the best action film of the year, but there’s ample entertainment to keep you totally interested for the full two hour runtime and any sequels or further entries into the G.I. Joe universe will be entirely welcome.