Arriving 8 years after Retaliation (is it in the same universe? Who knows, and honestly who cares?). Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins serves as a prequel story to the titular hero, Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) as he embarks on a quest to avenge the death of his father.
Written by Jack Ransom
I’m sure I’m not the only person who can barely remember a shred of detail about either of the previous G.I. Joe films, and I think the rest of the world forgot that this was releasing (I watched this opening night and me and my friend were the only two in attendance). Honestly I can’t blame them as Snake Eyes is a film that feels 15 years too late and offers absolutely nothing new to the genre.
Snake Eyes takes what is an incredibly simplistic premise and convolutes it with messy character motivations and an insistent attempt to jump start the universe. The film is largely expository dialogue pieces, occasionally interspersed with forgettable action (which we will get too shortly). Cobra is an absolute non-entity here, and are really only included to remind you that this a G.I. Joe film, because outside of the barraging of the titular character’s name origin being repeated, he doesn’t actually wear the iconic costume until the final shot. Which really makes the whole film play like an extended prelude to a follow up that won’t happen.
The writing is largely laughable, which at least provided some entertainment to cut through the extended dull generic and uninteresting attempts at character building. Predicting what was going to be said and what was going to happen to the characters occasionally takes your mind off of the fact that literally NOTHING is happening in the film. Tonally it goes between a gritty revenge tale involving the Yakuza, to copying beats from Batman Begins & Doctor Strange (two far better origin stories) before devolving into the usual blockbuster “we have to get the world ending MacGuffin” fodder.
Surprisingly the aesthetic of the film is genuinely impressive at times. The blend of futuristic tech with traditional Japanese samurai culture for the Arashikage Clan hideout is unique and the sequence in Tokyo utilises neon and rain together for good effect. It’s just a shame the action is an absolute shambles and could have been far greater in more capable hands. The opening cage fight feels like the camera was put in a washing machine to shoot it. The choreography involving multiple brawlers divulges into a messy scramble and the promising highway duel as seen in the trailers is marred by poor garish lighting.
Henry Golding has two facial expressions throughout the duration of the film. An occasional grin or bemused/concerned. He has the screen presence but is so utterly bland as a personality due to the writing. Samara Weaving and Iko Uwais are both completely wasted. Andrew Koji, Takehiro Hira & Úrsula Corberó are clearly enjoying hamming up their roles but they aren’t memorable at all for the cliched character archetypes and lack of any substantial focus for the latter two.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins just feels completely unnecessary and doesn’t even serve as a satisfying origin story for the character as by the end of it you will still feel like you know barely anything about him. Disappointing fight sequences, a choppy dull exposition heavy plot and forgettable characters utterly trample the admittedly well designed sets and visual style of a few of the distinct locations.