“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from 2013 threw out nearly 80% of the characters from 2009’s “G.I. Joe: Rise of Corbra.”
This movie, in turn, throws out all of those films’ lore and a plethora of characters.
Get rid of what you think you know about Snake Eyes from the previous movies, because this is a completely different universe. In this movie, Henry Golding portrays Snake Eyes, a young man who witnessed his dad getting murdered when he was a kid. The film picks up with him fighting in an underground circuit, making just enough money to get by.
That chapter of his life comes to a close as he’s recruited to the Yakuza because of his fighting ability. That doesn’t last long, though, as he’s not cut out for the job and instead finds himself working alongside a man named Tommy (Andrew Koji).
It turns out Tommy is a member of a secret ninja clan known as the Arashikage and he wants Snake to be a new member. However, his loyalty to the clan becomes challenged when he’s offered information about the man who killed his father.
Despite its attempts to be breathe new life into the “G.I. Joe” universe, “Snake Eyes” feels all too familiar. It’s really a generic affair and had it not been for the mentions of “G.I. Joe,” it could be seen as just a run of the mill martial arts ninja movie.
On top of it being overly stereotypical, “Snake Eyes” is a rather boring movie that goes on far longer than it has any right to. It just goes through tired, predictable motions, as if its unable to separate itself from others in the genre.
The sad thing is, though, the film probably could have gotten away with this if the writers knew how to have some fun with the whole thing. For a film based on a cartoon, “Snake Eyes” takes itself far too seriously. It’s such a heavy experience for an audience looking for escapism.
That’s not to say content adapted from cartoon material should be dumbed-down or made to be overly silly, but a better injection of levity could have gone a long way for this picture. In 2009, yours truly actually praised “Rise of Cobra” for embracing its roots and being a fun romp.
That chase scene through the streets of Paris from the 2009 picture was more enjoyable to watch than any of this new movie.
Another factor not helping “Snake Eyes'” case is the titular character himself. The character makes rather poor decisions in the movie and it causes Snake Eyes to become an unlikable character.
It’s fine to have a character who makes mistakes as a sort of redemption arc. However, for much of the movie it comes across as the film wants the audience to root for him as a tried and true action hero. Meanwhile, the movie also wants Tommy, Snake Eyes’ rival also known as Storm Shadow, to be looked at as some character on the wrong path, yet he seems to be the person in the whole picture making the most sense.
Koji plays Tommy without much subtlety either. From very early on Koji gives the character a bit of edginess, making him seem like a cold and calculating person from the very beginning rather than an individual who falls from grace.
Golding’s performance as the main character, meanwhile, is rather messy. At times the character seems like he’s an icy lone wolf, and at others he appears to be a bit more playful and gold-hearted. Golding really isn’t able to find a good balance with this type of character the same way, say, Hugh Jackman did with Wolverine.
As previously stated, an action segment from the 2009 movie was better than most of what “Snake Eyes” had to offer. However, that’s not to say the fight moments here were completely bad.
There are a few good battle sequences that are fairly entertaining. Additionally, the set design is fantastic. The lighting, color and overall aesthetic of the places these fights take place in is pretty good.
On that note, some of the film’s action sequences involve two side characters, Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Ursula Corbero), and they absolutely steal the show. Despite the low screen time both have, they’re the best part of the film and give some energy to the production. Honestly, give us a movie with those two as the leads.
“Snake Eyes” isn’t an awful action film but it never excels at anything either. Despite some spectacle, it isn’t worth rushing out to a theater for. It really only appeals to fans of martial arts films or the “Joe” franchise. However, fans of the original two films may be disappointed with this picture’s change in direction. 2 out of 5.