There’s some of you out there who would claim that the much maligned G.I. Joe franchise desperately needed rebooting (possibly with a bullet behind the left ear) and while I totally understand that the two existing live-action movies may not exactly be Nolan-esque examples of blockbuster excellence, they do admittedly speak to my inner twelve year old. However, regardless of your views, I think we can all agree that in amongst casually destroying Paris and having a ninja cult fight on the side of a mountain, the MVP of the whole shebang has been Snake Eyes; the Joe’s resident visor wearing ninja, who’s long standing feud with fellow sword swinger and former brother-in-arms Storm Shadow, has been a high point inbetween explosions. So, you ready to find out how they first met? Ummm… me neither, actually…
Anyway, ever since his father was murdered in front of him as a child “Snake Eyes” adopted his weird moniker after the assailant’s pair of loaded dice and has been carving a miserable existence brooding about his shitty past and racking up a ton of wins fighting various thick necked opponents in underground fighting arenas. One day, he’s plucked out of his usual grind by charismatic criminal Kenta Takamura to ply his impressive punching skills for the Yakuza in return for information about the guy who killed his father all those years ago. However, after saving the life of mid-level gangster and Kenta’s cousin Tommy Arashikage from execution, Snake Eyes is brought into the employ of the powerful Arashikage ninja clan who has dedicated their lives to thwarting evil for countless generations – sort of a non-profit, save the world deal with katanas and electric motorcycles. Snake Eyes’ presence horrifies security chief Akiko but banks on him failing the three tests required to gain membership that requires a humble nature and the ability not to be eaten by giant fucking snakes.
When not being hammered by the clan’s brutal teachers The Hard Master and The Blind Master, Snake finds that his quest for vengence is hampering his training in ways far more sinister than you’d first suspect but the appearance of agents of two secret military forces, Scarlet from the heroic G.I. Joe and the absurdly slinky Baroness from terrorist organisation Cobra, complicates matters to a global scale.
Will Snake and Tommy’s honor bound friendship manage to weather an adventure that involves more elegant pre and post fight posing than the entire filmography of Mila Jovovich put together…?
Proving that Hollywood hasn’t learnt a fucking thing since X-Men Origins: Wolverine – except maybe sticking the Origins bit after the main character’s name in the title – Snake Eyes has a rather awkward mountain to climb. After all, Snake Eyes already has an origin story – several, in fact – and this new one doesn’t offer anything better than what we already have and in fact raises some weird plot holes as it goes.
The comics had the mysterious gimp suited ninja wearing the suit because he was disfigured and rendered mute by a helicopter explosion, while in the Stephen Summers movie it’s hinted that maybe he’s taken a vow of silence after witnessing his master get butchered – this reboot however takes the faceless, voiceless enigma and casts the notorious face owning Henry Golding in the role and gives him quite possibly the most generic back story you could possibly imagine.
I mentioned the first Wolverine movie earlier, but Snake Eyes takes numerous pages from the second film by taking a hero that’s as broken as he is photogenic and dunks him into a Japanese culture that crammed with rainy neon and organised crime that boasts better tech than most armies.
Robert Schwentke, previously responsible for Red (yay!) R.I.P.D. (boo!) and a chunk of the Divergent franchise (meh…), keeps things looking suprisingly good (the film admittedly looks slick as hell) but there’s not a single thing in the film that actually truly connects with the audience. Ridiculous trash the previous G.I. Joe movie may be, but at least they had big, memorable shit in them and knew how to have a little fun – this movie could have either raised the camp or the violence for it’s benefit but instead is stuck in a joyless, bloodless limbo that keeps a super-serious expression on it’s face even when dealing with ancient jewel that causes things to explode or a training scenario that bizarrely rips off the climactic moments of Harry Potter And Chamber Of Secrets.
Another massive mark against this movie is by the far the most galling; why bother to make an action movie about a world of gun toting super ninjas if you’re going to employ indecipherable shakey cam for the disappointingly samey fights. Not only do we live in a time where films like The Raid are flawless blueprints for filming modern day action without feeling like you’re watching it while squinting and jerking you’re head wildly all over the place, but the movie actually has the fucking star of The Raid in it! How does this happen?
Despite it’s uninspired story and confusing fight choreography, the actors involved don’t actually fare that badly at all – Golding has enough charm to carry us through his cookie cutter arc and Andrew Koji gives good inner torment as Snake’s future frenemy Tommy aka. Storm Shadow, but despite looking the part Samara Weaving hits a rare bum note as Scarlet who weirdly reads all her lines like she’s been puffing on endless Monte Cristo cigars to get that action hero rasp. In fact all the Joe/Cobra world building is horribly forced and makes you wonder exactly how far the producers would be willing to go if this flick was a success. I mean, do you really want a G.I. Joe origin movie for parrot loving sailor, Shipwreck? Because watching this flick is exactly how you get a G.I. Joe origin movie for Shipwreck…
As heavy footed and clumsy as it’s hero is nimble, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is simply unappealing to newbies, confusing to casual fans and annoying to any Joe-bros who are clued up to the universe in general that isn’t even a complete origin. How can Snake Eyes fight so damn well before the clans get a hold of him? While would a child feel the need to adopt a code name to conceal his identity? Why are the end credits so bewildering awful? And when the hell will Hollywood stop making origin movies where the character doesn’t don their iconic costume until the final shot of the film. He’s been wearing the damn costume in popular costume for nigh on forty years now, fuck, he’s even wearing it in the poster for this very damn movie!
This new iteration of the 80’s toy line rolls the dice and craps out with barely a whisper…