Review: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

I pretty much went into this film blind. I seen one trailer for it a couple of months ago maybe and ended up going to see it on the basis that I was running out of things to review. I’ve seen both G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retribution when they first came out and I’ve never felt the need to revisit them since. I’m not a huge fan of the property and I don’t know the backstory to any of these characters.

Now, with Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, we see the birth of everyone’s favourite silent ninja in what is essentially a reboot of the live action version of the property. This time around the very charming Henry Golding takes on the mantle of Snake Eyes and despite being an origin story of the character, at no point are we told his real name or really given any sense that this is the same guy who’ll eventually join the fight against Cobra. There’s nothing no real similarities between the character here, and the character many people have grown up with over the years.

The film is a bit of a mixed bag if I’m honest but the most important thing you need to know before going into this one is that Snake Eyes himself, is a bit of a dick. The entire opening hour of the film plays out like a Japanese crime saga with the character of Storm Shadow coming across as the true hero of the film and Snake Eyes, while serving as our main character, is basically a villain for most of the film. It isn’t really until the introduction of Cobra and the more cartoonish elements that Snake Eyes himself sees the error of his ways which in turn forces him to team up with the man who he’d spent most of the film screwing over.

There’s a really good film in here somewhere but unfortunately the inclusion of the G.I. Joe and Cobra mythos actually derail the terrific character work set up in the first half. Granted, the second half of the film is more action focussed than the first but it ends up feeling quite disjointed as a result. However, if you had taken away the G.I. Joe / Cobra aspect of the film spent a little more time on the relationship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow you’d have ended up with a much more interesting film.

As for the action scenes in the film, they aren’t bad at all. There is an overuse of shaky cam as is the case with a lot of films over the past decade but here I think it serves the purpose of obscuring some of the violence levels in order to land that family friendly. I can’t remember the last time I seen so many people die by the sword in such a clean, child friendly manner. I found there to be a particularly enjoyable fight scene on the back of a truck towards the end of the film.

The weird thing is though, as much I seem to be slating the Snake Eyes, I didn’t actually hate it. Yes, it has more than a few problems with it but it never bored me. The film itself is entertaining with Henry Golding as Snake Eyes and Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow are particular highlights and there’s a good supporting cast as well with everyone bringing their best to what is essentially a silly kids film about toy ninjas. I’ll probably never go out my way to watch it again but I don’t regret watching it in the first place and I don’t think you will either.

by Edward Laing