Henry Golding in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins : Film Review
The latest in a long line of products spawned by a heritage line of dolls from the 1960s, Robert Schwentke’s Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins It targets almost as much to Westerners in love with the romantic notions of Japan (both ancient and modern) as it is to viewers: how many really exist? – long and cheesy GI Joe brand buff. As you send a hero loved by 80s fanboys into the world of Yakuza and samurai lore, remember the comics that inspired James Mangold. Badger; Though this movie is a lot dumber than that one, its nods to the pulpy arena and enjoyable fight sequences will be welcomed by viewers who couldn’t tell a Storm Shadow from a Copperhead or Zartan (and who would need Wikipedia to even appear). with the names of those characters).
Playing the young man whose real name was forgotten decades ago, Henry Golding springs into action with an easy charisma that Schwentke will never fully exploit. He’s ideal as a morally ambiguous mystery man with a brutal backstory. When he was a kid, he was on what his father said was a vacation when the baddies tracked down dad in his cabin. The boy watched as a villain forced his father to roll a pair of dice to determine his fate. When he rolled two, snake eyes, daddy was executed.
Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins
The bottom line
Good enough to make you wish it was better.
Henry Golding in Snake Eyes
Twenty years later, Snake Eyes is a wanderer who brutalizes his opponents in underground fighting tournaments while craving revenge. He is approached by Kenta (Takehiro Hira, star of the recent Giri / Hajj), who needs tough young guys and promises that he can find the killer of Snake’s father. Within weeks, Snake is helping the Yakuza smuggle weapons into the bellies of gutted fish.
But Snake resists when he is ordered to kill a man that Kenta says has wronged him and instead helps him escape in the first of several hyperbolic fight sequences. Snake picked the right guy to help: Tommy (Andrew Koji) turns out to be the heir apparent to the Arashikage clan, a wealthy family that seems to have been something of a shadow defender of Japanese ideals since at least the Edo era. Snake is taken in a private jet to his vast white-walled castle, where a private army guards, among other things, a relic called the Jewel of the Sun. Tommy declares that Snake will train to be his right-hand warrior, helping the clan to adapt to the modern world.
Schwentke and his three writers seem ready to immerse us in the mythology of Arashikage, with Snake slowly learning ninja stealth and samurai honor while enjoying Tommy’s collection of stylish electric motorcycles. But while all the signifiers of the old Japanese style are here (beginning Nipponophiles will especially love Louise Mingenbach’s varied kimono designs), this midsection doesn’t take full advantage of Snake’s training for the “Warrior’s Three Challenges.”
Instead, he takes what could be a more rewarding detour: We learn that Snake is still secretly working for Kenta, planning to steal the Jewel of the Sun in exchange for the man he longs to kill. His loyalties will be uncertain for the remainder of the film, as his natural affinity for the Arashikage’s talk of honor competes with his need to avenge his father.
Although all the motivations are in place, the script fails to turn Snake (not even temporarily) into a convincing antihero. Rather than marvel at his willingness to betray his new friends, we observe with surprise how easily he sneaks through their defenses. Even the clan’s head of security, Akiko (Haruka Abe), who is suspicious of the newcomer, doesn’t see what he’s doing, even when he’s walking like a ninja right under their noses.
The producers have a franchise to reboot here, so of course there are references to the wider GI Joe universe. We meet a baroness (Úrsula Corberó) who works for the evil Cobra organization (it turns out Kenta is in cahoots with them), as well as Joe’s agent behind her, Agent Scarlett (Samara Weaving, woefully underused after a promising scene from introduction).
But the story also incorporates elements that a non-fan won’t expect: Does the counterterrorism world of Joes-Vs-Cobra also include elements of fantasy? Not only is Jewel of the Sun actually a magical weapon, but Snake’s journey also requires him to fight dragon-sized anacondas, who are somehow capable of sensing if their prey is pure of heart.
It’s all a lot to cram into a movie that should have been more snappy and petty, not to mention more palpably violent. (Despite the hundreds of swords slicing through the air in this PG-13 adventure, the only blood we see is peacefully drawn, for a DNA test.) On the other hand, wishing for stronger dramatic development and more forceful action can be naive when you’re watching a movie from the producer of the film. Transformers series, another throwback to the days when television cartoons were essentially cheap commercials for new toys.
As the shamelessly corporate popcorn movies say, Snake Eyes it’s better than most. That’s not high praise, but considering the movie’s silly pedigree, it’s nothing.