Thursday, July 22, 2021

Snake Eyes

The third movie of the troubled franchise, Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins turns back the clock to offer an origin story for the most popular member of G.I. JOE. The film plays fast a loose with the character's history replacing his past as a soldier with that of a underground street fighter and member of the Yakuza. Snake Eyes (Henry Golding), who is named in the most ridiculous way possible, saves the life of Tommy "Storm Shadow" Arashikage (Andrew Koji) who invites him to join his ninja clan.

The story flips origins of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow so it is Snake Eyes driven by revenge for the murder of a relative into making bad choices. This results in the screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse arguably turning its lead character into the villain of his own movie. While certainly a bold choice, it's not necessarily a good one. Like the previous films, G.I. JOE: Retaliation and G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra, Snake Eyes is a bit of a mess. Part martial arts film, part revenge tale, part spy story, part bizarre fantasy (at one point the film becomes Conan the Barbarian), and part character drama, the pieces never quite fit together.

When the film steers into it's B-movie nature it has some minimal success. However, too often it flounders. Neither Golding nor Koji would have been my choices for the film but both are serviceable here. The rest of the cast is largely forgettable, although we do get the recasting of a couple of well-known roles as Samara Weaving steps in to replace Rachel Nichols as Scarlett and Úrsula Corberó is recast as the Baroness proving once again no one in Hollywood understands what the character needs to look like on-screen.

The choice of close-up fast-cut action scenes is problematic as it's difficult to tell what is happening on screen. For a film that needs those sequences to become true stand-outs if it has any possibility of winning over fans, to underline how cool these characters need to be, the action is just another element of the movie that proves to be inconsistent (although the final battle does offer some stand-out moments... and lots of posing). In terms of an origin story, director Robert Schwentke offers us a tale of how Snake Eyes became part of the Arashikage Clan, met Storm Shadow, and eventually put on his trademark armor but it leaves out several pieces to the character's mystique. For example, this is the most talkative Snake Eyes we've ever seen, and we're also not given a reason for him to eventually hide his face. But not to fret as the film threatens an eventual sequel.

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