‘Snake Eyes’ Review—Frustratingly Dull
I’m a film critic. That means my job is to tell you that the newest movie based on an action figure is…wait for it…NOT good!
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a sci-fi action movie directed by Robert Schwentke. The film is a reboot of the G.I. Joe films, both of which were pretty bad, but in a fun way. We don’t have Ray Park as Snake Eyes this time; instead, we have Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame as the titular hero.
The film follows a mysterious fighter named Snake Eyes who gets recruited into a Japanese ninja clan and goes on an action-packed journey while also tracking down the man who killed his father. So if you were ever a child who played with the Snake Eyes toy and wondered who he is behind the mask, he’s apparently an Asian Inigo Montoya.
Similar to video game movies, action figure movies rarely ever turn out well. From the never-ending Transformers movies to cinematic abominations such as Max Steel, you can’t expect much from movies made to sell toys, especially when the first two films in this series were less than impressive.
But this movie tried something new. Snake Eyes recasts every character and gives Snake Eyes an entirely different backstory from what we previously saw in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. With that in mind, you may be thinking, “how does this have anything to do with G.I. Joe then?”
Well, the answer is that it doesn’t. Or rather, it shouldn’t. This film would have been so much better without the endless need to reference Cobra and the G.I. Joes and set up a ton of sequels surrounding the world. But instead, we got a film that feels so cobbled together and so loosely related to G.I. Joe that it’s a bit maddening.
The whole point of Snake Eyes is that he‘s a mysterious character. We don’t know what he looks like or what he sounds like, but we know he’s a badass. However, this film just has Henry Golding’s face and voice out in the open, with only one brief scene where he’s in the classic Snake Eyes costume.
Putting that aside, the film does an excellent job of setting up Snake Eyes’s character with his backstory as a child. We see him lose his father, and he spends the rest of the movie ready to avenge him. And that’s his whole character. A not-that-likable guy hell-bent on revenge with no other personality traits besides “vengeful”.
Snake Eyes is a character who always puts his own interests first and the places they take his storyline are quite underwhelming, given that the deuteragonist, Tommy (Andrew Koji), is given more dramatic weight. Most of the characters in this movie are completely one-dimensional, with spectacular talents such as Iko Uwais and Samara Weaving being criminally underutilized.
How about the action? Does the film offer entertaining action sequences? Not quite. The movie has a good amount of them, but Schwentke directs the fights poorly, using shaky cam and jump cuts that hinder the audience’s ability to see the choreography.
Despite the subpar action, the fights and chases are actually the best part of the movie. Every single dialogue scene is frustratingly dull, with no stand-out performances from any character as they’re all on the same bland page where nothing fascinating happens.
Essentially, the film feels like a long series of fights with minimal emotional weight. The villains are, as you would expect from a G.I. Joe movie, part of a terrorist organization named Cobra. For most of the movie, they’re just a bunch of goons with uninteresting motives. They don’t have much of a presence in the story.
Speaking of the story, the film is pretty generic. It doesn’t feel like it’s moving forward, and Snake Eyes does many things that make it hard to sympathize with him. Furthermore, the writing can be incredibly weak with a lot of exposition told to the audience instead of shown.
Characters tend to verbally exposit information on Cobra and the G.I. Joes rather than having the audience see them. The stakes are set up when we are told about the threat; it takes a while for us to actually see the threat. There are backstories that would have been much more interesting if we had seen them unfold, rather than just hint at them.
Overall, this was a disappointing movie that drags every time the action stops. The film has excellent production design and some good performances, but the movie really doesn’t do much as far as the action genre goes. Some may enjoy this film, but others won’t. It’s a roll of the dice.
Grade: ★★☆☆☆ [4/10, C-]
Jonathan’s Tips: You’re more likely to have fun with G.I. Joe: Retaliation with The Rock instead of this. Don’t watch the trailer for this movie; it gives away the ending. You can skip this one.
Snake Eyes is now playing in theaters.