By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After two failed previous attempts at a live-action movie franchise for G.I. Joe, Paramount and Hasbro have decided to reboot this IP with a new series beginning with an origin story for, what is perhaps, G.I. Joe‘s most beloved character. Though normally portrayed as totally hidden behind a helmet/mask and completely silent, the Snake Eyes character gets treated to an origin film that shows who the character is before he dons his iconic uniform. And the creative minds behind this movie actually succeed in delivering a movie that works mostly well as a revealing portrait of the ultimately silent masked man with a mysterious background.
Henry Golding stars Snake Eyes, a man struggling with his troublesome past as an orphan who eventually joins the Yakuza as a very low-level employee determined and desperate to avenge his father’s murder. Because he is not exactly happy working for such a nepharious and disreputable crime organization, it doesn’t take much for Snake to “jump ship” and assist another member of the organization, Thomas Arashikage (Andrew Koji), when the Yakuza turns on him.
As it turns out, Tom is a member of a skilled ninja clan and is the eventual heir to Arashikage clan’s leadership. In exchange for Snake’s help, Tom recruits him and encourages him to train as the family’s newest ninja. As the training is rather arduous and intense, Snake Eyes is forced to come to terms with his desire for revenge which often conflicts with the traditional ideals that the Arashikage family have clinged to dearly for so long.
Now at this point, one might ask what all of this has to do with G.I.joe and COBRA, but I honestly do not wish to reveal too much in my synopsis. Just trust me, though, everything in the film’s story and plot makes sense and works well in building a world where ninjas, Yakuza, Joes, and COBRA all co-exist. Though the writing doesn’t exactly offer audiences material that is all that original or fresh, it at least does a solid job of developing the characters for their eventual roles in the G.I. Joe universe.
The main problems in the movie have little to do with the writing, but have much to do with direction, editing and some of the fight choreography. Though the film has some intense and entertaining action sequences, the direction by Robert Schwentke and the cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is so sloppily handled that audiences cannot appreciate much of it. The film utilizes an already archaic, shaky hand-held cinematography which often makes much of the fight choreography indecipherable. This definitely takes away from the intended intensity of the action sequences.
Regardless of these problems, I still enjoyed the movie overall and feel that it is a step in the right direction for rebooting this franchise. The writing, development, and acting by Golding, which flesh out the lead character, work wonderfully here. Golding certainly has a great screen presence and natural charisma which makes Snake Eyes a much more accessible and relatable character. As Snake’s brother-in-arms Tom, Andrew Koji performs mostly well, but also shows some limitations when it comes to the more dramatic scenes.Snake Eyes also features some decent turns by Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, the legendary Iko Uwais, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, and Peter Mensah.
Now, I am not sure what the franchise producers have planned for future installments, but I do hope that they decide to make some changes when it comes to the direction, cinematography, and editing. I feel that the next movie will be another Snake Eyes entry, as there are still some loose strings with which to contend. I feel that would be best before diving right into a full-on G.I. Joe vs. COBRA film. The producers should definitely pay attention to all of the ground work performed by Marvel Studios, because rushing into anything bigger would be done too hastily. Despite this first movie’s weaknesses, at least some solid foundations have been lain.