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Snake Eyes review: G.I. Joe origin struggles to find its story

Snake Eyes GI Joe origin movie
Snake Eyes at the end of his solo G.I. Joe movie. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

Snake Eyes had a rough road ahead of it when the G.I. Joe origins story was announced.

First, Snake Eyes was always the most popular Joe because he was mysterious. Explaining his origin and where he came from strips him of that mystery.

Second, as X-Men Origins – Wolverine showed, it is hard to pull off an origin story, even for a beloved character, especially if it slightly betrays what fans know about the character.

So, did Snake Eyes succeed or fail? It’s a little bit of both.

Snake Eyes review

Snake Eyes starts off when he was a child, staying at a cabin in the woods with his father. This ends up interrupted when some men show up at the cabin to kill his dad.

Hidden behind a wall, Snake Eyes watches as one of the men has his father roll some dice to determine his fate. The dice come up as snake eyes, and his dad dies. This is where Snake Eyes got his name.

Before I get into the review, I should mention that the movie does try to keep Snake Eyes still slightly mysterious, so that is a plus. His dad always used an alias and even used a fake name for his son. This means that not even Snake Eyes knows his real name, so that is a mystery.

However, the movie does explain who his dad was at the end (although not his name), so most of the mystery surrounding the masked Joe has been stripped from him, which is disappointing.

On to the movie.

Harry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) stars as Snake Eyes, and as an adult, he became a fighter in illegal underground fights where he is better than anyone, regardless of how strong they are. He gets a chance to leave this life when a man named Kenta (Takehiro Hira) offers him a job in exchange for finding out who killed Snake Eyes’ dad.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins
Henry Golding as Snake Eyes in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

Kenta is a bad man and Snake Eyes ends up working in a plant, gutting fish and loading weapons into them to help Kenta move the guns to other countries.

Things go wrong when Kenta finds out this his “cousin” Tommy has infiltrated the operation and orders Snake Eyes to kill him. Snake Eyes refuses, saves Tommy, and the two escape together.

Tommy reveals he is the last heir to the secretive Clan Arashikage that has protected Japan for years. He offers Snake Eyes a spot with the clan to repay him for saving his life, and it seemed like Snake Eyes could finally find a place to fit in.

There is one problem.

Snake Eyes is the bad guy and is working with Kenta to infiltrate the Clan Arashikage. The goal is for Kenta to get a mysterious gem that the clan protects and use it to destroy the clan. Kenta is also working with Cobra.

That is where the movie struggles.

Everyone knows Snake Eyes is a hero and a member of the Joes. Making him a villain in the movie is a shock, for sure, and that means the story is for Snake Eyes to learn how to be a noble hero.

But the fact this is Snake Eyes means that it is never a question where the movie ends up. Instead of cheering for Tommy and his loyal allies Akiko, Hard Master, and Blind Master, we are just waiting for Snake Eyes to figure out what he wants to do with his life.

There is almost no suspense in Snake Eyes’ story and he becomes the least interesting character in the movie.

Honestly, this should have been Tommy’s story. Played by Andrew Koji, Tommy trusted Snake Eyes and brought him into his home, giving him a family and a place to fit in. Snake Eyes betrayed Tommy and the entire Clan Arashikage.

Tommy in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins
Andrew Koji plays Tommy in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

The trailers and movie themselves do very little in hiding who Tommy becomes at the end of this story, but he is still the most interesting character in the movie from a character’s journey standpoint.

This is also a movie about vengeance and martial arts, and it only has a connection to G.I. Joe in minor ways. Cobra is involved on the outside, but they are not the main villains here.

One member of the Joes shows up in Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and one member of Cobra shows up in The Baroness (Ursula Corbero). Neither plays a really big role, although Baroness steals every scene she appears in.

Don’t go into the movie expecting a G.I. Joe movie.

For those looking for cool martial arts entertainment, there is little chance this will stand up to the upcoming Shang-Chi movie from Marvel.

The introduction to Snake Eyes as an adult is an underground fight ring, and the camerawork is dizzying, confusing, and uses way too many cuts. If all the action was filmed and cut this way, the movie would have been a terrible watch.

Luckily, when the fighting focused more on martial arts fighting, swordplay, and gunfights, the choreography and editing tightened up and were entertaining at times. It helps that they brought in people like Iko Uwais (The Raid) to play one of the Masters, because he knows how to put on a fight scene that has the crowd cheering.

There was a Maguffin that the villains wanted and it took the entire movie in a supernatural direction that seemed to come from out of nowhere. It seemed unnecessary, and hurt the overall movie in the long run.

As a character journey, Snake Eyes had a satisfying conclusion, and how he finally proved himself was smartly done. However, as mentioned, it was Tommy’s story that was superior and he was who I felt most connected to at the end, even if he wasn’t destined to be the hero.

Snake Eyes wrap-up

Snake Eyes was a fun time at the movies, but it wasn’t anywhere near as cohesive and satisfying as it should have been.

Snake Eyes himself was never as interesting as he was in the G.I. Joe movies or cartoons and was often overshadowed by Tommy and Baroness, and even at times by the grandmother who leads the entire clan.

Baroness in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins
Ursula Corbero plays The Baroness in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

When your main hero isn’t who you want to see the movie focus on, that is a problem.

Snake Eyes is solid entertainment, but don’t expect too much if you don’t want to be disappointed.

Is there a Snake Eyes post-credit scene?

SPOILERS FOLLOW

There is a Snake Eyes post-credit scene, and the good news is that it comes early, before the credits really start rolling.

The scene features Tommy on a plane, ready to move to the next stage in his life when The Baroness approaches him and offers him a chance to join Cobra.

He then tells her to call him Storm Shadow, and Snake Eyes’ greatest rival is born.

Snake Eyes opened in theaters on Friday, July 23.

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