Snake Eyes, he is to me an uninitiated of the G.I. Joe fandom the best character of the G.I. Joe franchise. What’s not to love? He’s a deadly shinobi with a slick style that is hidden behind further mysteries. He’s something that represents true style in the mediocrity that is the G.I. Joe franchise.
He has always been the highlight of each of the previous entries in the cinematic outings of the Joes in my opinion. His usual partner in crime Storm Shadow’s duels were impressive in their intimacy and choreography. You felt their intensity through their battles.
Now several years after the last G.I. Joe cinematic adventure fans get to see a reimagining of the origins of the silent shinobi or not so silent as he is now. In Snake Eyes we follow the hero from his tragic beginnings to his training by an ancient order of shinobi. This Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) has trained from a young age to become a deadly warrior to avenge his murdered father, then one fateful day he meets Tommy (Andrew Koji) and they strike up an iconic brotherhood.
Snake Eyes in name sadly also in luck
Unfortunately, this film may be the worst in the G.I. Joe cinematic universe. None but one or two of the characters has any real depth. Perhaps the only positive in the film is the two figures in the film that actually sell it are Koji’s Tommy aka Storm Shadow. He is a man tormented by his destiny as well as his past. He wants what is best for his people and sees Snake as the way to push his clan into the future. Not only that Koji delivers a compelling performance as the future rival of our titular character. His rage, his determination and his passion are palpable and in my opinion relatable.
With him is his stalwart companion Akiko (Haruka Abe). Abe is the same as Koji, she delivers a nuanced performance. Akiko unlike Tommy sees Snake as an interloper. She worries that this outsider will bring down her adopted home. She feels unease with him.
Sadly that is where anything resembling character ends. Golding who is usually quite a charming presence in any film he is in is unimpressive as the iconic G.I. Joe hero. Snake Eyes is driven by one thing and one thing only, revenge and Golding can’t sell the drive that is needed. He has one or two fleeting moments where he does showcase a sense of depth but it’s gone as quickly as it arrives. Instead most of the time he’s a quippy and cheeky so and so. He could easily be swapped out for any MCU hero out there that we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing on the big screen.
No edge to this blade
This can almost be forgiven however if the action is good and when I heard that legendary stuntman and fight coordinator Kenji Tanigaki was a part of the film I had high hopes. Tanigaki was part of the Rurouni Kenshin films and the work that was put into those films was phenomenal. The way swordplay was shown in those films was outstanding. There was such personality and intensity so when I watched Snake Eyes I was beyond disappointed.
Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and director Robert Schwentke together butcher Snake Eyes more than an army of soldiers dispatched by Cobra. The camera angles chosen are unruly, almost as if a drunk shot them. They’re usually too up close to the figures for you to take in their fights and when they are given space the camera moves at a hyperactive pace never letting you take in the fights. It’s a real shame because this could have been something spectacular.
Not only that Hollywood once again doesn’t know what to do with Iko Uwais. This man is another one of the greats and he could be greater but he is continually put in these roles where he does barely anything.
Snake Eyes is a frustrating film. There is a whisper of a great martial arts film here but it is drowned out by a style akin to a music video.
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