Leaving behind the last 2 G.I. Joe films from the early 2010s
SNAKE EYES (2021)
Leaving behind the last 2 G.I. Joe films from the early 2010s, Snake Eyes is the new origin story of the beloved character of the same name, with Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, The Gentleman) in the lead role.
For most audiences, this is the sort of film where you know what you’re getting into before the opening title cards even play. A production company holding onto it’s IP, trying to reboot a franchise by using a fan favourite character in a movie where we get to find out more about their past, with lots of action to keep audiences entertained while it tells a generic story of our hero overcoming personal adversity to realise their full potential in order to stop a gigantic disaster from happening. Snake Eyes fits into this mould too well, both positively and negatively.
Director Robert Schwentke (Insurgent, RED) is not in unfamiliar territory with his directing style being chosen for Snake Eyes. His action scenes are familiar CGI-fests that feel a bit stale by this point. The in-camera combat scenes between actors and stuntmen create enough excitement, but are occasionally ruined by shaky camera work and quick cut editing. This very obviously comes across like a studio wanting to play it safe and using a director that can provide a serviceable movie. Most of the film looks like every other big budget action movie. There is no distinguishable tone or vibe that sets Snake Eyes out from the rest, and lacks the visual excitement you would hope from a world this larger-than-life. However, when these action scenes are done well, they are quite fun, especially when the action picks up pace in the third-act and we get a lot more violence.
Outside of the action (which unfortunately is used very sparingly for the first two acts), the movie itself is quite cookie-cutter, aside from the interesting set-designs. It’s not to say that Schwentke has directed this film poorly, it’s just been crafted as a movie that you will not hate due to its serviceable nature.
As explained in its title, Snake Eyes is an origin story. The movie diverts from showing a young Snake Eyes being raised as an assassin (as seen in The Rise of Cobra) and picks up the story as the character is in his early 30s (with a brief traumatic childhood memory/prologue that sets up his emotional turmoil). Snake Eyes is recruited by a Yakuza gang to infiltrate a secret clan of assassins that hold a power gem containing the power of the sun inside of it. If he is successful in obtaining this gem, the Yakuza will reveal the identity of the man behind his childhood traumatic event. However, in his deep cover inside this clan, he soon learns that this power may not be best wielded by the villains he works for and learns the assassin way’s of the clan.
Nothing about Snake Eyes' story feels fresh or original. It follows the same beats seen in almost every superhero origin story seen in the last 20 years. And while the familiar beats can occasionally aid the audience into a more mindless viewing state (sit back and just enjoy the action sort of vibes), it doesn’t really build up the characters enough to make us care. In fact, a few times in the film, I completely forgot that Snake Eyes was double crossing this clan that have taken him in, because plot points and events can sometimes feel rushed.
Being a film that’s obvious priority is to being a new franchise, it also introduces characters and elements that feel redundant in this story, leading them down avenues that go nowhere in Snake Eyes’ own story, making the film feel incomplete.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The saving grace for most of Snake Eyes is Golding himself. Even though he is playing a character that traditionally doesn’t speak and wears a mask, I believe he gave a solid enough performance for me to root for his character, even with the changes made to Snake Eyes in this movie. Even when he British-accent sneaks through his American one, there is a true action-star feeling that is given off in both his dramatic and action-based work in the film. He’s intriguing enough to pull you through until the end credits.
A character and actor that unfortunately is pushed into the wayside (but definitely was introduced as a future of the franchise character) was Samara Weaving as Scarlett. Weaving is fine in the role, but only being in a handful of entertaining scenes left the desire to see more of her character in this film, not just in future films.
Aside from those two, everyone else is completely fine. They’re doing what they can do with the script they have and the direction they’re under. No one is a standout, either in a good or bad way.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
As expected, there is a decent amount of CGI throughout this film, and like most big-budget movies, most of it looks pretty good and some of it a bit average. Utilized mostly in the third act, the CGI-heavy action and use of this mystical gem looks well crafted and less corny than it sounds. Occasionally, an animated car crash or falling person, or the green screen backgrounds in many of the neon-lit scenes do stick out, but it’s never to the point of annoyance.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design of samurai swords clanging or bullets flying filled the theatre from wall to wall, creating a visceral auditory experience. The dialogue is also mixed well so every line is able to be heard. However, the score and soundtrack really take a back seat and are both easily forgettable while you’re watching the film.
Snake Eyes is the definition of a studio-built, franchise starter. It tries different action elements, directing styles and tones and seems like the producers will just wait to see what audiences positively respond to in order to choose where the G.I. Joe franchise goes next. There are elements of Snake Eyes that are entertaining, and the film is definitely not insultingly bad, it’s just aggressively average.