It was only a matter of time that another classic property would get Avenger-ized. And that’s exactly what Paramount Pictures and MGM is trying to attempt with the “G.I. Joe” cinematic universe with “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins”. Coming 12 years since the first live action “G.I. Joe” movie “Rise Of The Cobra” and 8 years since the even better live action sequel “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”. German filmmaker Robert Schwentke’s “Snake Eyes” opens today in theaters (July 23rd) and premiering for free in 45 days on the Paramount+ streaming services.
“Snake Eyes” sets up the origin story to the best and coolest character of the “G.I. Joe” universe. But of course the real origin of “G.I. Joe” comes from the 1960s Hasbro doll, that was created as the “Barbie” doll for the male crowd. Snake Eyes is the mysterious human weapon, a black belt in 12 martial arts disciplines and a master of weapons including guns and katana swords. Following injuries from a mission that caused him to no longer speak and receiving facial scars that led him to wear a helmet that covered his face most of the time. Little was known about his background because it was deemed “classified”.
Malaysian cutie Henry Golding takes over the role of Snake Eyes for Ray Park, who played the character in the previous “G.I. Joe” movies. The “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout is as yummy as they come, so you know that we wouldn’t get the helmet wearing Snake Eyes we all know and that Henry Golding was never going to stay hidden under the helmet.
“Snake Eyes” opens in a flashback from 20 years ago, where we see a bunch of baddies arrive and kill a little boy’s father. Picking up in present day we enter a no holds barred fight featuring a fighter who goes by the name Snake Eyes. After the fight, a weapons smuggler offers Snake Eyes a job with an offer he cannot refuse. When things go wrong, Snake Eyes ends up saving the life of Tommy (Andrew Koji), the wealthy heir to the Arashikage family, a Japanese klan of ninjas.
They escape together and in gratitude Tommy brings Snake Eyes to the Arashikage compound that looks like it belongs in a high priced Architectural magazine. Tommy says he will be trained as a ninja, but he must pass three tests that are administered by the Hard Master (Iko Uwais of “The Raid”) and the Blind Master (Peter Mensah). The Arashikage family also has the responsibility to protect a mysterious glowing device that has world ruling powers on anyone who possesses it.
Thankfully “Snake Eyes” doesn’t settle nor focus too much time on the three tests to be the meat of the story, because it definitely would’ve been a problem. Snake Eyes training and his three tests does slow the film to a crawl and gives the film some room to breathe. One of the three tests is the films most unnecessary sequence, as Snake Eyes is forced to challenge a trio of giant snakes that are big enough to even make Voldemort hufflepuff.
Director Robert Schwentke has a pretty good track record having directed “Flightplan” (his best film), the “Divergent” sequels “Insurgent” and “Allegiant”, “Time Travelers Wife”, “R.I.P.D.” and the geriatric action comedy “Red”. Schwentke starts “Snake Eyes” off like a lit fuse that never burns out with it’s dynamic martial arts, motorcycle and car chase, action, intrigue and thrills. Director Robert Schwentke films his action scenes with astonishing skill in his hand held camera work and split-second editing. The stunt and fight choreography is insane.
From the moment I saw Henry Golding onscreen in “Crazy Rich Asians”. I knew he was going to be the next big thing in Hollywood. Golding followed up the massive success of “Crazy Rich Asians” with another romantic comedy “Last Christmas” and supporting roles in “A Simple Favor” and Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen”. Golding’s physique and on screen persona was just calling for a shot as an action star. With “Snake Eyes”he is catapulted into superhero and action star status.
It’s clear that Henry Golding took his training seriously because he is no slouch and for an actor whose never performed fight scenes like these. He looks like a complete natural and holds his own. For me Henry Golding had already proved in “Crazy Rich Asians” that he had the suaveness. But “Snake Eyes” only solidifies what I’ve been saying for quite some time that he has the action star chops to play the perfect James Bond.
Golding has great chemistry with co-star Andrew Koji who inhabits another “G.I. Joe” character favorite, Storm Shadow. Koji, a British actor, martial artist and stuntman is best known for his work in the lead role on the HBO Max series “Warrior”. His martial arts skills are epic and gives a razor sharp nearly scene stealing performance.
“Snake Eyes” has stellar production design and exquisite costume design that is all awards worthy. While the screenplay by three writers is full of fortune cookie-isms and laden with a little humor at just the right moments. Although the origin story itself is pretty generic and routine. The “G.I. Joe” cinematic universe has finally found their man in Henry Golding to play Snake Eyes. After a year of no summer movies, “Snake Eyes” brings the summer action blockbuster back.
Don’t believe the bad reviews you’ve seen about “Snake Eyes”, because it’s an energetic, entertaining and thrilling summer blockbuster that helps introduce “Snake Eyes” and “G.I. Joe” to a new audience. It may not be everything that the diehard Snake Eyes fans are looking for, but you got to understand that this is only the beginning in his cinematic journey. Because mark my words that this, is not the last we will see of Snake Eyes on the big screen.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3.5 out of 5)