As a kid, I never dreamed of seeing a G.I. Joe movie on the big screen: much less three! But also, never thought that when they did happen, that they’d be so mishandled that not even diehard fans of the original TV series would want to touch it. Over the course of 12 years, we’ve gotten three total projects, and given how Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Orgins turned out, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that we’ll have to wait another 12 years for another attempt.
So, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Orgins is a reboot, and it’s kind of important to know that upfront. Paramount is completely ditching the past, both to its credit and detriment. I think at this point, people are so tired of reboot universes and rehashes, and it’s led to diminishing returns on how many fans actually turn out to these things. But with how the creative team handled the titular Snake Eyes, the film itself did enough damage on its own.
As you may have guessed by now, Snake Eyes is the origin and revenge tale of the famous silent ninja. Except this time, he’s not silent at all: he’s a wise-cracking incarnation played by Henry Golding. The character was always going to be hard to adapt to, given that his silence and passive coolness is part of the appeal; so, putting someone’s face front and centre to appeal to audiences is going to jeopardize that by default.
I think with some love and care, and maybe a more prudent budget with more practical effects, they could have pulled off something like 2012’s Dredd. Golding is fine, but he’s not Snake Eyes. He’s a generic “traditionally charming” hero that could be inserted into any film, Fast & Furious series included. He’s an amalgamation of the last 20 years of action protagonists, and that caricature isn’t enough to carry the narrative on its own. Yet, somehow, more problems are building up.
“Snake Eyes is so over the top that it’s not even campy or smirk worthy.”
The way the film flows is so strange. Golding, as a young Snake Eyes, watches his father die and imprints his killer in his brain. Then we immediately flash forward to the classic “cage match” fight to establish that he’s tough, and Snake Eyes is recruited into an organization that promises him revenge. Right on cue, he talks down a gangster who wanted to knife up some kids because they kicked a soccer ball onto his expensive car. Snake Eyes is so over the top that it’s not even campy or smirk worthy.
All this character and world building feels pointless, because it becomes exceedingly hard to care about Snake Eyes as a person, much less the cynical aim to reboot the franchise as a whole. You can see the seeds being sewn, most of which just hurt this individual film as a standalone piece and will likely never come to fruition. It’s the worst of both worlds.
The cardinal sin of Snake Eyes, though? It doesn’t even have impressive action sequences. In modern times, we’ve seen what talented stunt coordinators and editors can do with the genre time and time again, but here, action scenes are burnt to a crisp every step of the way: from capture to editing.
It’s a shame that Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Orgins is where it is, but that’s what happens when executives try to weaponize nostalgia with the wrong people in charge. There’s a way to bring back this series, but next time, it needs to be a lot more thrifty, focused, and true to form.