Released: 22nd July
Seen: 14th November
The G.I. Joe film franchise is honestly a little baffling, to say the least. The first two films were critical duds, barely made back their money at the domestic box office, they don’t even seem to be the sort of films that the critics hated but audiences loved. It’s a franchise that doesn’t make a buttload of money, get critical praise or have a cult following so I don’t know why it still exists… but for some reason they made a third movie around the origins of the Snake Eyes character (because as X-Men will confirm, it’s always a good idea to just make an origins movie) and… well, at least Henry Golding’s got some good footage for his reel but not sure what else there is.
Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins follows Snake Eyes (Henry Golding), a man who is on the hunt for the person who murdered his father. In order to accomplish this task, he ends up trying to join the Arashikage clan that is currently being led by Sen (Eri Ishida) who tests Snake Eyes to see if he’s worthy of being part of this clan. This involves him going through a series of assorted tests to prove his worth and eventually having to fight against a true villain named Kenta (Takehiro Hira) and just generally become the heroic Snake Eyes that people know… hence why this is an origin story.
As far as action films go, Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins is fairly OK. It has some decent, albeit forgettable, sequences that have moments of brilliance tucked away in the myriad of average that’s there. Some pretty impressive wire work, a particularly fun scene of Sen beating the crap out of a bunch of guys with nothing but a pair of fans and even a fun sword fight between people riding motorbikes really do give this film something to enjoy… but those moments are few and far between and honestly hard to give that much of a damn about because this film has no pacing whatsoever.
If Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins were by any other name, maybe it would come off a little better but… damn it, this is G.I Joe. You hear that name and the theme song from the 80s just blares through your head. You expect bombast, larger than life characters, FUN! This film is playing it so safe despite the obvious silliness of the premise (for crying out loud, the inciting incident is a pair of loaded die that rolls snake eyes every time in order to give the assassin an excuse to kill people… that’s silly!) so there’s this strange expectation that they’re going to go for broke at some point and they just never do.
There are a few scant bright spots in Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins, namely the performances of this insanely talented troupe. Henry Golding keeps proving that he is THE leading man of this generation and now he can throw “is a good action star” on his long list of accomplishments. Takehiro Hira plays a truly interesting villain, he’s got enough menace and wicked charm to make this work. Andrew Koji plays Tommy, AKA Snake Eyes’ friend and manages to elevate his role above just “Friend who happens to be there”.
My personal favourite might be Eri Ishida who just captures the camera every time it’s pointed in her general direction, I kind of wish the film was more about her than anyone else to be honest. The problems with this film are not on the cast, all of whom deliver performances that are compelling as hell… they just don’t have that compelling a story to work with.
For Snake Eyes: G.I. JOE Origins to work it really needed to go bigger, have some fun with the concept but it’s just not. It’s going through a checklist of action scenes that we’ve seen done better before and the only reason to get through is that the cast is so charming that they drag you to the finish line. You won’t remember much about it after it’s done, there’s no real killer shot that sticks in your head long after the film is over, but that cast manages to make the film a passable time. If nothing else, Henry Golding now has some action scenes to put on his reel to show producers that he should be given the job of being James Bond.