Combustible Celluloid
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With: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, Eri Ishida, Iko Uwais, Peter Mensah, Úrsula Corberó, Samara Weaving, Samuel Finzi, Steven Allerick, Max Archibald, Simon Chin
Written by: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse, based on a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of strong violence and brief strong language
Running Time: 121
Date: 07/23/2021

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Near Hiss

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Poorly-filmed action sequences, a storyline that's either predictable or nonsensical, and mixed moral messages all contribute to a movie that, sadly, can't capture the coolness of its title character.

A prologue shows how the father of a young boy is murdered by a man with a pair of dice that roll snake eyes. Years later, the grown up Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) works as a cage fighter. He's approached by Kenta (Takehiro Hira), offering him a job, with the promise that he can help find his father's murderer. At the job, Snake Eyes risks his life to save Tommy Arashikage (Andrew Koji).

The pair escape to Japan, where Tommy is part of a powerful clan, and where he hopes to make Snake Eyes one of his top warriors — if he can pass three difficult challenges. Part of the Arashikage clan's duty is to protect a powerful jewel and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, Kenta is really working for Cobra, alongside Baroness (Úrsula Corberó), and Snake Eyes is tasked to steal the jewel to obtain the identity of his father's killer.

The "three challenges" in this third G.I. Joe movie (after 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation), which are designed to erase ego, fear, and anger, might have made for some interesting touches. But as soon as those challenges are finished, the characters hack and slice their way through fight scene after fight scene, nothing but ego and anger. Moreover, the main character's vengeance is his central driving force, and the way the movie attempts to reconcile it during the climax is awkward and unsatisfying. In short, the filmmakers didn't seem to know what Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins was actually supposed to be about.

Director Robert Schwentke (Red, R.I.P.D., The Divergent Series: Insurgent, etc.) delivers many action scenes here, all bloodless, and with many characters apparently killed. He films everything with lurching shaky-cam, and plunges everything into deep shadows as well. For good measure, he dresses all his characters in black — sometimes wearing motorcycle helmets — so that it's nearly impossible to tell who's who or what's going on.

Mostly, though, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is just dumb, with characters who are supposed to be wise constantly making poor choices. (In another silly scene, when the characters arrive in Tokyo, they drive past all the famous tourist locations before heading to the Arashikage family compound.) Perhaps most disappointing is the first appearance of the iconic Snake Eyes suit, as anti-climactic as if he had simply ordered it from Amazon.

Paramount's Blu-ray release features spectacular picture and sound that won't disappoint those who didn't want to venture out to theaters to see the film. The box cover advertises a "Bonus Short Film," which I assume is Morning Light: A Weapon with Stories to Tell, a mostly-animated look at the history of the famous sword. Other extras include deleted scenes and two behind-the-scenes featurettes: "A Deadly Ensemble" and "Arashikage." It also includes a digital copy.

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