A G.I. Joe spin-off centered around the character of Snake Eyes.
For those out in the world patiently waiting for the next worthy martial arts blockbuster to hit a theater near you, you may not find that with Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. One would think that combining motorcycles with ninja swords flying down a highway for action is a sure-fire way to get the blood pumping in excitement, but that’s not the case with this new origin story. While the cast fills their roles at expected levels, the biggest element of the film that fans are dying to see turns out to be a giant letdown. The action sequences just aren’t there and miss the mark by a mile. Instead of high intense memorable fight scenes that compete with the best in the business, we’re left with a product that is mediocre at best leaving you severely unsatisfied.
The best parts of the film were the set designs. It felt as if I took a trip to another land seeing the beautiful shots of Tokyo, Japan, and the ninja compound where Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) and Storm Shadow/Tommy (Andrew Koji) originate from. The costume and makeup department did a standout job making sure every detail in their design came to life on screen. This is easily one of the better aspects of the film that shouldn’t go overlooked.
One story point presented in the trailer was concerning not knowing if the plot would iron out any logic holes. It’s great to say the film did accomplish this feat and also delivered a sensible villain with just reasons to have negative emotions about our protagonist. I found their distrust and turmoil sympathetic and understood their anger.
However, this is one of the more disappointing martial arts action films I’ve seen to date. You can tell a lot of hard work was put into the choreography, but it’s wasted due to where the camera is placed during the action. I couldn’t make out any standout fight scenes due to a shaky camera or the shot cutting away every other second. During one scene I could hear the action but not see it which was extremely irritating. How director Robert Schwentke (RED) dropped the ball here so much will always be a mystery. There is not one fight scene during this entire film that I would choose to go back and watch again. Even the showdown on the highway between swords and eighteen-wheelers teases you with all of its epic potential, but you can barely make out the imagery due to the dark cloudy backgrounds.
As far as Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, the former does what he needs to do at least. However, a plot twist in his development makes it a bit more difficult to approve of his character. With Storm Shadow, the revelation of his titular name wasn’t earned, and this film also showed that his character isn’t the sharpest knife in the set. His judgment skills are that of an inexperienced toddler. He’s far too trusting and eager to give the keys to his kingdom over to perfect strangers which makes it hard to respect his character. With ninjas being so respected in the mythos through real life and Hollywood history, it’s an organization that’s recognized as being disciplined, thorough, hardcore, and extremely deadly. Yet in this film, it doesn’t deserve that amount of praise in the slightest. It’s a watered-down version of the ninja lore which is quite shameful. Action stars like Iko Uwais (The Raid) are a waste as well, not using all of their skills to the fullest on screen.
From the beginning, each sequence started out with so much promise, but then falls short of anything great with missteps that would seem obvious to avoid. Main characters (i.e. Storm Shadow) are reduced down to figures that don’t follow common sense, which can really cause the story of the film to suffer. The overall world that this intro film sets up does stand tall and firm, with many sequels and spinoffs on the horizon for a new G.I. Joe universe. But if this series will continue, the game has to be stepped up across the board and have all supporting roles taken as seriously as the main ones. Then give fans the action we deserve by simply pulling the camera back, with more than one take, and fewer cutaways so the audience can see how talented the actors and stunt personnel are.