An iconic action figure receives an origin story from Robert Schwentke in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. Henry Golding steps in the title role, which opens with a young Snake Eyes and his dad enjoying life in a rural area. Naturally, Snake’s dad ends up dying, and this turns Snake into a tenacious loner who makes a living in unsanctioned fights.
One-day Snake ends up working the docks for the mysterious Kenta (Takehiro Hira), whom we know is a villain. Through a series of events partially revealed in the trailer, Snake ends up saving the life of Tommy (Andrew Koji), the heir apparent of an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage.
Snake and Tommy make their way to Japan, and after some coaxing from Tommy, the Arashikage reluctantly teaches Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he has been longing for: a home. However, when secrets from his past come to light, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will undergo a test, even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.
The action toy line, G.I. Joe, was one thing that I was passionate about growing up in the eighties. I have a soft spot for the 1987 animated movie and even found something I liked in the live-action films released in 2009 and 2013. Martial artist Ray Park previously played the role of Snake Eyes in the movies mentioned above, so naturally, leading man Henry Golding has enormous shoes to fill.
First things first, though, die-hard fans know that during one of his first missions for G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes’ face was severely disfigured in a helicopter explosion. Since then, Snake Eyes has had extensive plastic surgery to repair the damage, but his vocal cords are damaged. As Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a reboot/prequel, none of those events happens in the film. Instead, the film’s writers Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse, want to show us how Snake got his start.
The script for Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins includes his early friendship with Storm Shadow, aka Tommy, his introduction to Scarlett (Samara Weaving), and of course, training by Blind Master (Peter Mensah) and Hard Master (Iko Uwais). For the most part, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins starts strong. We get an introduction to Golding kicking ass within the first twenty minutes of the film. In addition, the leading man persona that Golding showed us in Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor is also present.
However, while Golding is initially impressive, watching the film, particularly his fight scenes, I feel like Golding may have done better as Quick Kick or maybe even a villainous turn as Crystal Ball. Action fans know how well Iko Uwais fights, and quite honestly, I would have loved to see him the lead instead. Furthermore, even Andrew Koji, whom fans know from Warrior, may have done a better job in the title role, while Lee Byung-hun could have returned as Storm Shadow.
The supporting do what they can; however, their characters are never fully developed. Ursula Corbero and Samara Weaving portray Baroness and Scarlett, are here for fan service only. The rest of the cast outside of Blind Master (Peter Mensah) and Hard Master (Iko Uwais) is on autopilot.
Who am I kidding, though Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is about the action, and in that regard, the film delivers the PG-13 good. Robert Schwentke’s direction keeps the story moving along, and the few times I looked at my watch, another fight scene would arrive.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is not a total misfire, and I will recommend the films for fans of the franchise to check out with their kids. Snake Eyes is not a tough character to get right, but the icon does deserve a better film than this.
Final Grade: C+
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is in theaters now