★★★ / ♥♥♥½
When the social media reactions for the G.I. Joe reboot Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, things weren’t looking so great. As a matter of fact, the Rotten Tomatoes score for the film sits at 44% as I type this review. But if I can be honest, the negative reviews only got me more excited. I have a weird affinity for movies that most people don’t like. Hell, I even loved the previous 2 G.I. Joe films that are pretty widely regarded as trash. So, going into this movie I was very optimistic that I would definitely enjoy myself and I did.
This movie has a lot to offer. From the jump, it chooses to present itself as more than just a two-dimensional movie based on action figures from the 80s. The opening scene sets a tone much more serious than one might expect, but the style of the following 2 hours helps you not lose sight of the cartoonish and campy nature of the story.
Every actor in this movie is giving it their all. Henry Golding is a certified star and one that deserves more attention than he’s currently getting. Sadly, besides Samara Weaving, who stars as classic G.I. Joe icon Scarlett, I am unfamiliar with the rest of this cast. I can gladly say though, I am now all of their number one fans.
Andrew Koji was an excellent choice to play Storm Shadow across from Golding. He plays the role with a lot of depth, which is something very much needed for his character to work. Haruka Abe was a surprise heavy hitter as Akiko. Her character was so interesting and played a very necessary third lead across from both Koji and Golding. Aside from the leading roles, the supporting team all bring the heat — Takehiro Hira, Iko Uwais, Peter Mesah, and Eri Ishida are all killing it.
Something I’ve seen a lot of people complain about, and even something I can understand, is the visual language and storytelling (specifically the action). When the action gets going, especially in the first few scenes, the shaky cam is overwhelming. While it did frustrate me for a couple of the fight scenes, I began to understand it. It was just a visual language the film chose to use, and I started to learn it and get used to it. By the time the third act rolled around, I was completely in tune and wasn’t missing a single beat.
The character work done in this film is brave, to say the least. I’m not going to say anything about it here except I like it. It was interesting and even eyebrow-raising for the first hour, but once you get into the gut of the film you really begin to understand. At the end of the day, the film is asking: “What would you do if ____ happened?”
However, I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t any problems with this movie. The story IS muddled and asks a lot of the viewers. Beyond that, there are a couple of scenes that feel entirely useless. I think those scenes are the ones with the worst action. As if a second unit director was brought in to fill in scenes from studio notes or reshoots. They just felt completely disjointed.
Something that also bothered me was the lack of Japanese filmmaking behind the camera. I don’t want to come off as an “SJW” or someone just virtue signaling, but I can confidently say this movie would be better served with a Japanese filmmaker. This movie is so deeply intertwined with Japan and Japanese culture, and even multiple times makes an attempt to emulate it, it just feels like they missed an opportunity there. The film’s director and Red alum Robert Schwentke doesn’t do a bad job by any means, but it definitely feels like an oversight on behalf of the producers.
Finally, let’s talk about the G.I. Joe of it all. The way that the Joes and Cobra are involved in the story is very natural. I was worried that it would feel shoehorned or distracting, but it didn’t. In fact, they play a pretty important part in the film and make it all feel tied up and complete in the end.
While Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origin wasn’t as impressive as Mad Max: Fury Road or as emotionally visceral as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse, the movie absolutely succeeds in what it’s trying to do. It makes me excited to see more, and I hope that’s something we get. The movie is easily the best of the “unnecessary franchise setup” films we’ve gotten in the last 10 years, but that’s selling it short. It has incredible characters and action, and will absolutely give you a good time for the 2-hour runtime.
* Rating scale is out of 5 stars (filmmaking & storytelling quality) and 5 hearts (love & entertainment value) *