Reel Reviews | Snake Eyes

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The new origin of the G.I. Joe ninja, Snake Eyes is revealed in the new Hasbro action flick, Snake Eyes.

Ever since he saw his father being murdered, Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) has been wandering the world, making money by fighting and searching for his father’s killer.  One day he is approached by Kenta (Takehiro Hira) who promises to give him his father’s killer if he comes to work for him.  Before he knows it, Snake Eyes has been thrown into the middle of a Yakuza family war as a double agent.  If that weren’t enough, Snake discovers that a terrorist organization called COBRA is involved with Kenta and the stakes are much higher than just a local family war.  Now Snake has to figure a way out while still getting what he wants, justice for his father.

The screenplay for Snake Eyes was written by Evan Spiliotopoulos (Beauty and the Beast, The Huntsman: Winter’s War), Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse based upon a story by Spiliotopoulos.  Snake Eyes stars Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, Iko Uwais, Peter Mensah, Ursula Corbero, and Samara Weaving.  It is directed by Robert Schwentke (The Captain, RED, Allegiant).

This movie is a major reinvention of the origin of the classic character Snake Eyes from the GI Joe cartoon.  In the cartoon, Snake was a Caucasian man who infiltrated and learned ninja culture in the East and became a skilled ninja.  In this story, Snake is an Asian man who is a skilled fighter and goes through some ninja training but is nowhere near the skilled, disciplined ninja of the cartoon.  In fact, in most of this movie, Snake Eyes is not an honorable man.  He spends his time in the movie deeply mired in deception, dishonesty, and subterfuge. Yet at the end of the film, he becomes a hero.  The same incongruous character development applies to Tommy/Storm Shadow’s character.  For the majority of the movie, Tommy is an honorable character who is focused on leading his clan into the next century and protecting an unusual gem with powerful mystical properties.  Yet at the very end of the movie, Tommy becomes a villain without very much provocation.  Because of one action, he throws away everything he has stood for and becomes the COBRA assassin Storm Shadow.  It might seem as though these are spoilers but the legends of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is well known through followers of GI Joe.

Here lies the problem.  For true fans of GI Joe, who know the story and have followed along for decades, this film is an affrontery.  It significantly changes the characters and their motivations and creates a completely different backstory.  However, for those who are not familiar with Joe legend or those who are and really don’t care, this storyline of this movie is acceptable at best.   The character development is still uneven and a bit illogical but it’s a superhero-ish movie and not everything has to make sense. 

The other level of the movie is the action.  The fight scenes are well choreographed and bloodlessly violent which is perfect for younger viewers.  Except for some moments that are necessary for storytelling, the film is appropriately filled with action from beginning to end.  After all, this is supposed to be a summer blockbuster movie.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence and brief strong language, Snake Eyes passes for good summer popcorn entertainment.   It’s light on sense and reason but not on action.  It’s not your father’s GI Joe but it is probably a more cancel-culture-appropriate version of a story that may serve to inspire a franchise. 

Snake Eyes is in theaters. 

Grade:  C+