I wanted Snake Eyes to be good — I really did, but what we got was a by the numbers attempt at kickstarting a G.I. Joe franchise once again. To be fair, it is better than the previous two G.I. Joe movies that we got, but that wasn’t necessarily a hard bar to clear. Filled with some decent action scenes, sporadic sprinkles of fun acting, and a lot of on-the-nose worldbuilding for a G.I. Joe franchise, Snake Eyes has ambitions but ultimately falls short. To quote U2’s song, “The Fly”, sometimes ambitions “bite the nails of success,” and Snake Eyes is the latest example of an unnecessary origin movie of a great (but stoic) character (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Cruella).
Snake Eyes follows the titular hero, played by Henry Golding, who is a lone Tokyo drifter that is welcomed into a Japanese ninja clan, the Arashikage. During his training, his loyalty is pulled into question as more about his past is revealed.
Henry Golding has shown to be a good actor, roles in Crazy Rich Asians and The Gentlemen showed off gentle and brutal sides of the actor, but his performance in Snake Eyes is unfortunately over (Storm) Shadow-ed (pun intended). He’s not bad as our leading man, but he also didn’t stand out. Even if Andrew Koji is a bit over-the-top at times, at least his commitment shows, and results in him being by far the most interesting part of the movie.
Many have pointed out the shakiness of the action scenes, and those critiques are completely fair. It works fine in the first few action scenes, but it becomes nauseating quickly after the first ten minutes. Taken 3 ran into a similar problem in its action sequences, and that isn’t a comparison Snake Eyes was aiming for. This is especially a shame because the action scenes probably look a lot cooler without the constant camera movements. The camerawork especially hurts the movie towards the end during a particular action sequence that involves moving vehicles at nighttime. Trying to tell characters apart is a lost cause except for Andrew Koji in his white outfit.
Even if Snake Eyes wasn’t the movie that was desired, there is a grander story to be told in the world of G.I. Joe. Origin stories are always tricky, because with a hero such as Snake Eyes, the stakes are so low when you ultimately know where his story is heading. There is a larger story to be told within this universe, and even if Henry Golding gets outshined in his own movie, perhaps he can stand out in an ensemble movie with the G.I. Joe team. Despite the character of Snake Eyes being the best part of the last two G.I. Joe movies, maybe a full-fledged origin story movie wasn’t needed. Sometimes less is more and let Snake Eyes be an example of this.