The Snake’s Progress
GI Joe Origins
Paramount Canada/USA 2021
Directed by Robert Schwentke
So once again, after a very long time, we have a third GI Joe film, Snake Eyes - GI Joe Origins. This one is not a sequel type of reboot (like the second movie) but a fresh reboot. I could kinda tell that because the main characters, Snake Eyes (played by played by Henry Golding) and Storm Shadow (played by Andrew Koji), are not played by the same actors from the previous films. That being said, it’s all very confusing if you try and shoehorn it into the previous movies and, frankly, they were already confusing enough.
Um... okay, the film deals with Snake Eyes, who spends his life trying to find the man who killed his father when he was a boy. Flash forward to the present and he gets himself involved with a ninja clan of ‘good guys’ who are allies of the GI Joes (represented in this movie by Samara Weaving as Scarlett) and enemies of COBRA (represented by Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness). It’s mostly about his training and moral ambiguity about who he’s really working for... and the way that question gets ultimately resolved by the end of the film.
And it’s a big, dumb blockbuster film with lots of action, not terribly credible characters and actors who look like they are trying to do their best with dialogue which, frankly, is riddled with clichés but without the requisite sense of self awareness behind the writing to allow the actors to elevate things beyond that, it seems to me. What this means is that you don’t really relate all that much to the characters either way (the moral ambiguity of the two leads really doesn’t help this) and, while there’s a lot of fun to the various action pieces... it all feels kinda flat at the same time with nothing much really at stake.
There’s another problem too, to my mind.
In one sequence, Snake Eyes slices open a cut on his hand and pushes it into a similar one from Storm Shadow, so they become blood brothers of sorts. Now, there is another motive for the title character in this scene which you’ll see very quickly after this but, the point is this... this is the only time you will see any blood spilled in the movie. Which is totally unrealistic because, the body count on this one is high and the primary fighting sequences here mostly play out with samurai swords. People getting sliced but not diced and, honestly, loads of people dying without seeming to spill a drop of blood. I mean come on... this really pushes the boundaries of credibility and is a cynical play on behalf of the filmmakers to get a lower cinema rating. And, yes, I know this film is meant to appeal to children as a huge part of the target audience but it really hurts the piece if everyone is dying by sword cuts and there’s no bleeding in sight. If you want to make a credible film for children then it’s very easy... don’t use a weapon of death which, by its very nature, raises the expectations of splashing body fluids as a direct consequence of the actions of the characters. This is too much to swallow.
Okay... this is a short review but I will say one positive in that some of the characters, including Snake Eyes, are likeable enough. That being said, I did notice a lot of the characters played by some famous actors seemed to have very flat delivery of their lines and almost no emotional content. It’s like somebody got a bunch of GI Joe action figures and breathed a semblance of life into these lumps of plastic and, as a result, their on screen presence was not much more than it would have been if we were watching said lump of plastic. For the record, due to the skill of some of these actors and actresses, I can only assume this was a deliberate piece of direction to inhabit the roles as flatly as possible so they do, in fact, more resemble the toys that they are based on. At least I hope that was the case.
However, some of the camera movements are nice, the colour schemes are good and the action choreography, bloodless as it is, is pretty exciting for a while. It’s also edited in a way which doesn’t lose you during the more fast paced scenes so, yeah, all competent movie making... just not necessarily great movie making, in this case. Oh... and believe it or not, Iko Uwais who played the lead character in both of The Raid movies has a big part in this and, considering we all know just how brilliant this guy can be, it’s sad to say that he is likeable but completely wasted in the movie. Like a lot of the cast, it has to be said.
The one thing I did think was okay was the score by Martin Todsharow... which was handy in my case because the only reason I bothered to watch this thing was because of the limited edition CD release of the score in the US. If it hadn’t got a proper CD release, I’d have to say I wouldn’t have bothered watching this one in the first place. So good on the company for at least cutting a CD deal and not giving us that compressed digital download rubbish that a lot of disrespectful companies seem to be peddling these days.
And yeah, that really is me done with Snake Eyes - GI Joe origins. It’s got action, adventure and is an okay watch... but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone over the age of 12, it has to be said. Now if someone would like to make a proper Action Man movie, along with an actor who can ‘do’ the eagle eyes, that would be a much more interesting proposition.