Advertisement

Does Snake Eyes effectively reboot the G.I. Joe franchise? We'll let the dice decide

Origin story trades in clichés and thinly drawn characters

Article content

“You should have killed me when you had the chance,” someone growls late in the game during the newest G.I. Joe movie, Snake Eyes. And I had to laugh. Not only because it’s one of the hoariest lines in cinema history. (A supercut from five years ago found dozens of examples.) But for almost two hours I’d been watching characters give each other second starts, call temporary truces, or leave rooms promising to murder someone the next time they saw them. I’d lost track of how many times they’d had the chance.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

But you don’t go to Snake Eyes for the dialogue, which is often illogical. Can Cobra really be “a shadow organization,” as someone says, “under a centralized command?” Seems like it’s got to be one or the other.

You also don’t go for character development, given that many of the secondary cast – I’m looking at Samara Weaving as Scarlett, and Ursula Corbero as The Countess, in particular – seem to have been written as “badass in black leather” and left to fend for themselves. They respond by forming a one-night alliance, to which I can only say: You should have killed her when you had the chance.

Oh, and please don’t go for the cinematography. Not all the fight scenes are incomprehensible. Only about half of them, all tight shots, quick cutaways and dim lighting. The film’s suggestion seems to be to keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and the cinematographer closest of all.

You may want to go to see Henry Golding, the rising star who made such an impression in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favour, though his follow-ups – Last Christmas, The Gentlemen – have been miss and miss. He’s better than the material in Snake Eyes, and I like the fact that for much of the film you’re not sure if he’s double-crossing the Yakuza or triple-crossing someone else.

After an opening scene set 20 years ago, in which young Snake Eyes (we never do find out his real name) watches his father killed by an assassin, we cut to “the present day.” (Kudos to director Robert Schwentke for creative use of on-screen titles. See? I’m not being completely negative here.)

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Snake Eyes, who’s been making his living as a fighter, is approached by a Yakuza boss (Takehiro Hira) and offered a job in the Japanese mafia’s arms-smuggling arm, in exchange for which they will find the mysterious man who killed his father. (Maybe young Snake Eyes should have killed him when – well, you get the idea.)

But when the new hire is asked to kill a traitor named Tommy (Andrew Koji), he can’t bring himself to do it, and instead helps the man escape. Which is good for everyone, since Tommy turns out to be the scion of a powerful Japanese clan called the Arashikage. Over the objections of his cautious chief of security (Haruka Abe), Tommy starts grooming Snake Eyes to join the clan. Much of this involves three trials, the last of which will kill you if it gets the chance.

Snake Eyes is the latest attempt by Hasbro to cash in at the box office on its line of “movable fighting men” (heaven forbid you call them dolls) that were first introduced almost 60 years ago. Comic books, animated TV shows and movies (most direct-to-video) and video games have all been made, but the previous live-action efforts, the so-so Rise of Cobra in 2009 and its ludicrous follow-up, 2013’s Retaliation, seem to have fizzled.

Snake Eyes is thus a reboot rather than a direct sequel, and its full title, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, promises (or should that be threatens?) more chapters to come. There’s certainly no end of material. Over the decades, Hasbro has produced dozens of action figures, including Storm Shadow – remember that name!

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Most of them have kickass monikers like Cannonball and Bullet-Proof, although you can also find a few oddballs like Ice Cream Soldier (not good in the desert), General Flagg (always in the rear of the convoy), Dialtone (never there when you call) and Psyche-Out, who I just made up. Ha! No I didn’t!

Snakes Eyes is one of a pile of new releases that was originally set to debut more than a year ago, until the pandemic set in. It’s hoping to benefit from a resurgence of moviegoers hungry for new stories – last week Cineplex recorded its best numbers in Canada since before the pandemic – but beware that if it does well enough, sequels will follow. And you may one day find yourself muttering a certain cinematic cliché.

Snake Eyes opens July 23 in cinemas.

1.5 stars out of 5

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Sherwood Park

This Week in Flyers