Review: 'Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins' Has Everything You Want In A Blockbuster

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 19, 2021

Henry Golding in 'Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins'
Henry Golding in 'Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins'  (Source:Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Skydance.)

This summer's blockbusters all appear to follow a similar trend: In an effort to get audiences back into theaters, the studios have banked on big budget features that draw on nostalgia and have a baked in appeal. With "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins," Paramount Pictures has several things in mind. The first is clearly an effort to reboot one of its franchises; another is to get a kick-up on the competition.

Starring Henry Golding in the titular role, the film draws on one of the most popular characters from the 1980s, the G.I. Joe toy line of action figures and the silent secret weapon that was featured in the animated cartoons that were part of every one of our childhoods. The film, directed by Robert Schwentke, centers on the mysterious backstory of this persona, a military commando that wears black, head to toe, is himself a dangerous weapon, and can't speak. He's able to slink into the shadows and strike at his enemies. Snake-Eyes was an instant fan favorite in the popular Marvel Comics, as well.

It was inevitable that the character would eventually get a motion picture all of his own, although "Snake-Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins" goes to great lengths to develop a depth for the mystery behind commando with the cool code name, and barrows from too many sources to feel like anything extraordinary. That's not to say the film isn't exciting and engaging.

With Golding, the film gets a formidable and likable leading man. He gets himself mixed up with a crime family that happens to employ several ninjas — and one among them is not who he claims to be. Andrew Koji plays Tommy, who will be recognizable to collectors as the alter ego of Snake-Eyes' most formidable adversary, Storm Shadow. Tommy brings Snake-Eyes into the fold, after Snake-Eyes (a name he's chosen for himself) saves Tommy from an angry mob of assassins under the direction of his cousin.

With nowhere left to go, Snake-Eyes travels to Tokyo with Tommy to undergo a series of test that will test his character, but unbeknownst to Tommy, all Snake-Eyes wants is revenge on the man who murdered his father. Snake-Eyes begins to adapt to Tommy's ways, but Akiko (Haruka Abe) isn't convinced that Snake-Eyes' intentions are pure. When they uncover a plot to smuggle weapons into Tokyo, it isn't long before they realize this is bigger than just revenge.

"Snake-Eyes" is able to keep you entertained, and has everything one could hope for in a summer blockbuster with intense fight sequences and stunts, but the film prefers to make an anti-hero out of Snake-Eyes. That's well enough, but it's very hard to swallow, especially given the dynamic that will turn Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow into such adversaries. Once you get over that hurdle, though, the story is textured enough that it draws you in — even if just for the two-hour ticket.

The film also does an interesting job of paying homage to the '80s with winks and nods to "Indiana Jones" and Jean-Claude Van Damme films. Can it reboot a franchise? Perhaps not, but it will revitalize a toy line of action figures. Collectors will be stocking up!

"Snake-Eyes: GI Joe Origins" is now available on Premium Digital for purchase and on Premium Video-On-Demand (PVOD), and arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on October 19

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".