Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Eschewing the strongly American, military-centric approach of its predecessors, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is the origin story about a character that no one asked for from a film series that no one really even remembers.

Billed as a prequel, it starts off by laying a foundation of exciting-sounding prospects – Yakuza, Ninja’s, mystical clans locked in century-long battles. But these elements are quickly rendered dull by an insipid script that’s neither sharp enough to excite nor witty enough to find balance in the delicate and lethal power games that are at play. The story commences in the past, in L.A., but then quickly moves to present-day Tokyo. Here we experience brief flashes of the potential that await us – rain-soaked battle scenes fought in the neon-lit back alleys of entrancing Shinjuku and in these few moments, the film elevates from the mundane, albeit briefly.

Director Robert Schwentke does his best with what’s available at his disposal – talented actors in the wrong kind of roles. No one will mistake Henry Golding for either an action hero or a mysterious screen presence, both of which are required traits to take his character of Snake Eyes seriously because if you try to approach the premise from the lens of seriousness, it’s all rather laughable. When things (and the plot) start falling into a routine, one of the characters mutters references to G.I. Joe and Cobra, but these associations would have been largely unnecessary had the film developed its plot independently of its bigger pop culture roots. This of course reeks of an obvious lack of faith in its own material to be strong or interesting enough as a standalone subject.

It doesn’t help the film that the two most definitive and recognizable aspects of the character of Snake Eyes (at least from both the comics and cartoons) which make him so endearing – his silence and concealed identity – are given short shrift here. There’s a lot of Nolan’s Batman Begins in the origin tale – too much for it to be coincidence and enough to make you scream plagiarism. From avenging family deaths, training with shady fraternities whose allegiance is ambiguous to even confronting personal demons, Snakes Eyes (both the character and film) turns hostage not only to its traumatic past but also its links to more pertinent source materials.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and