GI Joe is a film series that has really had a tough time making a name for itself. People know the franchise yet the movies all tend to get fairly weak reviews and Snake Eyes is now bombing at the box office. I thought the first two movies were great and while Snake Eyes doesn’t quite match their level, I thought it was very good. There’s just something about the franchise that doesn’t click on a national level but hopefully we still get some more films.
The movie starts with Snake’s (They call him Snake as a nickname during the film and it sounds more natural than saying “Snake Eyes” each time) father getting murdered by a group of villains. Snake is able to escape and vows revenge on these guys. We fast forward to the present where Snake works for the Yakuza. One day they turn on his friend Tommy so Snake is forced to defend him and they are both kicked out of the Yakuza. Tommy offers Snake a chance to join his clan by completing the 3 trials. The toughest part of this is going to be that the trials can be quite deadly and most people fail them. Additionally, the only way to win the trials is to have a clear heart and mind but of course Snake Eyes is still distracted by his origin as well as some secrets he is still hiding close to his heart. Will he be able to bluff through these trials or will his busy heart ultimately be his undoing?
Snake Eyes’ origin may be a little old at this point in how often the main character’s parent is murdered by some thugs at first but it is an easy way to steel Snake’s resolve for the rest of the film. The opening battle scene against the boxer in the underground fighting arena was a bit concerning. We get a ton of camera jumps and the guy holding the camera seemed to be getting dizzy as well so there’s a lot of spinning.
If all the fights were like that then it would not have boded well for the movie. Fortunately, the film really tightens up after that and the rest of the battles are on point. While the GI Joe and Cobra influences aren’t massive here, any fight scene with their factions is a lot of fun. Naturally the Snake Eyes sword battles are cool as well. I don’t anticipate this film’s battles winning against Moral Kombat or Shang Chi’s but they still hold up really well.
The best action scene might be early on when Snake and Tommy are fighting the Yakuza. It’s really early on but it was a good exhibition of their strengths. There are a good amount of fights so you’ll be covered on that front. It even makes things a bit funny when Scarlett and the Baroness show up since they just take out their guns and mow people down instead of bothering with the whole hand to hand business. They can fight that way too but guns are more efficient.
I enjoyed how stylistic the film was too. The title of the film shows up on a building, you have the time stamps appearing in random places, etc. It’s going for a very creative look over doing the normal kind of signage. It works well and while it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t really earn or lose any points, it was fun enough to note. The special effects are on point to be sure and while we don’t see Snake Eyes’ costume for more than a minute, it already looks really sharp. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed his costume in any iteration.
As a main character Snake is good but actually not as good as I thought he would be. The main annoying thing for me is that he really doesn’t make the right decisions. He gets manipulated quite easily and ultimately picks his own vendettas over his conscience. Lets just say that he’ll do anything to find the guy who murdered his father no matter who he has to work for. This is actually a character arc you mainly just see for villains. They ignore the fact that they’re working for terrorists in order to get their vengeance. Snake is no different and so because of that you really feel like he’s a villain for most of the story.
We’re seeing the film through his eyes so he doesn’t appear as bad as the average villain but when you put things into perspective…it’s not a good look for him. If not for a plot twist at the end of the film, he really may not have even made the reluctantly correct choice at the end. I expect things will be better for him going forward but I was just surprised with him here since I’m used to him being known as a really honorable character. In terms of other personality differences, he is a lot more talkative here.
It doesn’t look like they’re going to go the route of having Snake mute in this one and I’m cool with this. If you’re taking the franchise in a new direction anyway then you might as well go all in. He was able to have more of a personality beyond being the silent tough guy this time. I could see this version of Snake having a lot of good banter with the rest of the characters. I may have had my reservations on his hero status but Snake’s personality itself was on point. He’s always ready for a fight and has a super quick temper. Maybe none of that sounds like Snake but those are qualities I like in my heroes so long as they’re directing this at the villains. So lets see him keep that intensity up as a Joe.
As for Tommy, anyone familiar with the GI Joe mythos will know where he is going but it’s still nice to see the journey. He is portrayed as being stronger than Snake but considerably weaker than Kenta. Tommy always seems a bit unhinged especially with how he blows up at Akiko from time to time. He believes he is destined to rule and often times those kinds of characters are pretty dangerous. Tommy makes for a good character but from the start you are pretty sure he won’t be a big hero.
Akiko does a good job of protecting the clan. From the start she is wary of Snake and for good reason. The guy is constantly vanishing from the facility and doing his own thing. If anything I feel like she should have told the clan about this. Even if she couldn’t pick Tommy since he was too emotionally invested, tell the clan leader or one of the other fighters. With a few more people it would have been easier to figure out what he was up to. She may ultimately be a bit softer on Snake than she should have been as one of the clan guardians though. Not all of the blame should be on her as the clan defenses are just awful though. Feels like you can infiltrate the area and get to the gem with incredible ease. There’s no cameras to see people leaving or coming in at night either so the place desperately needs new equipment.
As for Kenta, he’s the main villain and the guy is tougher than I would have expected. He is consistently shown to be the best fighter in the movie. Even without his super weapon the guy would probably be too much for the other characters one on one. There’s not much to him beyond just being the big villain though. The film’s really more about Snake’s journey than the antagonist so you won’t remember him much.
Then you have the crossover characters who are here to get you hyped up for the next GI Joe film. Scarlett’s intro appearance is definitely like something out of Black Widow. She beats up a bunch of goons while talking to the heroes and explaining what’s up. In a lot of ways her character has always been similar to Widow’s just she is infinitely cooler. Scarlett’s role here isn’t huge but her fights are always a lot of fun.
Likewise for Baroness who shows up to remind the ninja that Cobra calls the shots. Kenta isn’t quite afraid of them but we know Cobra’s a good thread. Baroness does well in the fights too and makes the most of her limited screen time. It would have been nice if she could have gotten her revenge on Kenta to get Cobra some hype but I suppose it just couldn’t work out that way. If Kenta could have ran a bit further, an excellent after credits scene would have been Team Cobra rolling up and taking that guy out for striking the Baroness.
Now, I do think that the Infinity Stone here should have been a little nerfed. Basically the ninja have a stone that can blow people up just by focusing on doing so. You can also make barriers and such. The problem is that the gem has no weak point and it activates almost instantly. Near the end of the film there is a scene where the 8 heroes all grin and strike poses as they mock Kenta. Kenta is holding the gem though so he should have grinned right back at them and then we see them all blow up. There’s no reason he couldn’t have done that and that’s the problem with writing in objects of power that are too useful.
Granted, there are many ways you could have written the characters being able to dodge the gem or disarm him but posing just isn’t it. The film enjoys its posing though as we get quite a few scenes of the characters just posing. Tommy and Snake get a lot of them with their swords. Scarlett and Baroness get quite a few and then you have the team shots. It’s fun for theatrics and getting you hyped but you just want to be careful doing that when the opponent has any kind of long range weapon.
It’s also pretty cool that effectively the first big Cobra and Joe team up is in a Snake Eyes film. I won’t say anything more about that but usually that’s something you would leave for the third film in a trilogy like Transformers or something like that. In that sense it definitely continues to help amp up Snake Eyes but you also just can’t wait for more Joe films. If anything, watching the Snake Eyes film just got me extra hyped to go back and rewatch the first two.
Now, where do we go from here? The film has an after credits scene which is also setting up GI Joe. I think the next step is that you need to have a full GI Joe film. Since Snake Eyes led this new part of the franchise off, maybe you can do it like X-Men. So Snake Eyes will be the main character for the rest of the film. He’s still a drifter but he ends up helping the Joes when he finds out that Tommy’s going to be at their destination. It’ll be a very different take on the series but it could work if they need to try something fresh. This should be a whole new rebooted part of the franchise after all and that would be a good way to do it.
As a final side note, the film has a Peter Parker moment where Snake decides to let a villain go because the whole thing is no longer his problem. In some ways it’s worse than Peter as he knows this guy is a global terrorist working for a powerful organization. Sure, the organization cut him loose but this guy is incredibly dangerous. Any future deaths will now be on his head. It feels like the film didn’t mean for this to be a big scene but I would hope it will come up in the future. This scene just didn’t make any sense though, I don’t see why you would ever let a villain like this go. Deciding not to murder a villain isn’t the same as cutting them free….but yeah that scene definitely popped out at me.
Overall, Snake Eyes is a pretty solid film. It has a lot of great fight scenes and special effects. The pacing of the movie is good and it’s really over before you know it. It might not have the nonstop intensity of a mainline GI Joe film but when the fights do come they tend to look good. Having most of the film take place around Shibuya was also fun since it makes for a lot of fun landmarks. Some of the backgrounds even reminded me of TMNT. It may take a lot of liberties from what you’re used to as a classic Joe story but it’s executed well so I’m looking forward to seeing this vision through to the end.