Henry Golding is a bona-fide movie star; unquestionably. With a charisma seen only by the classic film stars of old and the sculpted physique of any macho action star of yesteryear, the British star is destined for a long career with countless memorable performances and a charm that will linger for decades to come. In just three years since his breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians, the actor gets his first shot as the star of a potential new franchise. Despite the popular brand and enough talent to suggest something worthwhile, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is more of a nonstarter for all included parties.
The classic “G.I. Joe” character gets his cinematic origin story now that the “G.I. Joe” cinematic property has run itself into a corner and finds itself in need of a reboot. Snake Eyes serves as both an origin story for the character, but also a rebooted franchise hopeful, and it sure does feel hopelessly hopeful.
Like many origin stories, Snake Eyes’ background involves witnessing the murder of a dead parent, leading him on a lifelong quest for vengeance. As an adult, Snake Eyes is a loner spending his time cage fighting in underground rings hoping to find the people responsible for his father’s murder. When he saves the life of Tommy (Andrew Koji), the future leader of the Arashikage clan, he is offered a place among the clan in Tokyo by completing three distinct challenges that will prove his worth.
Director Robert Schwentke (RED) doesn’t give much heft to the material, with the story feeling like a hodgepodge of countless other hero origins. Every cliché beat of a heroes journey is neatly packaged in the narrative with little to no originality. Snake Eyes isn’t a very interesting character, despite Golding’s dashing efforts, and he isn’t particularly well-written either. Caught between a stereotypical moral crisis that unfolds exactly how you expect it to, Snake Eyes’ one-dimensional motivations make him rather unlikable. While Snake Eyes does feature a game cast, The Raid‘s Iko Uwais and Ready or Not‘s Samara Weaving particularly breathe fresh air to the screen, their prescence, like Golding, is not enough to overcompensate for the tired, soulless plotting.
These faults don’t have to ultimately bring down a film like this if the spectacle is worthwhile, but the action simple ranges from passable to the worst sequences this side of Taken 3. The choreography and stunt work is more than competent, its occasionally fun in fact, but the overly tight framing and choppy, cut-a-second editing smothers any potentially exciting sequence.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins serves as an opportunity for Henry Golding to prove himself worthy as an action star, alongside an enticing supporting cast, but unfortunately that’s about all it has to offer. The storytelling is as generic and uninspired as they come, and the attempts at establishing a new franchise are unenthusiastic to say the least. Perhaps not all toys are fit to be films?