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SYFY WIRE reviews

Snake Eyes delivers a 'sleek' if sometimes silly big screen reboot of G.I. Joe franchise, critics say

By Josh Weiss
Snake Eyes GI Joe Origins Henry Golding

After nearly a decade away, the G.I. Joe franchise is making its return to the big screen in a summer blockbuster centered around the team's usually taciturn member, Snake Eyes.

Helmed by FlightplanRed, and Divergent series director, Robert Schwentke, the film stars Henry Golding in the title role and according to the bold headline accompanying USA Today's review of the project, the Crazy Rich Asians actor "proves he's a franchise-ready man of action."

The site's mainstay movie critic, Brian Truitt, plainly states in the first paragraph that Snake Eyes, which opens tomorrow, is "a satisfying martial-arts action-adventure with two magnetic leads, a heap of lightning-quick swordplay and the best argument yet for a G.I. Joe cinematic universe."

Deadline's Pete Hammond posits something similar:

"The filmmakers have decided to take him in an entirely new direction, making Snake Eyes a bit of a loner in the form of Henry Golding, who broke out in Crazy Rich Asians and now has his first bona fide action hero to play. He acquits himself nicely here, and the change of locale along with the pumped-up martial arts fighting quotient breathes new life into the venerable world of G.I. Joe."

"In sending a hero beloved by ‘80s fanboys into the world of Yakuza and samurai lore, it calls to mind the comics that inspired James Mangold’s The Wolverine; though this film is a good deal sillier than that one, its nods toward pulpy grit and its enjoyable fight sequences will be welcomed by viewers who couldn’t tell a Storm Shadow from a Copperhead or Zartan," writes John DeFore on behalf of The Hollywood Reporter.

Variety's Owen Gleiberman writes that Snake Eyes mainly works because it doesn't check off the mandatory boxes of what a G.I. Joe adventure is expected to be: "It’s not a square-jawed, mildly jingoistic heavy-weapons combat orgy, like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) or G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)." Instead, Gleiberman continues, it's "a darkly atmospheric, sleekly scissor-limbed ninja combat orgy — a tale of vengeance and nobility and scheming set in Tokyo."

Scott Mendelson of Forbes Entertainment echoes that sentiment: "This Henry Golding-starring 'origin story' is a reboot of the G.I. Joe mythos, even if it mostly keeps the G.I. Joe 'stuff' on the fringes. Most of the 121-minute actioner is focused on compelling ninja melodrama. The 'cinematic universe' stuff rears its ugly head in the final reels, but Rise of Cobra similarly almost collapsed in its final 20 minutes as well."

When the story begins, Snake Eyes is an aimless loner who's wanted for a family ever since his father lost his life in a tragic gambling incident (hence the character's dice-related nickname). 

As a grown man, Snake Eyes finds greater purpose and a true sense of belonging when he's inducted into the Arashikage, an ancient clan of ninjas, by his friend-turned-enemy, Storm Shadow (Andrew Koji). The eponymous protagonist is trained up as a deadly warrior and soon finds himself embroiled in a struggle against Cobra — a nefarious orgainization devoted to global revolution.

Snake Eyes

"If you can make it to the Tokyo section, which takes almost a half hour to get to, you’ll be in for a fairly fun ride, as Snake Eyes starts to train with an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage," writes Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press.

"The action looks great when we can see it," writes Michael Ordoña for The Los Angeles Times. "Director Robert Schwentke unfortunately chose to capture much of it in quick-cut, jolted-camera close-ups, diluting the blows’ power rather than enhancing their impact."

"Golding throws himself into it, as do the litany of stunt performers who make sure the bodies in motion look like actual bodies, not blurry video game avatars," states Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club. "Schwentke smooshes together various quirks of high-octane action directing—some shades of green that could be described as [off-brand] Tony Scott, enough low-angle shots for Michael Bay to shoot dozens of badasses exiting vehicles — and some of his moves come from the wait-what-just-happened school of close-up fight choreography. Yet there’s an eye-pleasing slickness to the whole enterprise, compared to the generic, often dispiriting slickness of Schwentke’s previous Hollywood work."

Co-written by Evan Spiliotopoulos (Beauty and the Beast), Anna Waterhouse (Rebecca), Joe Shrapnel (The Gray Man), Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins arrives in theaters everywhere tomorrow — Friday, July 23. Úrsula Corberó (Baroness), Samara Weaving (Scarlett), Haruka Abe (Akiko), Tahehiro Hira (Kenta), and Iko Uwais (Hard Master) co-star.