When it was revealed in 2022 that the GI Joe film franchise would be rebooted with an origin story for Snake Eyes - a character who never shows his face and never speaks, with a mysterious past - it certainly didn't seem like a good idea. After all, traditionally movies that provide backstories for characters who don't need them have a spotty track record (Hey, Rob Zombie's Halloween remake). With Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor star Henry Golding cast in the title role and a series of seeds planted for a new GI Joe cinematic universe, Snake Eyes is better than you'd expect.
The film delves into the character's history, starting with childhood. After seeing his father executed, we find him again as an adult, known only as Snake Eyes, with a thirst for revenge to find the one who killed his father. This journey leads him to train to join the Arashikage ninja clan and befriend Tommy Arashikage (Andrew Koji), who GI Joe fans will recognize as the man who eventually becomes Snake's archenemy, Storm Shadow.
There will be some GI Joe purists who'd rather not know anything about Snake Eyes' backstory, but it's refreshing to see the building blocks behind the iconic masked warrior and what motivates him not only to become a master assassin, but also drives him. towards the GI Joe unit.
It was clear who was good and who was bad in the original GI Joe animated series. The characters always lacked depth. If Snake Eyes is any indication, this new direction for GI Joe is trying to change that - at least for some of his characters.
While the movie tells a lot about the story of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, they aren't the only GI Joe characters to appear. GI Joe's Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Cobra's second-in-command Baroness (Úrsula Corberó) join the mix. Unlike Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, the film doesn't explore these two characters much. The film also explains the core of GI Joe and Cobra, hinting at Snake Eyes to a bigger world of assassins and warriors than he could ever have expected. While the information dumps on GI Joe and Cobra aren't as detailed as they could be, it's exciting to know that this secret war is being waged while the world doesn't know about it.
If this franchise does come to fruition, however, it would be nicer for future films to delve into the characters like this film does with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Every individual Joe and Cobra member doesn't need their own movie, but it's nice to have a reason to root for or against them beyond a cursory explanation of "The Cobras are the bad guys." The original GI Joe could have managed to keep things so simple. After a decade of MCU movies delving into the lore of comic book superheroes, however, you should be able to really do the work of showing who your characters are and why audiences should care.
Fortunately, Golding and Koji are well suited to bringing Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to life and there's easy chemistry between them on screen. The brotherhood between them is very credible. Weaving and Corberó also work well together in the scenes they share, although the duo is more humorous. Still, the film suggests that they have a long history of falling out, which would be fun to explore in future films. Honestly, there isn't a weak link in the cast, with supporting characters like Arashikage security chief Akiko (Haruka Abe) and villain Kenta (Takehiro Hira), among others, completing the story.
It's also hard to argue how beautiful the movie is. With large chunks of it filmed on location in Japan, Snake Eyes is filled with stunning backdrops, be they ancient temples or the streets of Tokyo. These locations do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to bringing audiences into the world of the film.
Of course, what will be most attracted are the action sequences. Snake Eyes is packed with massive fight scenes, some epic motorcycle chases and a series of explosions – all the sorts of things you would expect from a GI Joe movie. And luckily, they're a lot of fun, for the most part. While the film is virtually bloodless thanks to its PG-13 rating, dozens of people are brandishing swords at each other throughout the film. The choreography of these fight scenes is well done and looks fantastic.
Still, there's something that sticks out like a sore thumb: O is used extensively throughout the film. You've seen it a million times before, when a single hero (sometimes a small team of them in Snake Eyes) is suddenly confronted by a horde of nameless henchmen who seemingly exist only to give the hero(s) a bunch of enemies to Happens so many times in Snake Eyes that it becomes comical. At one point in the film, one character looks at another upon hearing a new army of villains nearby and simply states that it looks like 20 of them are coming. They then spring into action, taking them all out with relative ease. While Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow have historically been some of the best-trained fighters on the planet, seeing them slice and dice their way through so many low-level goons so easily feels a little strange. That said, it doesn't make this movie any less fun, just a little more silly.
While Snake Eyes isn't the best movie you'll see in 2022, you'll have fun sitting down to watch it in a movie theater. It's action-packed, has just the right amount of nostalgia without overdoing it, and sets the stage for what could end up being an exciting movie series if it were a hit. More importantly though, it's the best GI Joe movie to date, easily beating 2009's GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2022's very bad GI Joe: Retaliation. Now that Snake Eyes has set the bar, it's up to what comes next to raise it.
Snake Eyes is in theaters on July 23rd.