Snake Eyes Review

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Snake Eyes Review – Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is visually stunning with impressively visceral action…

It thoroughly pains me to write this Snake Eyes review. I really wanted to like this film. It has so much going for it, from the visual marvel that the film is, the degree of performers they cast, and the obvious budget it had. But the problem of the film is apparent and one that the industry continually denies. But it’s one my community knows all too well, White dudes who like Asian culture but do not get or respect it. I will sum up my review right now, the performers did tremendous work and performed spectacularly. Henry Golding proved he is a capable action hero. But Golding and the rest of the cast were wasted by white dudes who get Kanji tattoos that look cool but they don’t know what it means. Essentially, the problems that plagued Mulan (2020) also plague Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

***SPOILER ALERT: I will not spoiler any major arcs or events of the film. But there will be some spoilers that are in trailers, and how Snake Eyes gets his name.

Before I get into the caucasity of it all, let me just talk about the clunky cheesiness of the script. In particular, the names of the two stars of the film, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Snake Eyes gets his name because the person who kills his father has his victims roll a pair of dice to determine their faith. Guess what Snake Eyes’ dad rolled with those dice? It’s cheesy, but also a movie based on a Saturday morning cartoon designed to hype up toys. Whatever I can live with that. Then there’s Tommy, or as most know him, Storm Shadow. This is where the caucasity seeps in. Storm Shadow prior to joining Cobra, goes by the name Tommy. Throughout the film, he goes by Tommy. However, Tommy is a very angry person and gets an angry look. A look people refer to as a shadow. Tommy is aware, and when people bring up the shadow, he lets them know the storm will pass. Again, cheesy. But, the movie is based on Saturday morning cartoon, I get it. Easy symbolism for kids, I can get behind that.

But what are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow known to be associated with? The Arashikage. Now what most people who do not speak Japanese do not know is that Arashi means “storm” and “kage” means shadow. Storm Shadow is named after the translation of his Clan’s name. But when you are not literate in Japanese, or can bother yourself to do any research on the franchise you are writing for, or learn anything about another culture, you write that one of the most badass characters in G.I. Joe gets his name from people calling out his angry face.

To continue with the caucasity, what do those type of writers always write as the prevalent theme when writing about any Asian culture? Honor! Snake Eyes is all about honor. This is not to ding honor. Have honor, be honorable. But if you lack melanin, and are writing about Asians, take a hard pass about writing about honor. It’s been done, done well in a number of cases, but definitely way too many times and definitely on the side of diminishing returns right now. Or at the very least give honor the respect it deserves and approach with some sort of originality, not your catch all to justify using Asian culture in your story.

The film is perfectly enjoyable and watchable, and I’m sure kids will thoroughly love it. I am even sure a lot of adults will enjoy it. Surface level, it is a run-in-the-mill popcorn flick. The cinematography and set design are great and definitely fit for the big screen experience. But the writing is actively lazy and uninspired to put it kindly. Personally, I think it is willfully ignorant, but that is conjecture and likely influenced by recorded history and experience. However, these opinions become facts when you witness what other lazy symbolism they do with “Snake Eyes.” It is obviously lazy because the symbolism derived from “Snake Eyes” is connected to the Arashikage lore and not Snake Eyes. It is a ridiculously obvious and dumb reveal, that even children will probably question the cheesiness forced into the film.

But despite the insult of another one of THOSE dudes asking why people in other countries don’t speak English, the film also suffers from tone. The action sequences in the film are impressive. They often capture moves only capable by the physical elite, and it is hard to tell when and if they actually go outside that realm. Henry Golding holds his own against proven action veterans Andrew Koji and Iko Uwais. The only real hitch some of the cinematography. There is a noticeable amount of shaky-cam footage and sometimes an abundance of quick cutes during some of the fights. However, the fights are well choreographed and many of them are brutal, definitely pushing the PG13 rating. However, as impressive and awesome as the action is, it is horribly contrasted with the contrived cheesiness of the writing.

The contrast of the polished and visceral action, to the clunky, cheesy, and lazy use of honor writing creates constantly jarring tones. Sometimes it feels like a hardcore action movie, other times it feels like Nick Jr. level kids dialogue, other times it is a guy named Hoit arrogantly mispronouncing the menu items at a sushi joint. It’s a lot of things that work against each other.

On top of that, aside from the incidental waste of the talented cast, active waste of the talented writers, there are just some completely wasted moments in the movie. There’s a scene where three characters are set up for a thoroughly incredible fight. They are outnumbered and surrounded. They get into position. Then it cuts away from them. You get to see the aftermath, which is a PG13 blood bath, but you see none of it occur. It’s a bummer. Sometimes it is better to not see the fight. Sometimes it works better as a visual joke to see how badly characters beat up henchmen. This was not the case.

Regardless of the downsides though, I really want to promote this film and get people to see it. There is an incredible amount of potential, and the writers did schlock their way into setting up sequels. This is my biggest conflict with this review. I do not like the movie. I am sure many others also won’t, in particular those like me and more adamant G.I. Joe fans. But I will fully support this movie and buy it, though probably on sale, because the cast did do a great job, the action in the movie is good, and the look of it from sets, costumes, and all visual aspects are amazing. But mostly because the cast did well, and they are a predominantly Asian cast. They did their part, and definitely them and others like them deserve a chance to be leads in big-budget mainstream films. It’s not their fault the writers likely got “soup” tattooed on themselves in Kanji. It’s not their fault studios do not push or even allow for true representation. I wanted this movie to be good, even if the entire production behind the camera was pale, because at least in front we got Asians representing in so many aspects. But what happens behind the camera really determines what is in front, and those try to use chopsticks to eat miso soup writers thoroughly phoned it in, and it is painfully obvious.

Aside from the insultingly ignorant writing, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a visually stunning pop-corn flick with impressively brutal action scenes. It features a great cast that worked magic with the lazy script given to them. While it may not be the film of the summer, the cast definitely displays the potential to make a game-changing action franchise and the story did manage to luckily leave space for a sequel. If I was to base this review purely on the visual mastery and the cast’s ability, it would’ve been points higher, but because of the insultingly ignorant and lazy writing and inability to shake the feeling of seeing a white dude with a kanji tattoo he thinks he knows the meaning of, my Snake Eyes Review drops to a 2.5/5

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins releases only in theaters, Dolby Digital, and IMAX Friday, July 23, 2021

Tickets are available now

 

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Review
2.5

TLDR

Aside from the insultingly ignorant writing, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a visually stunning pop-corn flick with impressively brutal action scenes. It features a great cast that worked magic with the lazy script given to them. While it may not be the film of the summer, the cast definitely displays the potential to make a game-changing action franchise and the story did manage to luckily leave space for a sequel. If I was to base this review purely on the visual mastery and the cast’s ability, I would rate the movie far higher. But you can’t shake the feeling of a white dude with a kanji tattoo he thinks he knows the meaning of.

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