(PG-13 / 2hrs 1min / MGM)
Overview: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins stars Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent.
Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for: a home. But, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested - even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.
Verdict: Snake Eyes, while slightly better than the unrelenting vomit that was The Rise of Cobra and Retaliation, advances a storyline that need not be advanced, because everybody desperately wants it to go away.
Making matters worse, our main character is kind of an ass. He betrays friends at every step of his journey, causes untold damage and often hurts his own cause in the process.
At the beginning of director Robert Schwentke’s humorless origin story, Snake is a little boy whose father is killed unexpectedly while hiding out in a safe house.
The slimeball who offs him hands Dad a pair of dice and says, If you win, you live. If you lose, you die. He does not specify exactly what you have to roll to win, but Dad rolls snake eyes. That’s how his son gets his moniker.
As an adult, Snake is making money as a cage fighter and gets recruited by another shadowy criminal who claims he can help him find Pop’s murderer in exchange for smuggling work. But after a massive fight in the weapons sales ring, the loner is then offered the chance to become a member of a Japanese spy’s (Andrew Koji) clan.
The secretive group protects a magic stone called the Jewel of the Sun, which allows its holder to instantly incinerate anybody or anything in their path. That seems a bit quaint considering the existence of nonmagical — but effective — bombs, guns and flamethrowers, but that’s what we’ve got to work with.
Long story short, Snake has to complete three deadly tasks to gain membership in a clan that offers very few personal benefits for him. And it takes a very long time for these challenges to happen.
All of this is building toward Snake Eyes becoming a Joe, but the martial arts film’s connection to the main story feels frail, as if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ended with Michelle Yeoh becoming an Avenger.
The fights, taken on their own, are occasionally OK, but not enough to lift this joke- and fun-free slog.