Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Written by Alexander Reams

27/100

When I think back to my childhood there are certain events I remember, and yes most of them revolve around films. I remember seeing G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra with my father and seeing the character that would become one of my all time favorites, Snake Eyes. The following Halloween and Christmas I had something Snake Eyes related for the holiday. So upon hearing that a film revolving around the titular character was in development my excitement went through the roof. Then when I heard the casting for Snake Eyes I got a tad skeptical, Snake Eyes is such a cool character that is based in his silence and letting his fight skills do the talking for him. Casting someone like Henry Golding would most likely mean that Snake Eyes would not be taking that vow of silence. And just as expected Snake Eyes having dialogue in the film turns it from mediocre to awful. 

The film feels like an ill equipped first time director is at the helm, however once the credits roll, so did my eyes. The plot, as one would expect, is simple. Golding’s Snake Eyes rescues his future nemesis, “Tommy/ Storm Shadow” from the Yakuza and in return, Snake Eyes travels with Tommy to be trained in the ninja ways of the clan Tommy is from. Completing the origin story of the legend that Snake Eyes would become. Robert Schwentke, the same man who single-handedly killed the Divergent franchise, made Ryan Reynolds boring in R.I.P.D., and Helen Mirren unlikable in RED, is running the show. It clearly suffers from his direction, choosing quick edits and shaky camerawork over long, clean, takes and smooth Steadicam work. The style he equipped for shooting these scenes, egregiously stands out during a sequence at the docks. The amount of quick cuts made is nauseating. This made the film borderline unwatchable for me and actively frustrated me throughout. This combined with the comedically terrible script makes the technical side of the film insurmountable at best.

Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, and Samara Weaving do the best they can with what they are given. That being said, there is still a lot to be desired from Golding’s performance. Stepping into a role that was made iconic by Ray Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) already put pressure on him to succeed. Physically, Golding commits himself to the role, clearly showing his ability to do stunt work, but in the quieter scenes he is not given near enough for an actor of his talent. Koji tries his best to keep up, but borders on becoming a comically bad, unfortunately stereotypical, Japanese character. Samara Weaving’s role is small, but her performance was as good as Golding’s. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in the G.I. Joe universe. This film is clearly made by an outsider to this culture who tried to Americanize the film when instead it should have been made to honor the culture it so poorly apes. It’s not only technically bad, but disappointing for the G.I. Joe fans everywhere and I hope they will redirect the course with new screenwriters and directors.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Trailer

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is currently available on VOD.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

F9: The Fast Saga

Written by Alexander Reams

56/100

The laws of physics have unknowingly or knowingly been the backbone of the human race since the dawn of time. Countless times films have tried to disregard those laws, with some succeeding even without them, and some have crashed and burned spectacularly (looking at you Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight). Ever since its resurgence in pop culture in 2011 with the wildly successful Fast Five, the Fast & Furious franchise has continued to be less and less realistic (I’m sorry but Dwayne Johnson moving a torpedo’s trajectory with his bare hands is amazing, but a stretch at best). This continuation of less grounded films peaked in 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw and now they have gone too far. 

The film is continuing the story of Dominic Toretto and crew, including his wife, Letty Ortiz, Tej Parker, Roman Pierce, sister Mia Toretto, and mysterious hacker Ramsey. The plot of the movie is one that we’ve seen thousands of times, the crew needs to get a “thing” so that the bad guys don’t. That’s it. That is the entire plot. The twist here is that the “bad guy” is Dom’s long lost brother, Jakob Toretto. Yes, they are continuing their streak of doing soap opera tropes but with a budget, and the script certainly feels like one at times. The question that has been asked since the film came out is “Who is at fault?” The answer is clear, the screenwriter, or in this case, screenwriters. This is the first film in the franchise since The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift that Chris Morgan has not written, and he was a driving force behind keeping this series in control of itself and never going too far fetched and keeping the stakes real. This time Justin Lin, Daniel Casey, and Alfredo Botello are the writers of the film and it reads as if they scoured the reddit forums and just threw countless ideas at a wall and saw what stuck. 

Read Alexander’s Fast and Furious Franchise Retrospective

Justin Lin is not only a writer on the film, he returns after a 8 year hiatus from the franchise. His return not only brought a level of hype back to the franchise that I had not felt since 2013 when James Wan was announced as the director of Furious 7. It also brought a level of expectation of quality that I had associated with Lin’s work in the franchise. He is responsible for two of my favorite entries of the franchise Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. Unfortunately I felt that we did not get the maturing and exciting Justin Lin that did Star Trek: Beyond here, it seemed like we got Fast & Furious (2009) Justin Lin, which as you might know, is the only entry that does not work for me on any level. While his quieter moments do not work, he undeniably has a great eye for shooting action set pieces. Particularly a car chase with Dame Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel through the streets of London and an early jungle chase in Montequinto with the crew. His pacing throughout these scenes is masterfully done and is never too frenetic or too quick to jump cut.

Han’s death in The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift was a shocking and heartbreaking moment in the franchise, even more so after seeing him in entries 4-6. His character was my personal favorite and his constant snacking became one of my first thoughts whenever Fast & Furious comes into conversation. When it was revealed that he would be back for F9 my excitement went through the roof. However my excitement was reduced when I began to think about how he would be brought back. I should have tempered my expectations far further than I had. I won’t delve into spoilers but, the explanation given is one of the biggest half baked explanations of the entire franchise. Bringing Han back also took away any sense of stakes and consequences, now anyone can be brought back, no matter dead, disintegrated, melted, etc. 

F9 is a muddled mess, from the story, to performances, Charlize Theron is acting like she is in a completely different film and constantly made me feel like I was watching a Razzie Awards clipshow of horrendous lines. While I do not believe this film to be anywhere near the greatness of entries 5-7 or Hobbs & Shaw there is enjoyment to be found throughout. If you go into the film thinking of it not as an action film, but as a comedy, you might find much more enjoyment. Let us all hope that the 2 part finale will be far superior, Chris Morgan, please, I beg of you, please return to the franchise. 

F9: The Fast Saga Trailer

F9: The Fast Saga is currently playing in wide theatrical release.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.