To give some perspective, this isn’t a continuation of the narrative started in the first two G.I. Joe films. The clue is in the original subtitle. This is both a reboot and a prequel of sorts, but more of a reboot. Snake Eyes is the enigmatic member of the worldwide peace-keeping force codenamed G.I. Joe. He dresses like a futuristic ninja and is their martial arts specialist. But who is he really? How did he get so dangerous? Snake Eyes seeks to answer these questions.
From the outset, it becomes clear that this isn’t your normal G.I. Joe film, where the evil COBRA organisation launches another plot for world domination only to be defeated by the Joes and their toy product placement arsenal. The high level of incredible gadgetry, weapons and vehicles aren’t as front and centre as normal. Strange as it may seem, for a film based on a long-running series of toys by Hasbro, this is a little less explosively action-packed and frantic than usual. In fact, compared to its two predecessors, it’s actually quite understated and grounded. Rather than a two-hour extended toy commercial with cardboard characters lurching from one improbable chase to the next, we have a martial arts epic, with themes of divided loyalties, betrayal, and redemption. This is a refreshing change of direction for this franchise.
As a child, Snake Eyes saw his father executed and swears to devote his life seeking vengeance. As an adult played by Henry Golding, he becomes a dominant fighter on the underground circuit before being recruited by the Yakuza then moves on to join a Ninja Clan. Here, he receives his formal training and three tests – one of which involves entering a nest of sacred giant Anacondas. Although the action is fast and frantic, particularly the fight scenes of which there are plenty, Henry Golding doesn’t have the screen presence to carry the longer dialogue scenes. But then again, he is playing the part of, basically, an Action Man doll. And if his delivery seems a bit tedious, the audience can be assured that we’re never far away from the next action sequence, so it all balances out.
All in all, it's a more involving film than we’d expect, given its pedigree - despite its subplot involving a deadly ray emitting jewel. It’s not deep, it’s not going to change your life or your philosophy. It’s a big, loud summer tentpole movie designed solely to while away a rainy couple of hours. The cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries. And who doesn’t enjoy one of those once in a while?
SNAKE EYES is in UK cinemas now