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4K Ultra HD Review: Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (Steelbook Edition)

October 22, 2021

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

A reboot/spinoff of the two live action films G.I. Joe and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, both somewhat stalled attempts at starting a franchise based on the Hasbro toys, comic books and cartoon series, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is technically the best of the G.I. Joe movies, but that really isn’t saying much.

Starring Henry Golding in the title role, taking over from Ray Park who portrayed the character in the 2009 and 2013 films, Snake Eyes sets itself up as an origin story that is meant to restart the series on a fresh note.

And it is better than its forbearers in a lot of ways, especially in terms of production values and visuals. But it’s held back by uninteresting characters and bland storytelling choices, and it fails to ignite much excitement beyond a few okay action scenes.

The film opens with our protagonist as a young boy (Max Archibald) who narrowly escapes as his father is killed by an assassin who makes him roll a pair of dice to decide his fate, inspiring him to adopt the moniker Snake Eyes. We then cut to twenty years later. Snake Eyes is now living with the guilt of being unable to stop his father’s murder and engaging in underground fights, having trained in martial arts in hopes of one day getting revenge.

Snakes Eyes is recruited by Kenta (Takehiro Hira), a crime lord in the Los Angeles Yakuza, who orders him to kill Tommy (Andrew Koji), a man he feels betrayed him. Snake Eyes refuses and, in exchange, Tommy brings him to Japan to initiate him into the ancient ninja clan the Arashikage. But Snakes Eyes has his allegiances tested when Kenta offers him the man who killed his father in exchange for a powerful jewel being guarded by the Arashikage. The film also works in classic G.I. Joe and Cobra characters Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and The Baroness (Úsula Corberó).

Shot in Japan and Vancouver, the film features decent cinematography by Bojan Bazelli. There are some good uses of contrasting colours with deep blacks and a few neon-lit scenes, and the production design around the castle features some eye-catching elements, including a temple adorned with glowing lanterns. The action scenes are fairly well done in isolation (with some takes that are actually allowed to go on a bit longer than usual in this type of movie), offering a mix of swordplay, hand-to-hand combat, and a competently staged chase sequence involving a truck carrying cars.

The ingredients were here for something better. The film sets itself up as a mix of martial arts epic and Yakuza drama, and we can tell that director Robert Schwentke is trying to make something more serious and grounded than the first two films. It plays out with themes of betrayal, revenge and family loyalty, but the storytelling is rote and uninspired and treads familiar ground, and the film is populated by one-dimensional characters. I like Golding as an actor, but he isn’t given that much to do here on a character level and his portrayal comes across as sort of flat.

While Snake Eyes is a better made and certainly a better looking film than the two that preceded it (though I think Retaliation was more fun), it still feels plasticy and it’s very hard to get invested in the clichéd and blandly told story. The film also drags at around two hours, despite the preponderance of action set-pieces, and the ending feels anti-climactic with its cliffhanger tease for a second instalment. It spends a lot of time setting things up for a sequel that might take years to arrive, if it even comes at all considering this film’s disappointing box office returns.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

I was sent the 4K Ultra HD Steelbook edition for review, which includes both 4K and Blu-ray discs. The Steelbook itself is quite glossy, accented by reds and blacks, with an alternate poster image on the front, logo on the back, and character images on the inside. The 4K disc features Dolby Vision and HDR, and there are a selection of bonus features included on both discs. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Morning Light: A Weapon with Stories to Tell (3 minutes, 11 seconds): A very brief new short that offers an animated history of the sword that Snake Eyes acquires in the film.

Deleted Scenes (2 minutes, 7 seconds): A collection of short moments snipped from the film.

Akiko Trains (29 seconds)

Snake Eyes’ Sword Play (25 seconds)

Blind Master’s Kunai Throw (27 seconds)

House Attack (12 seconds)

Tommy Unleashed (33 seconds)

Enter Snake Eyes (9 minutes, 31 seconds): Golding and Koji talk about their respective characters, before it becomes a fairly interesting look at what it took to pull off that car chase sequence using mostly practical effects.

A Deadly Ensemble (6 minutes, 22 seconds): This featurette looks at the different characters in the film, and their origins in the comics.

Arashikage (6 minutes, 59 seconds): Looks at the history of the Arashikage, as well as the production design of the castle and fight choreography.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 121 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: October 19th, 2021

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