Final Verdict: A Cobra propaganda film for Paramount Pictures to stop making G. I. Joe Movies.
About The Film
My childhood nostalgia reminds me that the G. I. Joe cartoon series and action figures were awesome. My adult cynicism warns me that every live action G. I. Joe movie attempt has been an absolute abomination. It was therefore with welcome surprise that the trailers for Snake Eyes looked good. Really good, actually. But alas, the adult world is a cruel place, and we can’t have nice things. This. Movie. Stinks.
It’s a shame. At a bare bones level, there was potential for a good movie. Actor Henry Golding is a future superstar and the story begins as a compelling and more grounded action/revenge film. The problem is the other half dozen film ideas—all with contrasting tones and story directions—piled on top that original idea. Snake Eyes feels like Paramount Pictures had five or six different scripts laying around, couldn’t decide which one to make, and so tried to make them all in the same movie.
Without exception, every “G. I. Joe” element is awful and unquestionably the worst part of the movie. About halfway through its runtime, the movie takes a jarring turn and goes from a cool Asian-action film to a “The studio really wants to set up new G. I Joe franchise” film. I fully understand that the franchisee is based on a children’s cartoon, but icon characters, Scarlet (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Úrsula Corberó), are so over-the-top cartoonish that they’d probably feel silly in the actual cartoon.
Even the action scenes become a bore. There is nothing overly clever about the choreography (or explanation for how Snake Eyes suddenly becomes an unstoppable ninja warrior). The action moves so fast with so many shaky camera cuts, that I found myself just waiting until it was over to determine what happened and who won.
In the end, Snake Eyes starts well but becomes increasingly outlandish until, by the end, it balances on a ninja blade between silly fun and full parody. Snake Eyes was intended to relaunch the franchise, but this slog of a film may prove more devastating to those reboot plans than anything the evil Cobra could conjure.
Profanity: 1 F-Bomb, several minor profanities, and at least one sexual innuendo.
Violence: Countless characters are killed but the violence is not bloody or gratuitous.
Engage the Film
Sin & Judgment
One of the few unified themes is the weight and consequences of sin and unforgiveness. Almost all the primary characters harbor a grudge against others for a past wrong. Despite the many ninja action scenes, the most interesting conflict is internal, as Snake Eyes wrestles against his anger and unforgiveness toward the man who murdered his father. There is an echo of the Apostle Paul writing in Romans 7, doing the things he does not want to do and not doing the things he does want to do. Throughout the film, Snake Eyes receives multiple chances to do the right thing and have a “pure heart,” but his unforgivness enslaves him. In different ways, the film demonstrates how forgiveness can both liberate a “bad” person, and also ruin a “good” person. A tainted heart will not remain hidden for long.
A related theme deals with judgment. Many different times in the film a character either stands in judgment or stands in judgment over others. There is almost a parable of Matthew 7:5, where characters are quick to pass judgement on others, but fall short when judgment is passed on themselves from a higher source (in this case, represented by three giant magic snakes. Yes, it’s weird). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and ultimately it is not up to us to stand as judge over humanity.
The Slippery Slope of Modernization
Although minor and not explored in much depth (or with much consistency), the film also offers a timely lesson for the church and its relation to modern culture. The Arashikage Clan who bring Snake Eyes into their midst are ancient guardians of a powerful weapon and protectors of peace. Some of the story’s tension deals with how the clan will adapt to a modern and changing world. There is a push by some of its leaders to abandon old customs and begin to modernize. While not all the consequences of this decision are negative or harmful, the movie showcases how adapting to modern times can potentially lead down the path to eventually become the very thing you once stood against. Things must change and evolve, but at what point do is the original identify lost?