Snake Eyes (2021 film)
|Directed by||Robert Schwentke|
|Story by||Evan Spiliotopoulos|
|Edited by||Stuart Levy|
|Music by||Martin Todsharow|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$37 million|
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, or Snake Eyes, is a 2021 American superhero film directed by Robert Schwentke from a screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse. Based on Hasbro's G.I. Joe franchise, the film serves as an origin story for the title character, created by Larry Hama, in addition to being a reboot of the G.I. Joe film series. It stars Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, with Andrew Koji, Úrsula Corberó, Samara Weaving, Haruka Abe, Takehiro Hira, and Iko Uwais in supporting roles.
The project was first announced in May 2018, with Golding being cast in the titular role in August 2019 and the rest of the cast joining in subsequent months. After initial filming took place in Vancouver and Japan from October 2019 to February 2020, reshoots took place in March 2021.
Snake Eyes was theatrically released in the United States on July 23, 2021, by Paramount Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized the writing, editing and direction of the action scenes, but praised the performances and production values. The film was a box-office bomb, grossing $37 million worldwide against a $88 million budget and a $160–175 million break-even point.
A young boy is orphaned when his father is murdered. Years later, the boy has grown into a talented and deadly martial arts fighter, driven by a desire to avenge his father. To conceal his true identity, he calls himself "Snake Eyes", a name inspired by watching his father's murderer force him to roll a pair of weighted dice to determine his fate, killing him when he rolled double ones.
Discovered in an underground Los Angeles fighting circuit, a wealthy Yakuza boss, Kenta, offers to find his father's killer if Snake Eyes will work for him. When Snake Eyes is asked to prove his loyalty by shooting a man who betrayed Kenta's trust, Snake Eyes refuses and instead helps the traitor escape. The traitor is Kenta’s cousin, Tommy. Tommy and Kenta were both in line to lead the Arashikage clan, an ancient ninja society devoted to preserving order and fighting evil. Kenta sought to kill his cousin, but failed and was banished.
Grateful to Snake Eyes, Tommy takes him to his ninja dojo in Japan and asks that he be initiated as a member. The current clan leader, Sen, Tommy’s grandmother, agrees to let Snake Eyes undergo three trials to determine if he is worthy. The clan's head of security, Akiko, doesn’t trust Snake Eyes at first, but he wins her trust by revealing his father's murder and explains that is why there is no recorded history of him. Unbeknownst to anyone, Snake Eyes plans to betray his new allies. Tommy’s attempted murder and escape is shown to have been staged by Kenta in order to get Snake Eyes close enough to steal the clan's most sacred treasure, the "Jewel of the Sun", which has magical powers.
Snake Eyes finds himself increasingly torn between his guilt over betraying Tommy and his clan, and his overwhelming desire for revenge. He passes the first two trials with his exceptional talents, but the third and final trial requires his spirit to be tested by sacred anacondas, who can sense if he is truly pure of heart. Due to Snake Eyes’ secrets, the snakes attack him, but Akiko saves him from being killed. Confronted by the clan, Snake Eyes admits that he has not been entirely honest, but manages to hide the true reason he is there. As a consequence, he is expelled.
Snake Eyes returns in secret and steals the jewel using his knowledge of the clan's temple, delivering it to Kenta. Kenta explains that he is stealing the jewel on behalf of terrorist revolutionary organization Cobra. Cobra, through their liaison, the Baroness, has been arming Kenta with weapons so that he can seize control of the Arashikage clan. Snake Eyes receives his reward for stealing the jewel: his father’s killer, who turns out to be a Cobra agent. Having realized what his bloodlust has cost him, Snake Eyes spares the man and instead goes back to the Arashikage clan to warn them of Kenta's attack.
Tommy puts aside his anger and lets Snake Eyes assist him and the clan's warriors, including Scarlett, a member of the international peacekeeping organization G.I. Joe, in fighting off Kenta's men. After Kenta admits that he has no intention of handing over the jewel, the Baroness forms a temporary alliance with the Arashikage clan and Scarlett. With his men defeated, Kenta loses the jewel to Tommy, who in his fury tries to use its power to kill his cousin. Kenta manages to escape, but Snake Eyes traps him in the anaconda pit, where the snakes devour Kenta upon sensing his evil spirit. They judge Snake Eyes to now be pure of heart for forgoing his revenge and thus worthy of joining the ninja clan.
After the battle, Sen tells Tommy that he is no longer fit to lead the clan as he broke his vow never to use the jewel. Enraged at losing his birthright, Tommy forsakes the clan, his family and even vows to kill Snake Eyes should they ever meet again. Snake Eyes meets with Scarlett who, after explaining that his father was a G.I. Joe agent, offers him a chance to become a Joe.
In a mid-credits scene, on a private jet leaving Japan, the Baroness recruits Tommy into Cobra, as he renames himself "Storm Shadow".
- Henry Golding as Snake Eyes:
A lone fighter with a mysterious past, known only as "Snake Eyes", who is recruited into the secretive Clan Arashikage. The events of the film portray the character prior to becoming the heroic masked agent of the G.I. Joe organization. Max Archibald plays the young Snake Eyes.
- Andrew Koji as Tomisaburo "Tommy" Arashikage/Storm Shadow:
A skilled member and the heir of the Arashikage clan, and Snake Eyes' friend and brother-in-arms; who will eventually become his archenemy.
- Úrsula Corberó as Ana DeCobray/Baroness:
An elite operative at Cobra, a terrorist organization, who is second only to Cobra Commander.
- Samara Weaving as Major O'Hara/Scarlett:
An elite Major of G.I. Joe and ally of the Arashikage clan.
- Haruka Abe as Akiko:
The Arashikage clan's head of security; who forges a deep tie to Snake Eyes.
- Takehiro Hira as Kenta Takamura:
Tommy's cousin, a member of Cobra; who seeks control of the Arashikage clan.
- Iko Uwais as Hard Master:
A formidable mentor of the Arashikage clan and the uncle of Tommy.
- Peter Mensah as Blind Master:
A blind mentor of the Arashikage clan.
- Eri Ishida as Sen:
The leader of Clan Arashikage, and grandmother of Tommy.
- Steven Allerick as Snake Eyes' father
- Samuel Finzi as Mr. Augustine
- James Hiroyuki Liao as Yasuko
- Mojo Rawley as Bruiser Streetfighter
In May 2018, it was announced the next installment of the G.I. Joe franchise would be a spin-off film chronicling the origins of the character Snake Eyes. In December, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura stated that Ray Park, who had played the character in the previous films, would not reprise his role for the spin-off. Robert Schwentke was set as director the same month.
In August 2019, Henry Golding was cast to star in the title role. Andrew Koji was then cast as Storm Shadow, taking over the role from Lee Byung-hun, who played the character in the previous films. In September, Iko Uwais entered negotiations to join the film as Hard Master, and Úrsula Corberó was cast as Baroness. Uwais was confirmed in October, with Haruka Abe, Samara Weaving and Takehiro Hira added to the cast. Steven Allerick was announced as part of the cast in December. Golding's Instagram revealed that Peter Mensah would play Blind Master, taking over the role from RZA in the previous films.
Originally, Koji was not interested in a role in a GI Joe movie but ultimately couldn't pass the opportunity saying, "I thought about playing that character because I didn’t like the first two films. I can say that. I’m allowed to not like a film. So, I was hesitant, at first, to even accept that. That’s a big studio film and my first role in a big studio film, so I was very hesitant because I didn’t have that trust in Hollywood to do that. What Warrior taught me and the voice that it gave me helped my work on Storm Shadow. I don’t wanna play a character with a six-pack. I wanted him to be human and flawed. He’s going through stuff. For me, when I saw the first GI Joe films, I was like, ‘I don’t wanna do that. That’s not the kind of thing I want to do."
With Golding replacing Ray Park from the original GI Joe movies, writer Larry Hama said he took the recasting opportunity as a chance to “Some people are saying that casting Golding ‘fixes’ the character of Snake-Eyes, but I disagree. I had wanted to keep him ambiguous until Hasbro introduced Storm Shadow as the only Asian character and made him a bad guy. I decided to ‘fix’ that by delving into his background and gradually turning him into a good guy. This is why Snake-Eyes is a White guy.”
Filming began on October 15, 2019 in Vancouver and was expected to continue until December 9. Filming moved to Japan on January 10, 2020, and wrapped on February 26, 2020. Golding announced in March 2021 that reshoots for the film had occurred.
Snake Eyes was released on July 23, 2021 in Dolby Cinema and IMAX. It was originally scheduled for release on March 27, 2020, before being delayed to October 16, and then a week later to October 23, 2020. The film was then removed from the release schedule on July 27, 2020, due to nationwide theater closures in the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paramount later rescheduled the film for October 22, 2021, before it was moved up to July 23, 2021.
The film received a digital release on August 17, 2021, and it will be released to home media on October 19, 2021.
As of August 26, 2021[update], Snake Eyes has grossed $28.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $8.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $37 million. With a production budget of at least $88 million, the film will need to gross $160–175 million in order to break-even.
In the United States and Canada, Snake Eyes was released alongside Old and Joe Bell, and was projected to gross around $15 million from 3,521 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $5.5 million on its first day, including $1.4 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $13.4 million, finishing second at the box office, behind Old. The opening weekend, while in-line with projections, was deemed disappointing given the film's expensive production and promotional costs, and blamed on the ongoing pandemic, lukewarm critical reviews, and audiences being more selective of what films they were seeing in theaters than in a normal marketplace. The film fell 70% to $4 million in its sophomore weekend, finishing seventh, then made $1.6 million in its third weekend, dropping to eighth.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 37% based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Far from silent and not particularly deadly, Snake Eyes serves as a step up for the G.I. Joe franchise, thanks in no small part to Henry Golding's work in the title role." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 69% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 46% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club wrote, "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins doesn't reach the giddy, earnest heights of something like Aquaman or a Wachowski project. It methodically sets up sequels—to be recast and released around 2030, judging by the Joes's cinematic track record so far. But the dubiousness of its present-day achievement, the sheer ludicrousness of making the best G.I. Joe movie in 2021, is part of the dumbfounding fun." Variety's Owen Gleiberman said the film "looks almost nothing like a G.I. Joe movie," and wrote, "Snake Eyes, as directed by Robert Schwentke... has style and verve, with a diabolical family plot that creates a reasonable quota of actual drama. The movie is also a synthetic but infectiously skillful big-studio hodgepodge of ninja films, wuxia films, yakuza films, and international revenge films." Writing for /Film, Hoai-Tran Bui said that "[the] fight scenes are almost exclusively shot in close-up and shaky cam, and when they're not, they're edited so much that Snake Eyes might as well have shredded the frames with his sword." Bilge Ebiri of Vulture gave the film a negative review, criticizing the action sequences, story, and dialogue, but praised the film for its visuals and production values, writing "The action in Snake Eyes is instantly forgettable, even if the locations and costumes are sometimes fun. You can occasionally sense director Robert Schwentke ... trying to assert some visual imagination. There’s one rain-soaked, neon-drenched street fight featuring long takes and swooping camera moves that gave me some early cause for hope, and Alec Hammond’s production design, particularly at the Arashikage Clan’s compound, occasionally enchants."
Glen Kenny of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, and criticized the story. He wrote "The plot points above are real; however, [it] bears only coincidental resemblance to an art film. But such are the longueurs of this would-be slam-bang blockbuster directed by Robert Schwentke, that it sure does inspire woolgathering ... For an ostensible action hero, Henry Golding in the title role does an awful lot of standing around and looking tense. The mayhem is frantic yet forgettable, and the possibly inadvertent goofiness extends from dialogue humdingers like 'For 600 years, our ninjas have brought peace and stability to Japan' to a central-casting villainess who looks like she has a side gig as a dominatrix." Johnny Oleksinki of New York Post rated the film 2 out of 4 stars, and wrote "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." Soren Andersen of The Seattle Times rated the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, and wrote " The fight scenes, full of swordplay and gunfire, are choppily edited and somehow lackadaisical. It's as though Schwentke was operating from a checklist of expected action-movie clichés and hurries through them all." He also went on to criticize Henry Golding's performance, writing "That guy [Snake Eyes] is supposed to be a super ninja. Lithe and limber. Tough and toned. An enigma. A loner. A total badass. Golding is none of those. Crazy Rich Asians revealed his forte as being a sexy smoothie. Easy on the eyes. Effortlessly engaging. Not the skill set for Mr. Snake Eyes" and said he lacked "presence".
In May 2020, a follow-up film was announced to be in development, with a script co-written by Shrapnel and Waterhouse, and Golding reprising his role. di Bonaventura will return as producer, while the project will be a joint-venture production between Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Entertainment One and di Bonaventura Pictures.
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