Is Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins a homage to 80s ninja pop culture? It is, to me.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Synopsis
Inspired by the popular G.I. Joe comic and toy franchise, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins depicts the events leading to the bitter animosity between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. As a boy, Snake Eyes witnessed his father’s brutal assassination, and in adulthood, the burning desire to enact vengeance pushes him into a shadowy deal with Kenta, a vicious Yakuza boss. To fulfil his end of the deal, Snake Eyes then infiltrates the Arashikage ninja clan by earning the trust of Tomisaburo a.k.a. Tommy, the next leader of the clan. Expectedly, Tommy’s genuine friendship and the insidious objectives of Kenta soon land Snake Eyes in a dilemma. Should he keep to his end of the agreement and decimate the Arashikage clan? Or should he forgo his only chance at revenge for the sake of brotherhood and honour?
Ninjas. Do you like ninjas?
I don’t know about today’s kids but back in the 80s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a boy who isn’t into these shadowy Japanese assassins. Or who isn’t at least entertained by their legends.
Much of this popularity is, of course, thanks to the many ninja movies, television series, and video games back then. Franchises which, in turn, gave birth to Snakes Eyes and Storm Shadow.
I mean, it was so obvious, wasn’t it? A franchise with the tag A Real American Hero having two opposing master ninjas. Mind you, this was the 1980s too, when cultural incorrectness and orientalism were considered entertaining. What other reason besides financial ones could there be behind the two characters’ creation?
But enough of my cultural musings and reminiscing. Am mentioning the above because the impression I had throughout Snake Eyes the 2021 movie is that it’s less a homage to the G.I. Joe toy series, or comics, and more of a celebration of 80s ninja pop culture.
Yeah. From the kickass granny to the exotic Japanese backdrops, to the mythical Sun Goddess gem and the revenge plot, the whole story is an 80s ninja movie given a modern makeover. The only things missing are mouthy ninja kids. (Thank goodness for that)
As for the actual quality of makeover, well, there are a couple of eye-catching combat moments but in all, I’m sorry to say the movie lacks any real drive or energy. The story developments are decent enough for a movie based on characters best remembered as toys. But none of the action sequences are coherent or expansive enough to be genuinely exhilarating. The supporting characters, sadly, are as shallow as the figurines they are based on too.
In fact, I should say the whole show is only kept alive by all those exotic Japanese moments, and the irresistible charisma of the two leads. Andrew Koji, in particular, adds an intense, furious layer to Storm Shadow. (Update 2022: The British Japanese actor did a great job in Bullet Train too)
Admittedly, this depiction is at odds in some ways with the earlier Lee Byung-Hun’s version. Nonetheless, for fans of the character, I feel the new complexity will appeal. Needless to say, the additions pave the way for a sequel too.
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