Henry Golding and Samara Weaving star in Paramount’s “Snake Eyes.”
Once again, a stellar cast can’t save the G.I. Joe franchise from a terrible script, critics say.
Paramount’s “Snake Eyes” arrives in theaters on Friday with a 41% “Rotten” score from Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate of 70 reviews.
The film stars Henry Golding (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as Snake Eyes, a rough and tumble loner who is out for revenge after witnessing the death of his father at a young age. Fans of Hasbro’s toy franchise know the character is destined to join up with the G.I. Joe team, a covert organization associated with the U.S. military forces.
“Snakes Eyes” takes some liberties with the source material, as it swaps out the blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian ninja from the comics for Golding, who is of Malaysian heritage. In previous iterations, Snake Eyes is also mute, the result of a helicopter explosion.
Part of the allure of the character was his ambiguous backstory. Much of Snake Eyes’ past is redacted in his files, although it is implied that he had extensive military training before joining up with the Joes.
“[‘Snake Eyes’] takes the most popular G.I. Joe character and totally demystifies him until all that’s left is a blandly hunky dude with a sword,” wrote Matt Singer in his review of the film for ScreenCrush. “In the earlier G.I. Joe movies, Snake Eyes never spoke. Now that I’ve heard what he has to say, I think I prefer the alternative.”
“Snake Eyes” was Paramount and Hasbro’s attempt at reinvigorating the G.I. Joe franchise, which fizzled after 2009’s “The Rise of Cobra” and 2013’s “Retaliation” failed to drum up demand, despite all-star casts.
“The Rise of Cobra” brought together Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and garnered a 34% “Rotten” score from Rotten Tomatoes. “Retaliation” added Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson and Elodie Yung and earned a 29% “Rotten” score.
“People typically rank Transformers as the worst franchise based on a toy line,” Singer wrote “What ‘Snake Eyes’ presupposes is, maybe it isn’t?”
Here’s what critics thought of “Snake Eyes” ahead of its Friday release in theaters.
Despite a legacy of “medium-defining hits” like “The Godfather,” “Forrest Gump” and “Titanic,” Paramount has spent the last decade producing big-budget franchise tentpoles that have “often sidestepped artful construction and individuality for generic reverse engineered merchandise vehicles,” wrote Brandon Katz in his review of “Snake Eyes” for Observer.
Many critics bemoaned the film’s thin script and slapdash attempts at character development, Katz included.
“The script is pockmarked with clichés, tropes and never-ending predictability,” he said.
Katz noted that the film was well-shot by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, but impressive fight sequences were often overpacked with shaky cam shots.
Still from “Snake Eyes.”
“Henry Golding has undeniable screen presence,” wrote Lindsey Bahr in her review of the film for Associated Press. “He’s handsome, sure. Lots of actors are. But Golding also has that effortless charisma that the biggest movie stars possess.”
While many critics agreed that Henry Golding has star power, the charismatic actor had limited material to showcase his talents.
“Snake Eyes” “completely misunderstands its star’s appeal,” Bahr said. “Golding is simply not the right actor for the part. He’s not exactly bad, just miscast and misused. And despite the novel trimmings and flash around him, his character is woefully generic.”
For Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post, Golding’s performance was as stiff as a “plastic toy.”
“To cut him some slack, though, Golding signed onto awful material that shouldn’t exist in the first place,” he wrote in his review.
Throughout the film, Snake Eyes ingratiates himself to an ancient Japanese ninja clan called the Arashikage. In order to gain membership into this clan, he must complete three deadly tasks. However, according to Oleksinski, these challenges are slow-going and do not service the story’s ultimate climax — Snake Eyes becoming a Joe.
At the end of the day “Snake Eyes” was “slightly better than the unrelenting vomit” of previous G.I. Joe iterations, he said, but still a ” joke-and-fun-free slog.”
Henry Golding stars in Paramount’s “Snake Eyes.”
The fight sequences promised in the trailer for “Snake Eyes” are “full of swordplay and gunfire,” but “choppily edited and somehow lackadaisical,” wrote Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times.
“It’s as though [director Robert] Schwentke was operating from a checklist of expected action-movie cliches and hurries through them all,” he wrote.
“Snake Eyes” also attempts to weave in fan-favorite characters from the G.I. Joe franchise including Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and the Baroness (Ursula Corbero). However, they are dropped “so haphazardly” into the story that their presence is confusing, Anderson said.
“You’re left scratching your head: ‘Who are these women?’ Answer: They’re along for the ride to set the stage for the inevitable sequels,” he wrote. “Spare us.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.