Snake Eyes: Golding Strikes!
I’m Luis Garcia, an up and coming filmmaker, screenwriter, podcast host, and now a new writer for The Nerd Corps. I have a lot of views when talking about movies but the biggest concerns always reach the question of “Was the movie enjoyable to watch once, let alone multiple times?” and if an action movie “Does it reach the level of holy *bleep* of stunt choreography?”
It’s been quite a while since I was able to attend a new movie in the theaters. But thankfully my first time back since 2020 was to watch Henry Golding lead “Snake Eyes: G.I Origins”, and since I personally like his last roles, I was excited to head to the theater and see his latest film.
The 2021 film is based on one of the Hasbro’s G.I Joe characters, Snake Eyes, G.I Joe being a franchise based on military styled world organization built on stopping the big bads of the world all while being a secret. Snake Eyes is a fan favorite, if you’re into the G.I Joe’s you’d be able to see why. He is a man with a complicated past and a future being built on fixing the past’s consequences. Since this character is a fan favorite, it wasn’t a surprise to ultimately get a solo film based on his story, and who better to get than the ever growing Henry Golding to play the lead.
Snake Eyes, directed by Robert Schwentke, brings forth a new aspect that usually isn’t included in modern american made films dealing with martial art oriented stories. This movie bring an balanced mix by having the superhero structure, like a DC or Marvel movie would have, but doesn’t just go with brute strength in the action. Being a film that has Kenji Tanigaki, Bryan Sloyer, Kimani Ray Smith, and Travis Wong as stunt choreographers, it’s an platter to fill a fight choreography enthusiast’s stomach, not to mention having Henry Golding showing his fighting abilities. In addition, having people like Iko Uwais and Andrew Koji in the cast, who are known for being from the martial arts world and bringing that into the industry adds bonus points to go watch this film. Now this movie isn’t perfection, not that anything could reach such a level if you want to reach all types of audiences, but if you are looking for a movie that will have action, is enjoyable to watch and you can go to see with friends or family, Snake Eyes: G.I Origins is a great watch.
Henry Golding has been growing since appearing in as a lead role in the feature film Crazy Rich Asians, which was a major box office success. Since then gaining role after role he’s caught the attention of many viewers, although majority of them have been dramas, up until now he hasn’t gotten a role in the action genre.
For this film he had to learn to adapt to taking some hits, while also given some, as he’s mentioned;
“You have to DRILL those fight scenes until you both can do it with your eyes closed.”-Henry Golding, ET Canada Interview
Like I’ve mentioned, Golding’s majority of filmography stem from the drama genre, sometimes mixed in with some comedy. Switching from these two very distinct areas to action might be shown in an actor’s choice of performance, yet Golding transitions his skills smoothly, having his top game be shown in dialogue while also having any intense dialogue in a scene that has to have a lot of movement. Although, sometimes learning new skills can be hard when trying them alone, thankfully he had great people having his back in learning his new skills, such as his co-star Andrew Koji.
Koji comes from a background of martial arts, as well as in the film industry. He’s currently starring in a cinemax show called Warrior, which if not familiar was thought up by nun other than Bruce Lee himself. Sadly Lee could not take it into production but it’s safe to say his idea is in the right hands, not only having incredible people working on it but passionate martial artists.
Like any other form of relationship, one between stars is important as it can be a telling on screen by the audience whether or not actors get along, and both Golding’s and Koji’s chemistry is out of this world. One could be fooled to think that characters had a past in real life or in the case of Golding and Koji they would be believed to be actual close “siblings”. When you see them bonding, talking or fighting together they mix incredibly well. This is important, especially when acting and doing fighting scenes together as one needs to trust the other when potentially gaining contact in a hit, or when characters need to fight together to make it look like they each know what the other may be thinking without any lines or little indications. Snake Eyes does an incredible job working in it’s fight scenes, which are an important aspect in this film. Both actors, if not all the characters, move a scene with smoothness, as to be expected especially when they spent days, evening and nights working on the steps together.
Of course not only talking about the actors who do the steps we also have to talk about the person behind the steps, the one who created it, Kenji Tanigaki. If your not familiar with Mr. Tanigaki, hes Donnie Yen’s “right hand man” as Golding described it, as well as having worked with Jackie Chan, just to place two names to his level in stunt choreography. The cast described working with Mr. Tanigaki as a nice experience yet pushing one’s limits, not only learning from the very best but being taught proper forms in real life martial arts. I describe this movie as an American made film structure while having proper and more realistic fights than what we would see in other items such as DC or Marvel movies. Not to discredit their work in stunts, but their use of it to show fights is a little downgrade when comparing it to this film. Normally a hero would use their superhuman powers, or brute strength and so on but with this hero film we get the technique that is true to what the real world has used.
Now I could go on about that particular area in this film but I also want to share my thoughts on the other actors, specifically the actresses. Snake Eyes doesn’t fall short to show the lethality of women, as we can see how badass they can be having Akiko, Sen, Baroness, and Scarlett all on screen. Akiko, played by Haruka Abe, is the head of security for the Arashikage clan and is a big face for this film. She is a major character that helps Snake Eyes figure himself out, as well as being there for Tommy(Koji’s character) helping him on their missions. She wields a staff that doubles as kendo sticks, using them as her primary choice. She brings forth the character’s emotional ties towards Snake Eyes and Tommy throughout the movie from the caution with Snake Eyes in the beginning and Tommy’s leaving in the end. Although the film isn’t oriented around her I would say she is on equal footing with Golding and Koji. Now we have 3 characters that have smaller scenes that still show their power, Sen (played by Eri Ishida) who is the Arashikage clan leader and grandmother of Tommy, she has fewer scenes where she shows her abilities taking out enemies with only a sensu which is a foldable paper fan. If that isn’t what we call badass I don’t know what is. Next we have both Baroness, played by Úrsula Corberó, and Scarlett, played by Samara Weaving, who are major characters from the original material of G.I Joe. Although they have minimal appearances in the overall film their presence is made very clear and their fighting scenes are good nonetheless. And to mention, although it isn’t Weaving’s first rodeo in a major film coming from her award winning Ready or Not feature film, it is Corberó’s first feature film. It was surprising to know, especially after seeing her performance as Baroness in this movie. Her character, while only showing up a good amount of times, was sold to me and the want to see more of the her story and her appearance grows.
Now although I love my sweets first, coming from a filmmaker’s background I must bring some critiques into the this. While the choreography was amazing, the camera work lacked not that it failed but more so that certain shot choices took away from scenes. During a majority of the action scenes I believe Robert Schwentke, who directed this film, chose some shots that caused the scene to lose some of its traction, specifically talking about the shaking and what I imagine to be hand held camera shots during the fights. I’m not against using “shaky cam” for shots but when it’s longer than a few seconds in an already high movement frame its a cause for motion sickness, whether you are prone easily to it or not. It was included in what I would call dancing the line of abusing it, it’s not abusing it but it is very close. Aside from that particular camera critique, some dialogue was lose ended, I don’t blame the actors and actresses for how they delivered the line, they did the best they could with what they had. Yet some lines were at the point of not making sense or just unnecessary. Of course some are a thing of context, others I would say were written in a first pass and never looked at again.
Of course these are of my own personal experiences and could be completely fine for other viewers so I would advise to take it with a grain of salt if you haven’t already viewed the movie. Overall it is these two simple things that caused little problems for me.
Nun the less I enjoyed Snake Eyes: G.I Joe Origins and do recommend you go watch the film. It not only is a step forward for Asian representation in superhero films, not to mention the upcoming of Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings but overall a great way of introducing old characters to a new generation. I will definitely be watching this movie once it arrives on VOD. But don’t take my word for it go watch it, let me know what you think, till next time, peace.