"I'll just get my gear."

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

I had been pretty excited for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS, but I was skeptical about director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) so when it came out and everybody said the action scenes were unwatchable I put off seeing it. I don’t know if the tempering of expectations helped, but catching up with it on video I found it was pretty much the enjoyable studio b-movie I had been hoping for.

Maybe there’s a better word for that, but it’s a category I appreciate: mainstream studio theatrical releases with huge budgets compared to the DTV stuff we love, but without any expectations of either being giant hits or critical successes. Unpretentious, crassly commercial movies, sometimes seemingly out of touch with what is considered cool at the moment, all generally seen as lowbrow also-rans, whether or not their creators had higher aspirations. Stuff like non-FAST Vin Diesel movies, most of the video game and/or Milla Jovovich movies, fantasy sword guy movies, Rob Cohen and P.W.S. Anderson movies. I know not to hold them to my normally stringent artistic standards and just hope for a satisfying mix of pretty cool, kinda stupid, hopefully excessive in some goofy way, maybe in some ways better than most people were gonna give them credit for.

From the last couple year’s releases I think I would include HELLBOY, CHARLIE’S ANGELS, UNDERWATER, BLOODSHOT, THE NEW MUTANTS, MONSTER HUNTER, MORTAL KOMBAT, VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, and maybe THE KING’S MAN to be in this category. I’ve seen most, not all of those, didn’t hate most of them, but would put this on the more positive end of that spectrum. It’s got a heightened but not too winky tone, some colorful gimmicks, a great cast and a fun story. And most of all it takes the resources of that type of movie and puts them toward a genre I very much enjoy: the American ninja movie.

This font choice makes more sense in the context of the credits, but I love it even more out of context

Okay, let’s get this over with: this is based on Hasbro’s GI Joe toy brand and related cartoon and comic book works. And yes, it is madness to try to sell a movie to the niche market of “people who care about the GI Joe character Snake Eyes” but then make the movie not about most of the things those people like about the character. If you’re not familiar, he’s a mysterious ninja who does not speak and always wears a blank mask. But here they have a prequel explaining away some of the mystery, starring Henry Golding, using his trademark handsome face and voice throughout. At the very end he puts on the mask and drives away, but he still talks, and is gonna take it off as soon as he parks his motorcycle. So the movie pretty much misses every single thing people like about him except that he’s a ninja.

But as I said, that’s what I wanted. A ninja movie. And this is a ninja movie.

It begins with a pretty standard origin prologue: a young boy (Max Archibald, The 100) is with his father (Steven Allerick, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III: UNFINISHED BUSINESS) in a cabin, bad men show up to exact some sort of retribution, kill the father in front of the boy. First they make him roll dice to decide his fate, inspiring the kid’s nickname 20 years later when he’s played by Golding and dedicating his life to vengeance.

Like the main character in this year’s MORTAL KOMBAT (one of the studio b-movies I feel this is better than), adult Snake Eyes is introduced in an underground fighting circuit, and somebody approaches him in the locker room with an offer he’s resistant to. In this case it’s Yakuza boss Kenta Takamura (Takehiro Hira, HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI) and he convinces him to come work for him by promising to find the identity of his father’s killer.

While he’s working as a lowly employee slicing fish to hide guns inside, he’s asked to prove his loyalty by executing a co-worker said to be a traitor. Tomi (Andrew Koji, Warrior) is the boss’s cousin, a swaggering toothpick chewer with flashy jewelry and Yakuza collar who calls Snake Eyes “Fish Boy.” It only occurs to me now that normally you’re not supposed to like a character like that, making it extra merciful when the hero refuses to kill him. But Koji is so charismatic of course Snake Eyes helps him fight off the rest of the gang and escape.

On the left there. That guy’s cool, right?

Next thing he knows they’re on Tomi’s private jet headed for a private ninja compound in Tokyo, where Tomi pressures him to join the Arashikage ninja clan. It’s run by Tomi’s grandma Sen (Eri Ishida, LOST GIRLS & LOVE HOTELS) aided by head of security Akiko (Haruka Abe, CRUELLA), who doesn’t trust Snake Eyes.

I believe Snake Eyes is American and Golding is sort of doing the accent. He wears a weathered Tom Cruise style motorcycle jacket, or sometimes a grey hoodie under a jacket, both code for a cool but regular working class guy. Fish Boy is a fish out of water when faced with all this ninja clan shit. But also it’s gotta be flattering to be asked to join an ancient ninja order. It hasn’t happened to me so far, so I can only imagine. But he sort of reluctantly agrees to undergo “the three trials,” where if he fails he dies (they say) and if he succeeds he has to pledge his life to ninjadom. That’s a scary decision for a guy who we know is a loner and individualist because he seems suspicious of the clan and lies in order to steal one of Tomi’s motorcycles and sneak off into the city on his own. And some of that is redundant because as I have noted many times, in action movies riding a motorcycle is shorthand for being a loner and individualist.

Still, he decides to go for it, and this is why I can’t resist this movie: We get rituals, training, challenges, montages of climbing stone walls and dodging arrows and logs in the woods. Tomi gives Snake Eyes a sword called “Morning Light” and mystical wisdom like “It’s easy to shoot with a gun, but the sword is a weapon of honor,” and “Abandon ego, strike with honor, selflessness and truthfulness will lead to harmony.” There are not one but two badass senseis to test Snake Eyes. Peter Mensah (JASON X) plays the accurately named Blind Master, and I like him, though unfortunately I remember that RZA played that character in GI JOE: RETALIATION and did a bunch of cool RZA narration, so I miss that. Oh well. Not his fault. I’m more excited about the great Iko Uwais of MERANTAU/THE RAID/HEADSHOT/THE NIGHT COMES FOR US/TRIPLE THREAT etc. playing Hard Master. He honestly gets more to do than I expected – it’s good for one of these “incredible international action star plays small role in Hollywood movie” type deals. A better use of him than THE FORCE AWAKENS, that’s for sure.

Before Snake Eyes can be trained he has three chances to take a bowl of water from Hard Master’s hand without spilling it or his own bowl of water. And the solution is the most counterintuitive one. I can’t escape it, I always love that kinda shit.

Then there’s the stuff that you might not get in a normal low budget ninja movie but you do in the studio b-movie version. That includes a pit fight against giant CG snakes (it’s cooler than it sounds) and a rainy battle on a big soundstage set of neon-decked Tokyo rooftops and alleyways, with cool camera moves like the one gliding over five people in a sword fight, up to Kenta standing on a roof watching and around behind him looking down as the fight continues. (Cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli, KING OF NEW YORK, DEEP COVER, THE RING, THE LONE RANGER.)

Maybe the best action sequence is a big motorcycle chase/car carrier sword fight, which has some well done FX and camera moves making it a descendent of the MATRIX RELOADED freeway chase (with a little VILLAINESS influence on the side).

Fight coordinator/second unit director Kenji Tanigaki – a long time Donnie Yen collaborator who choreographed KILL ZONE, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, LEGEND OF THE FIST and THE LOST BLADESMAN – is one of the movie’s strengths, but also I think the reason some action fans were hard on it. Undeniably the action here doesn’t match the incredible work he’s done on the RUROUNI KENSHIN series, and many say it was ruined by the camerawork and the editing (credited to Stuart Levy, JESUS’ SON, RED EYE, SAVAGES, FOXCATCHER).

Yeah, I noticed some bumpy handheld stuff (not too bad), some mild disorientation, and one part where I thought they blew an opportunity. When Tomi summons Fish Boy from the gutting table to the meeting he tells him “Leave the knife.” Snake Eyes thinks about it, stabs the yellow-handled knife into the table, and the camera holds on it vibrating as the two walk away. When the two have to fight off the whole gang two minutes later, you just know he’s gonna have to make it way back to his knife, right? Well, no. A whip pan across the warehouse is him looking at the exit, not the weapon, and then all the sudden he has a different black-handled knife.

Still, it’s a pretty cool fight, a highlight being when Tomi gestures to the ropes on his wrists and leaps up over Snake Eyes as he runs through and slices them.

I think there’s alot of good camera movement and visual storytelling, setting up the sides facing off, showing them running toward each other, showing the differences in discipline with Tomi’s two-sworded ninja pose next to Snake Eyes clutching a small knife poised for a street fight (a comparison that’s revisited in the climax, by which time they both have swords and pose similarly). And that first sequence ends with them driving a stolen truck with so many swords stuck through it it looks like an iron maiden. How can I not appreciate that image? In the rare case where a movie like this is made on a budget that allows stabbing a truck with dozens of swords, there’s kind of a responsibility to stab a truck with dozens of swords. But most movies do not live up to that responsibility.

I’m not claiming it’s up to the international state-of-the-art of action filmmaking, but it’s definitely above average enough for me to have fun with it. There is some good stuff in here, if not greatness.

I was gonna say the weakest part was the GI Joe shit, but I guess the ninja shit is GI Joe shit. So unfortunately the weakest part is the white people. There’s a scene 51 minutes in where Snake Eyes barges in on a weapons sale, and the Cobra logo is visible on some crates, and I thought that was cool – a nod to this taking place in the GI Joe world without going full-on into it. But then Akiko says “Let’s call Scarlett” and calls Scarlett (Samara Weaving, THE BABYSITTER, READY OR NOT) of “elite global counterterrorism unit” GI Joe, who is trailing The Baroness (Ursula Corbero, THE EMOJI MOVIE) from Cobra, “a secret network of terrorist cells, crime syndicates, arms manufacturers and paramilitary groups linked under a single centralized command, a shadow organization devoted to bringing about global revolution through violence, extortion and fear.”

Corbero captures the hot/gross dichotomy of the character pretty well, but never seems like a more interesting threat than the already established villains of the movie, and this is maybe the first time I’ve seen Weaving not be the best thing in a movie. Not that she’s terrible, but I think the task of delivering lingo-heavy exposition in a cartoon-tough voice doesn’t really mesh with her natural charm.

Fortunately there’s not that much spent on those two, they just become participants in the big battle when the Yakuzas show up at the ninja compound. This is a cool climax because Blind Master and Hard Master have been set up as these great mentors, and Sen as the leader, and now we get to see all three of them go into action to protect their clan.

Action complaints aside, I wonder if this would’ve gone over better if it had been called SNAKE & SHADOW or something. I give the script by Evan Spiliotopoulos (POOH’S HEFFALUMP MOVIE, BATTLE FOR TERRA, HERCULES [2014], BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, CHARLIE’S ANGELS), Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse (FRANKIE & ALICE, RACE) credit for pushing the notions of good guy vs. bad guy a little. When I was a kid, we had these toys that were broken up into “good guys” and “bad guys,” but if there was a character like a Boba Fett or somebody that we interpreted as being neutral, that was always the coolest one. And I think the brotherhood and betrayal melodrama between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow made them fall into that category.

(plot twist spoilers coming up)

This is basically an undercover movie, but in those you usually know the hero is undercover by the time he’s struggling with guilt over it, if not from the very beginning. In this one it’s not until 39 minutes in that we learn that when Snake Eyes saved Tomi – the primary heroic choice and basis for the relationship at the center of the movie – it was a set up to gain his trust and steal a magic jewel from the dojo for Kenta. I think it’s an interesting twist on the formula because we, the audience, feel betrayed even before Tomi does. Motherfucker, we believed in you!

And then when he fails the third trial by keeping secrets and is ejected from the clan, but apologizes and becomes blood brothers with Tomi (who lets him keep the cool sword!) I was touched by that shit. So when I realized it was a ploy to get Tomi’s DNA to unlock the vault it was such a violation! I couldn’t believe the title character was doing that so late in the movie! For the last half hour he tries to undo his wrong, but you can understand why at the end Tomi wants him dead.

But also, Tomi is wrong! He was right for most of the movie, but it’s his own violation of the clan’s oath that prevents him from inheriting leadership. When he throws a fit and yells about his “blood right,” it reveals that he was never as pure or honorable as he seemed. So in the end the “bad guy” and “good guy” we’re left with are a former good guy trying to get revenge against the hero and a former bad guy trying to redeem himself by trying to redeem the other guy. I really would’ve been up for the continuation of that story, though like all GI Joe movies this surely failed to kick off the franchise they were planning.

For what it’s worth, this is easily the most solid of the three live action GI JOE movies, though I loved aspects of RETALIATION and got a kick out of the awe inspiring lunkheaded crappiness of Stephen Sommers’ G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.

And that’s all I have to say about SNAKE EYES except that sometimes they just call him “Snake” for short, which is probly what I would call him too if I felt comfortable enough.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 4th, 2022 at 11:08 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

32 Responses to “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins”

  1. Oh, Bojan Bazelli shot this? Well, I’ll probably be watching it then.

    I remember while I was watching the Lone Ranger I was thinking “this is the best looking tentpole movie I’ve seen in a long, long time” So at the end, when I saw “Director of Photography: Bojan Bazelli” I was like “Oh, makes sense…” I thought he was still retired at that point.

  2. This one never achieves escape velocity from the franchise bullshit holding it down, but I do appreciate a 2021 studio tentpole based on a children’s toy that makes its audience sit with a main character who is a total asshole for pretty much the entire running time. Not trying to brag, but I figured out the twist pretty much instantly so the whole movie I’m wondering how they’re going to redeem him from his epic cockery. And they assuredly did not, which I also appreciate. These things are usually machine-tooled to elicit audience sympathy, so it’s cool to see one that ventured so far away from that that it was impossible to come back. Nothing Snake Eyes does at the end of the movie makes up for what a selfish dick he was for the rest of the movie, and I don’t know, that might not be the intent, but that’s kind of interesting. It would be even more so if the script didn’t insist that, actually he’s a hero now actually, when he very much is not. He didn’t even save the day or anything, he just pitched it in to clean up the mess he 100% made himself. No wonder he stopped showing his face.

    The movie overall is adequate but this fuckin’ Schwentke guy should still never be allowed on a movie set for the rest of his life. He already made a charmless movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, two of the most charming motherfuckers walking the earth, and now he’s directed Samara Weaving, one of the most unforgettable women of her generation, to a forgettable performance. Anybody who can do some shit like that has got to be cursed.

  3. It’s also a new twist on the anti-revenge message. It’s not just immoral, it also takes over your life and makes you a selfish dick. And I like that SPOILER when he ends up letting his father’s killer go he does not find out some new information that made what happened less evil, or find out the guy had a family, or that he had since changed his ways. He had been a member of Cobra until recently being kicked out as a gift to Snake Eyes! But Snake didn’t need any of those standard things to push him to do the right thing.

  4. But Snake DID get new information. He learned that his father’s killer was working for Cobra. Effectively he just transferred his need for vengeance from one guy to the larger Cobra organization–and in a totally stupid way.

    I’m gonna take issue with the ‘anti-revenge message’ thing, because that’s this movie’s problem in a nutshell. It’s very much a movie-shaped movie. There’s no thought put into it except “what would happen if this were a Marvel movie, OH GOD I wish we were making a Marvel movie” (Snake himself gets the “snarker snarking about how dumb all of this is” characterization that drags down every MCU thing–remember when he called Iko Uwais “Hard-On Master”?). So Snake* finally catches up with his father’s killer, a Cobra terrorist who says he doesn’t even remember killing Snake Dad because he’s killed so many innocent people. Naturally, Snake… cuts him loose and lets him go free. Because, you know, that’s what would happen in Batman Forever or whatever other lazy franchise slop they so desperately want to emulate. Shouldn’t Snake put the guy in jail? Or kill him anyway and THEN try to save the world? No, he just does the absolute dumbest thing and lets this mass murderer wander free and the movie wants us to see this as moral growth.

    It’s a movie so dumb, they repeat the exact same scene THREE times.

    Snake: I don’t want to do this anymore! The ninjas are my friends!

    Bad guy: But if you stop working with us, we won’t help you find your father’s killer.

    Snake: OH SHIT, THAT’S RIGHT.

    And if we’re going to praise this shit for being a ‘big-budget’ take on a B-movie staple like ninjas, shouldn’t it actually have more spectacle and polish than your average ninja B-movie? The story is worse *and* the action is worse than any given Jet Li or Jackie Chan movie. Even the American ones where they team up with Bernie Mac or whoever. Half the movie takes place at night, with everyone wearing black. They get into a fight. We cut every four seconds, at obscure angles, with the camera shaking so that we barely know what we’re looking at before it cuts away. Then, instead of the action scene even finding a rhythm, we cut away at random to another fight in a different location, just long enough to forget what was going on, so when we cut back at random, we’re even more confused than we already are.

    So many fight scenes are a group of twenty bad guys running at the heroes, then a bunch of random shots of weapons being swung around, then I guess all the bad guys are dead? It should be thrilling and impressive to see these ninjas win against overwhelming odds, but instead you get the cinematic equivalent of an eight-year-old mashing buttons to win at Street Fighter.

    *(why does he call himself that when his father died when he was clearly old enough to have been named and to remember his name? Just introduce yourself as Mark or whatever, ya weirdo)

  5. To clarify, I wasn’t trying to say this has some powerful anti-revenge message. I like when Majestyk has made fun of movies that act like “revenge/vigilantism is bad” is some kind of bold statement people need to consider, so I wanted to point out this more forgiving variation of the trope. If it was done on accident it doesn’t change that I appreciate it.

    Yes, I prefer Florentine’s two ninja movies, but I’ve seen plenty of ninja movies with nothing to match the warehouse fight, the alley/rooftop fight and obviously the highway/motorcycle/car carrier fight. Not to mention the giant snakes, leads as compelling as Golding and Koji, big cool sets and especially all the cool crane shots. If Florentine ever gets those resources I’m sure he’ll make something better, but until then I can appreciate the novelty of this one.

    (Oh man, he would’ve been a great director for this.)

  6. So true, Vern. Florentine would’ve been a great choice for this.

    I didn’t care for Snake Eyes. Golding’s character is totally unlikeable. You could cut out Samara Weaving’s Lady Jaye and it wouldn’t make a difference at all.

  7. I plan to see this but I doubt it’ll compare to the Somers’ delicious cheese fest.

    Just popped in to suggest Vern might want to revisit the Cannon ninja flicks, they’re only here in early and mostly short reviews, particularly Revenge of the Ninja.

  8. Ah Jesus, am reminded anew what a piece of shit this one is!

    The only SNAKE EYES I will henceforth acknowledge is an underrated De Palma-directed, Cage-starring crackerjack thriller.

  9. Majestyk, I think you really should try to watch Schwentke’s German movies, if they are available for you somehow. Maybe not his SESEVENEN ripoff TATTOO first. That one mostly works if you know how difficult it is to get something like that made in Germany, so you can be impressed by its production values and content, although it’s still a competent.

    Not going to defend his Hollywood output though. I’m happy for him being able to work with iconic actors, budgets that German directors can only dream of and in genres that the German movie industry wouldn’t dare to touch, but he obviously isn’t really good at that. I mean, his best two American directorial works are FLIGHTPLAN and the LIE TO ME pilot, so…yeah.

  10. *competent serial killer thriller.

  11. CJ, I meant to mention this but forgot. I recently watched a German film from 1970 called DEADLOCK. Pretty cool contemporary spaghetti western riff. The director (whose name I forget) did several interviews on the disc spaced out over decades that made it clear that the problem of the German film industry rejecting any kind of commercial cinema existed back then too. He claimed that critics and other filmmakers got mad at him for making a film that endeavored to entertain the audience and make a profit, the thinking being that if films could sustain themselves through ticket sales alone, then the government subsidies for art films would dry up. Thus the goal for most German directors was to make purposely unentertaining films that could be defended on artistic merits but had no chance of making money and thus eliminating the need for subsidies and forcing the filmmakers to work for a living. I have no idea how true any of this is but it seems like you Germans have a long history of this kind of distrust of popular entertainment.

  12. That is an interesting theory, although I’m not sure if this is true.

    But yeah, the fun part of the German movie industry didn’t survive the 70s and the rise of the intellectual Autorenfilm of Fassbender, Herzog and co. (Nothing against these guys. They made some great stuff.) The German post-War cinema of the 50s and 60s is damn entertaining. Sure, often damn cheesy and not always watchable by today’s standards, but we made Western, horror movies, secret agent flicks, musicals, etc, and they were big smash hits! These days German studios only seem to fund comedies, kids movies and of course the ever popular-with-the-Oscars Nazi drama. (Sorry for repeating myself over and over when it comes to this topic.)

  13. Yeah, I definitely took the director (Roland Klick, I now recall) and his assessment of the situation with a grain of salt, because while it might have merit, it also served as a handy justification for why his work never received the critical adulation he felt it deserved.

    I’d recommend DEADLOCK, though. Very cool soundtrack by Can (credited, I believe, as The Can) and a sparse but garish tone like a dryer, more psychological Leone western. Its premise (three archetypes vie for a bag of money and vibe at an isolated outpost) reminded me a lot of the recent spaghetti western pastiche LET THE CORPSES TAN, only a lot less pretentious.

  14. Disregard “and vibe” from that last comment. It’s just an editing artifact but it makes it sound like I am the type of person who uses “vibe” as a verb and that is not something I can live with.

  15. This was aggressively OK, or background noise. Like WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY was to RESIDENT EVIL, I guess this is the best of the JOE films so far but to repurpose an old pro wrestling quote that Jim Cornette gave to Ric Flair after he had a great match on an otherwise bad WCW PPV show: “You stole the show but it was petty larceny.”

    I’ll echo others who call BS on that ending. I mean for the clan to block Storm Shadow from leadership on strict orthodox following of the code while apparently giving ole Snake Eyes a pass for you know betraying his would-be clan and taking their prized MacGuffin which sets up the compound attack which kills scores of clan members. This reeks of how the movie boxed itself in creatively where Joe mythos must be honored, SE and SS have to set up their rivalry/blood feud that further movies can explore blah blah I get that, but couldn’t they have found another way to do this? I guess I liked Golding more than most, a likeable face who you can follow even if he is a snake in the grass initially. I have the feeling Golding and Weaving will be fine down the road, this just being a weird blip in their careers that’ll be forgotten.

    Also Ursula Corbero, can’t say she impressed me here. That moment when she’s supposedly issues a threat to not just Snake Eyes but the villain as well, well she comes off as menacing as Tina Fey. With Weaving, you can at least blame the material/direction for why she’s wasted here this side of ScarJo in IRON MAN 2.*

    *=True as somebody echoed if you cut her character out SE wouldn’t have radically changed that plot at all. But I can say the same of Spider-Man in CIVIL WAR, equally expendable and yet he adds some fun to the proceedings. It’s weird how this year obviously you have a Joe film and a similar martial arts related MCU movie release (SHANG-CHI) while nearly a decade ago RETALIATION did the bad-guys-infiltrate-American-government plot before THE WINTER SOLDIER. In both cases, Marvel doing better G.I. Joe movies than the actual G.I. Joe franchise.

  16. Well, if you want the guy who violated the one and only rule of not using the deadly magic rock to become leader then you should start your own ancient ninja order and find out how well that works out for you. I think Tomi’s immediate tantrum about it makes it very clear that it was the right decision.

  17. All I could think was that Team Ninja’s three challenges thing must be SHIT if Tommy and Yakuza Guy both passed. I can see why Tommy was so on about letting go of tradition. Maybe a little fewer giant snakes in the hiring process and a little more LinkedIn.

  18. I liked this one alot more than I thought I would, but must admit it’s my least favorite of the Joe movies. (I’m actually still in awe of just how much stuff happens in under 2 hours in Summers’ 2009 movie, and how we’ll probably never have another movie like that again but we’ll get a million longer, slower-paced failed franchise-starters like this that nobody asked for).

    Like Vern I really like the unusual good guy/bad guy dynamics at play here – the freaking Blu Ray menu gives away who’s Storm Shadow (maybe a trailer did too, who knows), so you sorta start the movie thinking you’re watching a movie about a hero infiltrating a group of morally grey badasses who must turn on them and destroy them (Wanted, Point Break, Lost Boys), but then the twist happens and you realize you’ve been watching a movie this whole time about a guy sent by bad guys to infiltrate a group of good guys who must eventually join them(Dances With Wolves, Avatar). I mean, a switch of genres/cliches isn’t the greatest trick in the world but I’ll appreciate anything new in a sea of schlocky action movies.

    I actually do like that revenge is the carrot the bad guys dangle in front of the hero to get him to hurt other good people (like offering to give Jake Sully his legs back) – but Good Lord the whole thing where he forgives his dad’s killer (and sets him free!) is totally dumb. I will never understand action movies that revolve around the hero learning revenge is bad and that he shouldn’t kill the worst bad guy who actually deserves it, but then has no problem killing hundreds and hundreds of minions left and right. And they could have at least made that guy an actual Cobra character while they were at it! This thing really does kinda feel like they had a ninja script lying around and retroactively tacked on 10 minutes of stuff to turn it into a GI Joe movie.

    Still, I actually wouldn’t mind other movies set in this universe which we’ll never get, now that the pieces are somewhat set in place (Storm Shadow’s last-minute turn really does reek of the rushed ending of X-Men First Class, where they’re like “oh crap Magneto’s supposed to be a bad guy and Professor X is in that wheel chair, right? Let’s come up with something quick!”

  19. Some good news to start the year!

    Michael Bay, Gareth Evans And Patrick Hughes Team On A New Reimagining Of Evans’ ‘The Raid’ For Netflix

    EXCLUSIVE: Three of the biggest action directors in the game are coming together to help give a new spin on one of the decades most acclaimed action pics. Sources tell Deadline Netflix has come on …

  20. The director of ‘The Expendables 3,’ ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ doing a THE RAID remix for Netflix. I dunno about that being *good* news. I’m not one to get upset about remakes, so it’s not *bad* news, necessarily, but I dunno how you get to it being *good*.

  21. neal2Zod- I guess MORTAL KOMBAT (the new one) is probably the closest we’ve come to the RISE OF COBRA approach in recent years, even though it’s kind of slow and can’t really decide if it’s a complete story or just a set-up, but at least they didn’t go the route of having it be just about Liu Kang going on a special ops mission before he gets an invite to a tournament and sees a glowing boat in the distance just before the closing credits or something. I watched STREET FIGHTER recently, and as messy as it is I thought if they were starting a STREET FIGHTER series today they’d probably get as far as two far less memorable films in, introducing less than half of the characters they fit into the 1994 film before calling it quits, which come to think of it I guess is sort of what they tried to do with THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI, from the same year as RISE OF COBRA and I guess in a weird (if unfortunate) way kind of ahead of its time?

  22. I’m pretty sure the last Judge Dredd movie is the only English-language Raid remake we need.

  23. But if Gareth Evans needs to buy a house, I’m for him buying a house.

  24. Once upon a time, it made sense to Hollywood-remake an action movie originally from a non-English speaking country, as the original’s exposure would be to a niche audience that seeks stuff like that out. But THE RAID, along with ONG-BAK, is easily one of the most widely acclaimed, celebrated and viewed breakout action hit across 7 continents and most likely watched by action movie fans of every shape and size at least 25 times each. It’s a head-scratcher what this remake is going to bring to the table that is in any way new or groundbreaking.

    However…let me set my mood-dial at Cautiously Optimistic for now

  25. Neither RAID film cracked $10million worldwide; obviously theatrical takes don’t tell the full story these days (or for the last forty years) but it seems possible that the number of people who have seen THE RAID is proportionally about the same as had, say, seen LA FEMME NIKITA when POINT OF NO RETURN was made, and may well be less than have seen 6 UNDERGROUND. Not defending it, then or now, artistically, but it’s possible it makes about as much business sense as it ever did (although I don’t really understand how Netflix’s business model works, but then that’s why I’m not rich).

  26. I am skeptical of the RAID remake since Hughes hasn’t really panned out post-RED HILL, and it’s probly just a non-Silat, more violent than usual American cop movie somewhat following the building-raid structure but with unnecessary added plot and no prayer rug. But unless the real THE RAID isn’t on Netflix (I didn’t check) and we’re worried that kids are too lazy to look it up elsewhere (I don’t know these days) I see no threat here. If it’s good it’s good and if it’s bad it is either forgotten immediately or becomes another excuse to recommend the real movie to people. THE RAID’s legend and legacy aren’t going anywhere.

  27. RAID ripoffs are their own cottage industry—there’s literally one called RUSSIAN RAID that is just THE RAID but Russian and features a lot of slap-fighting—and they’re pretty much always entertaining. It’s just a great skeleton to hang action sequences on so they can go ahead and make as many as they want.

  28. Pacman – ah yes, thanks for bringing up The Legend of Chun-Li! The whole time during Snake Eyes I kept thinking “I swear there’s another movie that was a stripped-down prequel/reboot of a big ensemble movie where they jettisoned like 3/4 of the characters and focused on one and everybody hated it”. It really is ahead of its time! (I think you could also argue X-Men Origins: Wolverine falls in that category too, since it’s supposed to be a standalone adventure but ends up re-using Sabretooth and jams in young Cyclops and Professor X in it for no reason at all)

    And yes, I totally forgot Mortal Kombat 2021 is the true successor to the Sommers’ GI JOE – there’s a ton of characters, all with a decent amount of screentime and subplots and character arcs, tons of action and lots of world-building, and they managed to pack it all in under 2 hours. It’s a miracle they made it this way and it’s also a miracle that (from what I’ve seen) the movie seems fairly well-liked, and we didn’t have to suffer through weeks of Justice League-inspired thinkpieces where people would write that “WB got it backwards! How are we supposed to care about this group when each person doesn’t have their own movie yet?!”

    Back to GI Joe: I’m still kind of boggled by how little people talk about Retaliation – it’s just bizarre that a big action franchise supposedly for kids murders its biggest star and leading man in the first 10 minutes, then (apparently) kills off all other cast members from Part 1 offscreen. Like people STILL talk about the beginning of Alien 3 as this huge crazy thing (which it is!), but it’s so strange to me that a kid’s movie did that 10 years ago and nobody batted an eyelash! Plus the fact that it had a big advertising blitz including an Aerosmith theme song and ads on bags of Doritos and shit, THEN delayed itself for a year. And then everyone basically says they delayed it to make Channing Tatum not-dead, and then the movie comes out next March and Channing Tatum still dies! And the movie is fine but kinda small-scale, like it was never really meant to be a Summer Movie, and the whole thing just feels like it was cobbled together but there’s never been real talk about troubles during production (just retcons that it was delayed a year to convert it to 3D, which nobody believes) and weirdly nobody’s really asking to #releasetheChucut. It’s like the movie got wiped from our collective memories and Snake Eyes is the final nail in its coffin.

  29. I did see a few “they should have built these characters up first” takes on MK, but certainly not to “we don’t know enough about *this specific* Batman yet” levels.

    Wondering if DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION is another reviled/unsuccessful failed franchise starter from 2009 that was also oddly ahead of its time? Don’t remember much about it, but it’s a weird one in that it’s an adaptation of a manga/animated series which is really only known in relation to its sequel series in the US and Europe (quite possibly everywhere outside of Japan), which is presumably where they were hoping to get to and where they almost certainly would have started a few years earlier.

    And yes, RETALIATION is one of those films that’s odd in all sorts of ways when you stop and think about it, including that it’s a film that was very publicly delayed for a year with probably little to no affect on its commercial success (in that it did fairly well, if not quite well enough for a third to roll off the assembly line). I guess 2013 was a watershed year in terms of studios being able to flip the script on production problems, because WORLD WAR Z had CUTTHROAT ISLAND/WATERWORLD/ISHTAR-level bad buzz over its production woes, and was a massive hit. Maybe if they’d delayed that RED DAWN remake a further six months…

  30. I own the blu rays for both RISE OF COBRA and RETALIATION but I can only watch the latter as a double bill because it’s only point of interest for me is as the conclusion of the cliffhanger arc at the end of COBRA with old Imhotep impersonating the US President. It’s not bad and I do enjoy large chunks of it, but I simply couldn’t understand all the fanboy joy at this “superior” installment that supposedly sets right everything wrong with that Crime Against Cinema RISE OF COBRA, directed by Spawn of Satan Stephen Sommers. Having caught maybe 10 minutes of the cartoon series and never having had the action figure stuck up my ass, maybe I didn’t quite get why Holy Mass had been violated because Snake Eyes had rubber lips on his mask?

    But like I said, RETALIATION is mostly fun while you watch it, and mostly forgettable 10 minutes after you eject the disc. I didn’t expect them to pull some audacious EXECUTIVE DECISION-level shit where the highest profile star is bumped off in the 1st half hour. And trotting out the Rock front and center usually works because while Mr. Johnson’s solo outputs have yet to impress me, the People’s Eyebrow has a proven track record propping up existing franchises. And the movie’s budget and theatrical release meant even Bruce Willis was forced to give a little shit.

    Ultimately, any movie which has The Rock, John McClane and my favorite version of The Punisher can’t be all bad. But I’m hardly surprised it dropped out of the conversation soon after.

  31. It’s kind of hard to believe because it doesn’t seem that long ago, but in 2013 The Rock still seemed like he had some promise (in retrospect giving someone the benefit of the doubt through a decade plus of mid to high budget star vehicles was mighty generous), and Willis had yet to transition to full somnolence, or at least hadn’t when they filmed it back in 2011.

  32. The trailer for Iko Uwais WU ASSASSINS spinoff movie is here!

    Fistful of Vengeance | Official Trailer | Netflix

    A revenge mission becomes a fight to save the world from an ancient threat when superpowered assassin Kai tracks a killer to Bangkok.SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly...

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