Enduring one routine fight scene after another, you’ll feel nothing — except pity for the Giant CGI Anacondas
My thoughts turn to the Giant CGI Anacondas in “Snake Eyes” and what their lives are like in between meals — and if that sounds ridiculous and outlandish and weird, welcome to this bombastic, slick, convoluted and unnecessary second-tier action franchise reboot.
You see, Henry Golding’s title character, the obligatory Loner with a Tragic Backstory, is taking a three-pronged challenge within the compound of the Arashikage clan, a legendary family of ninjas. If Snake Eyes can pass all three tests, he’ll be accepted by the family; if not, he’ll be dead and that will make for a short movie. Enter the Giant CGI Anacondas, who snarl and hiss but will not eat you if you are pure of heart, and we’ll leave the snake pit now to talk a little bit more about the third chapter in the “G.I. Joe” movie franchise, which started with the mediocre “Rise of Cobra” in 2009 and continued with the even less memorable “Retaliation” in 2013 and now goes 0-for-3 at the plate.
Henry Golding is a charming and likable fellow who gave a true movie-star performance in “Crazy Rich Asians” and did an impressive villainous turn in Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” but he’s just too soft and non-threatening a presence to play Snake Eyes, who has spent his entire adult life looking for the man who killed his father when he was just a little Snake Eyes. We’re told this man is filled with bitterness and a thirst for vengeance, but it never FEELS as if he’s filled with bitterness and a thirst for vengeance.
In the first of the many prolonged, empty-calorie, standard-issue fight scenes involving zipping motorcycles and speeding trucks and sword battles and quick-cut hand-to-hand combat sequences and hollering henchmen who are doomed from the get-go, Snake Eyes saves the life of Tommy (Andrew Koji), the heir apparent of the Arashikage family. Tommy invites Snake Eyes to the aforementioned family compound in Japan, which is quite fabulous and could easily fill a 10-page spread in Architectural Digest. The family has control of a mysterious glowing device that looks a bit like one of those orange rock-salt lamps and will bestow world-ruling powers on anyone who takes possession of it, much like all the other magic MacGuffins in so many other action movies.
EVERYONE wants that thingee, including Kenta (Takehiro Hira), the leader of Cobra, an ultra-secret organization working for evil, and Scarlett (Samara Weaving), who works for “the Joes,” an ultra-secret organization working for good. Oh, and let’s not forget the Baroness (Ursula Corbero), a terrorist who killed 200 passengers on a train just to wipe out the one person aboard she wanted dead. The Baroness wears glasses and wobbles about on high heels and is quick with a quip and doesn’t seem at all like a threat, but that’s what we’ve been told about her.
Snake Eyes’ loyalties pinball around as he tries to learn to open his heart or some such thing, but the meandering plot is just an excuse for one scene after another featuring various factions wearing monochromatic and quite fashionable get-ups as they do battle with one another. (Everyone looks so great they should have just had a runway pose-off and saved on all the stabbing and killing.)
The Giant CGI Anacondas do make a second appearance in “Snake Eyes,” but I’m still left wondering what their lives are like when there’s a lull between the times when a human is lowered into the pit. Do they have a caretaker? What do they eat for snacks when there are no people around? Are they ever given any free time to go above ground and slither about in streams and marshes? I get the feeling there’s not much joy in the lives of the Giant CGI Anacondas.