With the way film studio release schedules have been flung into chaos since early last year, you can be forgiven if you haven’t kept track of all the new movies on the horizon. One such movie that appears to have fallen through the cracks for many has to be Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. Well, the upcoming origin story action thriller has now promptly backflipped its way right out of those cracks with a first look reveal over the weekend… And I’m not even going to waste any time on any preamble so here’s the first trailer which debuted during the MTV Movie and TV Awards this morning!
Starring Crazy Rich Asians breakout Henry Golding as the titular fan-favourite character, Snake Eyes is Paramount’s attempt to revive the G.I. Joe franchise on-screen again after 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation barely eked out a profit and got savaged by critics. This time around the most of the G.I. Joe team (who started their lives in a series of long-running Hasbro action figure toy lines,1980s cartoons, and several comic book series) is absent as the film, directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, Flightplan, RIPD), delves into the backstory of the masked and mute ninja… who will now be going maskless often and speaking quite a bit in this prequel. Chatting with EW, franchise producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura (Transformers, Salt, American Assassin) said that “it was one of the reasons why we picked the backstory [of] ‘How did he become Snake Eyes?’ It allows him to talk, which was very helpful.”
It also gives us a fresh spin on a popular character without the baggage of much continuity – hell, after so many adventures since his original debut in 1982, we still don’t even know Snake Eyes’ real name. And that clean slate is the perfect launchpad for a new movie franchise, according to Golding.
I wanted to see something different, and I wanted it to look different, to feel different. To be able to launch a franchise like that, it was just too good to be true — and especially with a character like Snake Eyes about whom a lot of people don’t know too much. They know him as this insane operator that completes missions and is an absolute weapon, but who’s the guy behind the mask and what’s his story?
And make no mistake: this is already a franchise. Snake Eyes was first announced back in 2018, and in that time, Paramount has been so confident with Schwentke and co have been delivering, that the studio has already greenlit a sequel. Before that happens though, Golding’s Snake Eyes first has to get through this film which boasts a pretty badass cast. Standing opposite him as his eternal rival and blood brother Storm Shadow is Andrew Koji, the super cool breakout star of HBO Max martial arts drama Warrior. As Golding explains, when we meet his Snake Eyes, he is a “scarred individual” who is “driven by the wrong motivations”. And it’s in this state that he meets and is taken in by Tommy aka Storm Shadow and his Arashikage Clan.
Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, their brotherhood/relationship is one of the most famous in the G.I. Joe lore. They have such an interesting, forever-wavering relationship of hate and love. They love each other as brothers because they’ve been through the same thing.
As longtime G.I. Joe fans will undoubtedly know, that relationship is truly tested when the talented Snake Eyes appears to surpass Storm Shadow while proving his worth to the clan leader, the very literally named Hard Master played by The Raid’s Iko Uwais. These proving trials will also take him into contact with two other familiar characters and one new one. The latter is new franchise character Akiko, played Haruka Abe, who Golding describes as “phenomenal in this film”. As for the familiar faces, Ready or Not’s Samara Weaving plays Scarlett, the original G.I. Joe team member previously played on-screen by Rachel Nichols. After Snake Eyes “gets his nose into something” it leads him to the counter-intelligence operative which in turn leads him to the second familiar face in The Baroness, played by Money Heist’s Úrsula Corberó.
Di Bonaventura reveals that after 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Paramount established a writers room to pitch all kinds of ideas based on G.I. Joe as well as other Hasbro properties, and one of the early discussions was actually around a film focused on Cobra villainess The Baroness as “she’s such a deliciously evil character”. That idea never got developed, much like the other Hasbro film ideas (Di Bonaventura felt that the writers’ room “never really worked very well, unfortunately”), but the script for Snake Eyes from writer Evan Spiliotopoulos – later co-developed with writers Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel – stood out. All that was needed was to find the right leading man.
Golding went from complete obscurity with only a single tiny acting credit to his name to overnight Hollywood heartthrob with 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians. That film put him at the top of several Hollywood shortlists for several gigs, including Paramount’s list of actors to play Snake Eyes. He was the first actor the studio reached out to and he immediately accepted. Playing the role of a character primarily known for his martial arts skills (in a film where he’s surrounded by co-stars known for their very real martial arts skills) when he didn’t have the same background was not something lost on Golding, but he was willing to put in the work. What followed were five-hour sessions of choreography every day, followed by an hour and a half of one-on-one training. But all that physical training was always followed by “a solid two-and-a-half hours of script work” every day as well as Di Bonaventura and co wanted more than just an action hero.
What I have learned over doing many, many, many action pictures is you can teach people action if they’re athletic. f they’re not athletic, good luck. Henry had it and also had the drive to do it, which was important to us because we’re trying to do something with the G.I. Joe franchise which hasn’t been done.
Golding adds that the production “had one green screen set and the rest was all practical”, while acclaimed veteran stunt coordinator Kenji Tanigaki was brought in to lend his expertise to the action. Tanigaki has worked on the likes of Kill Zone, Flash Point, and the Rorouni Kenshin live-action films. It’s the hope of the Snake Eyes filmmakers that all that preparation will lead to a film that resonates with audiences and leads not just to the previously mentioned planned sequel, but also more cinematic iterations of the G.I. Joe world.
However, Di Bonaventura wanted to stress that Snake Eyes is not a G.I. Joe vs Cobra movie despite both organizations playing a part in Snake Eyes’ story.
Both Cobra and G.I. Joe take a back seat to the internal drama of the Arashikage and the character. They are absolutely an element, but it’s looking at it this way: You meet somebody, watch their struggle, the struggle leads to the world of G.I. Joe and Cobra. It does not start as a G.I. Joe-Cobra movie. It starts as an Arashikage movie, a Snake Eyes character arc. You come to realize the Arashikage as they’ve traditionally been are affiliated with the Joes, therefore that brings in Cobra. There is a gradual reveal that there’s a larger world here.
Golding adds that “Having this solo movie, we get to set the precedent for where [Snake’s] story leads.”
It’s phenomenal that Paramount and Hasbro chose to go right to the beginning and really start off with such a story. It gives so much more creative control over where this universe is going. I’m crazy excited to see what we do next.
After having forgotten this movie even existed for a long few months, I have to say that I’m rather excited for it as well now.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins also stars Peter Mensah. It is scheduled for release in theatres on 23 July 2021 (after originally pegged for a release in March 2020 before being pushed back several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and as part of Paramount’s new theatrical release deal, will debut on the Paramount+ streaming service just 45 days later.
Last Updated: May 17, 2021