‘Snake Eyes’ is a dull, joyless movie slog, critics say

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Again, a great cast cannot save the GI Joe franchise from a terrible script, critics say.

Paramount’s “Snake Eyes” hits theaters Friday with a “Rotten” rating of 41% from Rotten Tomatoes, a total of 70 reviews.

In the film, Henry Golding (“Crazy Rich Asians”) stars as Snake Eyes, a rugged loner bent on revenge after witnessing his father’s death at a young age. Fans of Hasbro’s toy franchise know that the character is destined to join the GI Joe team, a secret organization linked to the United States Armed Forces.

“Snakes Eyes” takes some liberties with the source material, as it swaps the blond, blue-eyed white ninja from the comics for Golding, who is of Malaysian descent. In previous iterations, Snake Eyes has also been muted, the result of a helicopter explosion.

Part of the character’s allure was his ambiguous backstory. Much of Snake Eyes’ past is worked into his files, although it is suggested that he had extensive military training before joining the Joes.

“[‘Snake Eyes’] takes the most popular GI Joe character and completely demystifies him until all that’s left is a dull handsome guy with a sword,” wrote Matt Singer in his review of the film for ScreenCrush. “In the earlier GI 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 to revive the GI Joe franchise, which fell through after 2009’s “The Rise of Cobra” and 2013’s “Retaliation” failed to drive demand, despite all-star casts.

“The Rise of Cobra” brought together Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Sienna Miller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and earned a “Rotten” score of 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Retaliation” added Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson and Elodie Yung, earning a “Rotten” rating of 29%.

“People usually think of Transformers as the worst toy line franchise,” Singer wrote. “What ‘Snake Eyes’ Supposes Is, Maybe Not?”

Here’s what critics thought of “Snake Eyes” ahead of its release in theaters on Friday.

Brandon Katz, observer

Despite a legacy of “medium-defining hits” such as “The Godfather,” “Forrest Gump” and “Titanic,” Paramount has spent the past decade producing big-budget franchise tent poles that “often bypassed artful construction and individuality for generic reverse engineered merchandise vehicles,” Brandon Katz wrote in his review of “Snake Eyes” for Observer.

Many critics complained about the film’s thin script and lackluster character development efforts, including Katz.

“The script is pockmarked with clichés, tropes and infinite predictability,” he said.

Katz noted that the film was well shot by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, but impressive fight scenes were often overcrowded with shaky cam shots.

Read the full Observer review.

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

“Henry Golding has an unmistakable screen presence,” Lindsey Bahr wrote in her review of the film for the Associated Press. “He’s definitely handsome. A lot 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 appeal,” Bahr said. “Golding just isn’t the right actor for the role. He’s not exactly bad, just misplaced and abused. And despite the new bells and whistles around him, his character is woefully generic.”

Read the full Associated Press review.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

To Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post, Golding’s performance was as stiff as a “plastic toy.”

“However, to give him some leeway, Golding drew on terrible material that shouldn’t exist in the first place,” he wrote in his review.

Throughout the film, Snake Eyes endears itself to an ancient Japanese ninja clan called the Arashikage. To join this clan, he must complete three deadly tasks. However, according to Oleksinski, these challenges are slow and don’t serve the ultimate climax of the story: Snake Eyes becomes a Joe.

At the end of the day, “Snake Eyes” was “slightly better than the relentless vomit” of previous GI Joe iterations, he said, but still a “joke-and-fun-free slog.”

Read the full New York Post review.

Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times

The battle scenes promised in the trailer for “Snake Eyes” are “full of swordsmanship and gunfire,” but “jerkily edited and somehow bland,” wrote Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times.

“It’s like [director Robert] Schwentke worked from a checklist of expected action movie cliches and rushed through them all,” he wrote.

“Snake Eyes” also tries to weave in favorite characters from the GI 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 keep scratching your head, ‘Who are these women?’ Answer: They join the ride to pave the way for the inevitable sequels,” he wrote. “Spare us.”

Read the full review from The Seattle Times.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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