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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (4K Ultra HD)
I am kind of surprised Paramount gave Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins a $100-million budget as the third film in a franchise that has not exactly lit the world on fire. Director Robert Schwentke's film is basically a prequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and serves as the origin story for the title character, played by Henry Golding. I reviewed the first two G.I. Joe films on 4K recently, and even the better of the two, Retaliation, is pretty forgettable. This outing is better than the silly The Rise of Cobra but lacks the intensity and comedic elements of Retaliation and had my eyes feeling heavy at several points during the 121-minute running time.
A young orphan after his father is murdered in front of him, Snake Eyes spends the next several decades becoming a deadly fighter to avenge the man. He is recruited by Los Angeles Yakuza boss Kenta Takamura (Takehiro Hire), who offers to deliver his father's killer if Snake Eyes will come work for him. Snake Eyes accepts but soon balks at killing Takamura's cousin, Tomisaburo "Tommy" Arashikage (Andrew Koji), who is the man's competition to lead the ancient Arashikage clan. After the pair escapes, Tommy befriends Snake Eyes and takes him to train with his clan in Japan. Unbeknownst to Tommy, Snake Eyes plays to betray him and the Arashikage clan by stealing a magical jewel they are protecting. Snake Eyes begins doubting his plans when Kenta teams up with terrorist organization Cobra and the Baroness (Ursula Corbero), who has been supplying him weapons to take over the Arashikage clan.
Although Golding and members of the supporting cast are actually quite good in the roles - and certainly better than the cast of The Rise of Cobra - the screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulous, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse lacks urgency. I guess this is the problem with crafting dramas from Hasbro toy lines; I just did not care much about what happened during Snake Eyes. The film moves from location to location and fight scene to fight scene without much purpose. Although the movie continues to throw plot twists and mayhem at the screen, it all makes very little impact. Of course filmmakers also have to tame the martial-arts fight scenes to fit the film's PG-13 rating, so do not expect much lifelike brutality.
I wish Schwentke and company had allowed Golding and Koji to carry the film with more dialogue than fungible action, as the pair actually has a good rapport and both actors command the screen despite their thinly written characters. As part of a larger universe, Snake Eyes does little to weave Cobra and its operatives into the film as actual menaces. They're basically background noise in this generic tale of loss, revenge and redemption. I often say that one of the gravest sins a film can commit is to bore. Snake Eyes, while not a total failure thanks to its leads, certainly bores, and is destined to become a bargain bin favorite.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Paramount delivers a solid 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 image with Dolby Vision and HDR10 that is slightly upscaled from a 3.4K digital source. I am not sure if the movie was finished in 2K and then upscaled or not, but the 4K transfer is reasonably impressive, offering abundant detail and texture throughout. The film has a bit of slick, digital appearance but looks quite good in motion. The HDR pass offers gorgeously saturated and strikingly bold colors, and accompanying black levels and shadow detail are strong. Close-ups reveal gritty, exhausted characters, and wide shots are colorful and deep. I noticed no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement.
The Dolby Atmos mix, which I sampled as a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, is even more impressive, offering an absolutely immersive, living-room knocking experience. Dialogue is clean and clear, and is balanced nicely with effects and score. Ambient effects like weather and crowd noise offer a nuanced surround experience, and action sequences are absolutely ripping, slamming the LFE to life and crackling through each and every speaker. A host of alternate soundtracks and subtitle options are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover and includes a digital copy code. Extras include Morning Light: A Weapon with Stories to Tell (3:11/HD); Deleted Scenes (2:07 total/HD); Enter Snake Eyes (9:31/HD); A Deadly Ensemble (6:22/HD); and Arashikage (6:59/HD).
Another mediocre entry in a franchise that has not exactly excelled, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins suffers from repetitive action sequences and a forgettable narrative, despite the best efforts of star Henry Golding. Rent It if you must.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.