What a year 2021 has been for the G.I. Joe brand. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the absolute explosion in product that is on the way. The variety in style, brand, size class, price point, and overall selection leaves something for everybody to look forward to. We are now in a full resurgence of the G.I. Joe brand with the G.I. Joe Classified Series anchoring the action figures at mass retail and the Snake Eyes G.I. Joe Origins movie leading the mass marketing push into the mainstream. None of this would have been possible without change.
So where do we go from here? I guess we should start with the last two months of feast or famine that just took place, and in some cases is still ongoing. We went from no G.I. Joe Classified or Retro products to how many do you need – take your fill. The Target Cobra Island situation started out on a really bad note and looked like it was going to be a disaster only to find out it was a temporary tech glitch that lead to the flood gates opening. People went from no Cobra Troopers to having the ability to Army build (very important for some of us) and most people just wanted to fill the holes in the numbered line up with The Baroness, Beachhead, Roadblock and Firefly. This led to a full on scramble to obtain the early first waves for those who stayed on the sidelines waiting to see how the line developed. But wait there’s more! The addition of Alpha Snake Eyes and that incredible articulated Timber, color changing Zartan, ARAH Amazon Roadblock and Breaker with RAM Cycle to name a few and if the rumors floating around about what awaits us in 2022 are even halfway true Classified and Retro fans are going to have a banner year. So, start saving your money now.
One last thing before we get started with the Snake Eyes movie. As G.I. Joe action figure collectors, we need to understand and manage our expectations for the ability of Hasbro (and it’s not just them) to get product to market with the ongoing Covid-19 (and now Delta) situation. Things are starting to open back up and return to normal but the very real cascading problems that were set into motion are far from over. There are massive shipping delays, massive inflation in shipping pricing, shortages of shipping containers and longshoreman who are under contract to be out to sea a maximum of 11 months, are now going on an average of 16 months, with no breaks out to sea, and no end in sight. So, unless Hasbro has been able to somehow shield themselves from these continuing effects, expect and uneven flow of action figure spice moving forward. Feast or famine conditions are going to be the new normal until the world fully recovers.
I guess this is where we dive into the Snake Eyes movie. So much to unpack here. Firstly, go see the movie for yourself. Nobody online spouting off their opinion is going to be 100% correct including myself. The matrix cannot tell you who you are as a G.I. Joe fan and the Snake Eyes movie is full of conflict for the seasoned fan. I almost feel the people walking into this for the first time are going to have the most fun watching it. No predetermined expectations, engrained happy childhood experiences, and for some of us almost 40+ years of collecting and absorbing G.I. Joe lore.
The early reviews started coming in on Wednesday and I was disappointed to see the tone and overall negative framework some of the so called “lifelong Hollywood G.I. Joe fans” took when speaking of the direction of the film. The very narrow perspective from Hollywood critics that nobody who is an OG fan of G.I. Joe is going to like this is just not justified. Just because the Snake Eyes movie is not a direct telling of Comic book lore is not a true measure of how good or bad this film is. Make no mistake this movie is 100% a reboot of the Arashikage and the relationship between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. The people walking in to see Snake Eyes who are not the core fan base are not going to care. They just want to see a good action – martial arts movie about ninjas and on that note it delivers. It also introduces Cobra and G.I. Joe to a new generation while the focus is on character development (Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes), something that was severely lacking in the first two attempts.
Spoilers are ahead. Should you choose to read on you will see spoilers.
Let’s start off the deeper breakdown with the set design elements. The Arashikage temple and compound were straight up amazing. Most of the story takes place here and they were able to create the correct environment for the Ninja clan angle to develop. The downtown Tokyo fight scenes were also eye candy. Something about Neon and Ninja battles just works.
Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow: I’m going to be honest here I had no clue who Andrew Koji was until Tony Bacala told me about the HBO Max series Warrior. Now this is recently so I’m only like 4 episodes in, but it didn’t take long to understand this guy has excellent martial arts skills and can act on top of it. Andrew Koji’s performance as Storm Shadow is the number one highlight of the film. If you can accept the new introduction and the relationship that forms between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes in the film his take on the character feels natural and has OG ARAH flavor. They need to work on his costume is my only complaint.
Henry Golding as Snake Eyes: Obviously the main focus of the film and where all the controversial decisions were made on creating his back story. While I feel Henry Golding did just fine executing his role in both his fighting scenes and providing the tone and buildup of who Snake Eyes becomes I wanted to see more time in the actual Snake Eyes costume. That was the biggest let down of the film for me. The Snake Eyes costume itself was on point and the best movie version to date.
Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness: I don’t see why any of the hate pointed her way before anybody saw her in this film is valid. She is sexy, nailed the mannerisms and while not having the original Baroness accent she still has her own take. The way she was written in felt natural and had a lot of ARAH flavor. A wealthy highly educated political activist who sees everything as a means to and end including Joining Cobra as a terrorist (yes they used that word in the film).
Haruka Abe as Akiko: She is the new character of the bunch and gets a lot of screen time. Also was an outsider at first to the Arashikage and helps Snake Eyes develop his connection to the clan. Looks to be some romantic tension between her and Snake Eyes that was left unexplored.
Samara Weaving as Scarlett: This is our starting connection point with the G.I. Joe team. She shows up, looks the part, had a good movie look with ARAH elements, helps in the big battle and is not a major focus of the overall movie. This was a necessary evil of the film. If the franchise grows from these roots all the new fans need to know who G.I. Joe is. Also has a shocking surprise in the end for Snake Eyes. Lore changing for sure and how that plays out in the future needs to be handled correctly.
Takehiro Hira as Kenta: The main villain in Snake Eyes movie and also the seeker of a powerful stone the Arashikage are sworn to protect (the McGuffin Device for the movie) and wants to destroy the Arashikage after being outed.
Iko Uwais – Hard Master and Peter Mensah – Blind Master: Both have their turn in training Snake Eyes as well as testing him. Solid roles for both and each has his own Martial Arts battle scenes.
So to close this out Snake Eyes was a solid action martial arts film that slowly develops the relationship between Snake Eyes and Stormshadow and his trials to become accepted into the Arashikage while dealing with his past. Lays the foundation for Cobra and G.I. Joe in future movies and is a true reboot of the G.I. Joe Franchise. The split between fans is not going to go away and I don’t expect to change many minds. If your angry they didn’t pull the Hama story out of the original early year comics then you are going to remain that way. An established seasoned ARAH fan and collector will need to let go of the past to allow a new introduction.
Until we get somebody at Hasbro like a Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni team up that has the guts to combine the in-house brands that Hasbro owns into a unified cohesive universe and find a film producer who is willing to back that vision like the Marvel Universe we are never going to see the original cartoon and comic lore combined into a universe that the core fans and general audience will accept and love.
Was the Snake Eyes movie good? Yes, I think so and I would recommend it to my non fanboy friends looking for something to watch this weekend. In the end the general audience will decide the fate of this branch in G.I. Joe Lore.