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Snake Eyes’ Real Bar To Meet Isn’t G.I. Joe — It’s The Adkins Ninja Movies


The real test for the upcoming Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is how well it rises to the standards of Scott Adkins’ movies in the Ninja series. No longer held back by the COVID-19 delays that have postponed it, Snake Eyes is finally hitting theaters on July 23rd, with the hopes of rebooting the G.I. Joe franchise on cinema screens. Henry Golding will portray the famed mute ninja, and while the film itself is both unmasking Snake Eyes and having him speak, the fact that it’s an origin story gives it some creative justification to do so.

Despite Snake Eyes being a key figure in the G.I. Joe franchise and one of its most popular characters, his upcoming origin film is clearly out to be a ninja movie, first and foremost. With that in mind, how well Snake Eyes pulls that off is arguably a better set of criteria to evaluate than how well it sets up future G.I. Joe spin-offs and crossovers (not that those should be dismissed either). If the standard is “How good of a ninja movie is it?” there’s nothing better to line it up with than the two Scott Adkins-led, Isaac Florentine-directed Ninja movies, and most especially the second, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear.

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RELATED: Who Is Snake Eyes? G.I. Joe Backstory & History Explained

Two straight-to-DVD martial arts flicks might seem an odd place to set the bar for Snake Eyes, but they’re two non-theatrically released ninja movies that happen to have been anchored by Scott Adkins right as he was on his way to mainstream action movie stardom. John Wick: Chapter 4 now being a project Adkins is in talks for shows just how far he’s come since then. With his filmography also including the Undisputed series, Triple Threat, Ip Man 4: The Finale, and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, any forthcoming ninja movie scoffing at Adkins’ two Ninja films (even with the first one not entirely achieving its potential) does so at its own peril. Here’s why Scott Adkins’ Ninja films are the real bar for Snake Eyes to rise to, and how it might well have the pieces in place to do just that.

Snake Eyes Has A Lot Of Potential

Snake eyes gi joe origins Confirms Iko Uwais is A Martial Arts Movie Legend

Looking at it as a pure ninja movie, Snake Eyes certainly has a lot going for it. The film will be an origin story that shows the titular character’s Ninjutsu training and his early friendship with Storm Shadow, played by Andrew Koji. Henry Golding also evidently trained very hard, and the movie skewing away from a military action thriller to more of a ninja movie seems pretty solidified with Golding describing Snake Eyes asmuch more of a martial arts film than a superhero movie.

Some of the other players in Snake Eyes are outright royalty among martial arts fans, as well. Andrew Koji is well-known for his role as Ah Sahm on the show Warrior, based on the concept developed by Bruce Lee himself, while Iko Uwais of The Raid movies will step into his first mentor role as the Hard Master of the Arashikage ninja. Snake Eyes also has Kenji Tanigaki on board as the fight coordinator, Tanigaki having previously lent his services to the Rurouni Kenshin movies along with being a frequent collaborator with Donnie Yen, and going by the trailers so far, he really was able to work his magic on the movie’s action scenes. Still, the best comparison point for Snake Eyes is not the G.I. Joe franchise at large — or even Snake Eyes’ role in the previous two movies in the G.I. Joe franchise — but the Scott Adkins-led Ninja movies.

Why Scott Adkins’ Ninja Movies Are Snake Eyes’ Bar

Scott Adkins Ninja Movies

The first Isaac Florentine-directed Ninja admittedly had more weak points than it should have, but it’d also be unwise to overlook its strengths: As Scott Adkins’ first time as a leading man, Ninja saw him portray American Ninjutsu student Casey Bowman, who is tasked with protecting an ancient box of Ninjutsu weaponry known as the Yoroi Bitsu from Tsuyoshi Ihara’s pursuing Masazuka, who vengefully murdered the duo’s Ninjutsu master after being expelled from his dojo. Ninja moves a bit too fast and would’ve benefitted from fleshing out its characters more. Still, it packed in plenty of ninja lore and fantastic action scenes, and while Ninja didn’t quite achieve true greatness, its 2013 sequel Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear was another story.

Shadow of a Tear follows a much rougher take on Casey Bowman into the jungles of Myanmar to avenge the murder of the pregnant Namiko. With more streamlined pacing than the first Ninja, Shadow of a Tear also makes Casey into a more well-rounded character, a mourning husband whose anger issues leave him susceptible to being steered in the wrong direction. Furthermore, the action scenes, orchestrated by stunt pro Tim Man, are the stuff of every ninja aficionado’s dreams, from a one-shot dojo battle to Casey’s duels with Tim Man as the drug henchman Myat and ’80s ninja movie luminary Kane Kosugi, the son of ninja movie king Sho Kosugi, whose presence harkens the film back to the ’80s ninja movie craze. Adkins himself has described Shadow of a Tear as among the toughest movies he’s ever made, and the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the making of the film are evident throughout every minute of it (he also dealt with a fairly severe back injury during production, leading to stuntman Brahim Achabbakhe supplementing some kicks).

Florentine also knew exactly what kind of movie he was making, with Shadow of a Tear steeped in ninja mythos and lore, giving a historical warrior quality to the film’s modern-day setting. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any serious ninja-movie lover walking away from Shadow of a Tear unsatisfied. While one of the known elements of Snake Eyes is it being the beginning of G.I. Joe‘s return to the big screen, the way in which Shadow of a Tear built on the strengths the first Ninja established while making amends for where it fell short is where Snake Eyes should really be looking to as its own bar for success.

RELATED: Theory: How Snake Eyes Becomes Mute In The New GI Joe Movie

Snake Eyes Looks To Be Rising To The Challenge

Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes looks like it’s going out of its way to avoid the pitfalls of the martial arts movie genre. With a character as iconic as Snake Eyes as its protagonist, the film being an origin story focused on his training works to its advantage. Compared to the Ninja movies showing Casey as a Ninjutsu master with flashes of him training or mentoring others, Snake Eyes can tackle ninja movies (and be a big summer 2021 stand-out) from a different angle, showing Snake Eyes as a simple man pulled into warrior’s world, in contrast to the Ninja films presenting Casey as a warrior blending into everyday life.

Snake Eyes and Adkins’ Ninja films share a reverence for the legends and folklore of Ninjutsu, while Snake Eyes also seems to be similarly devoted to the shaping of its action scenes. To be sure, Adkins’ Ninja movies are clearly much more grounded than Snake Eyes as a component of the G.I. Joe franchise, though a lot of that can probably be attributed to the latter having a much bigger budget, itself further testimony to what Adkins and Florentine pulled off in Shadow of a Tear. That being said, Snake Eyes seems to keenly understand not only that it’s a ninja movie to the core, but also what that entails. If the marketing thus far is any indication, it could be just the origin story predicated on Ninjutsu training that its titular True American Hero deserves.

NEXT: How Snakes Eyes Confirms Iko Uwais As A Martial Arts Movie Legend

  • Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)Release date: Jul 23, 2021

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Benvenisti Eyal

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