The long-awaited Snake Eyes movie trailer has now dropped and there’s actually quite a bit to unpack.
After all, Snake Eyes and his associated franchise, G.I. Joe, go way back, and was pretty much the few forms of entertainment for anyone growing up in the 1980s. While the G.I. Joe toys began back in 1964, what audiences are now familiar with is the Saturday morning toy and cartoon franchise, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which spawned countless comics, toys, and even breakfast cereals.
Snake Eyes, while long associated with the franchise, has an even more interesting backstory. Introduced in 1982 as part of the new toyline, he was originally introduced as a commando clad in black and could have been one of the many characters introduced in the new toys, if not for Marvel Comics.
Snake Eyes Begins
While the toy character came first, Snake Eyes the heroic character owes everything to comic writer Larry Hama, who wrote the G.I. Joe comic books for Marvel Comics. The character’s toy card simply listed Snake Eyes as a commando, but Hama developed the character into something more, and came up with the epic Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow relationship that has defined both characters in the last 30 years. In fact, Hama came up with the whole ninja aspects of the G.I. Joe lore and while it got rather incredulous towards the end of his original run, the toys embraced the concept and ran with it, culminating into Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow taking centre stage in both G.I. Joe live-action adaptations.
While his origin story has changed over the years, the story follows the same central core. Snake Eyes, who has remained nameless, first met young Tommy Arashikage (Storm Shadow) during the Vietnam War, with Tommy saving the life of his friend during an encounter. Upon returning to the US, Snake Eyes discovered that his family, including his younger sister, died in a car accident.
Tommy finds out about his friend and invites Snake Eyes to Japan to work for Tommy’s family business, which turns out to be a ninja clan. Snake Eyes begins training in the ways of a ninja under the Arashikage Clan and while both remained close, there was an underlying rivalry between the two. While Tommy was the heir of the clan, Snake Eyes was considered by the masters, most notably the Hard Master, as being the superior fighter of the two (aside from archery, as Tommy is the more talented archer).
In every subsequent incarnation of G.I. Joe, this rivalry is one of the core tenets that has survived the test of time.
Ultimately, the Hard Master expressed a desire to pass on the leadership of the Arashikage Clan to Snake Eyes. However, Snake Eyes turned down the opportunity to do so. Following that, Hard Master is assassinated (with Storm Shadow’s arrow) and Storm Shadow, who is caught fleeing the clan compound, is regarded as the assassin, due to his jealously. This leads to the dissolution of the Arashikage Clan, with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow parting ways.
Following these events, Snake Eyes is recruited to join G.I. Joe and that’s where he first meets fellow Joe, Scarlett. Unfortunately, tragedy befell one of the first few missions. While successfully saving Scarlett from a burning helicopter, our favorite ninja gets horribly disfigured and loses his ability to speak in an act of heroism.
Snake Eyes really looks that hideous in real life that the mere sight of his likeness is sufficient to spark a reaction from Dr. Mindbender and the Baroness.
Taking on the codename Snake Eyes, he subsequently adopts the monicker of the Silent Master, and soon crosses paths with Tommy, who has joined the terrorist organization Cobra as their assassin, Storm Shadow – the name itself is a translation of the Japanese name Arashikage to English. Rather than being accused as a killer back in Japan, Tommy saw Hard Master’s assassin escape in a Cobra vehicle and pursued the killer, and joined Cobra in the hopes of one day identifying him to exact revenge.
Another strong visual element with the two ninjas is the hexagram, tattooed on both their arms. This is actually one of 64 hexagrams from the ancient Chinese book of Yi Ching, or I Ching and identified as number 63, which means Already Fording or Completed. In the franchise, it is the mark of the Arashikage clan, and can be found tattooed on the ninjas, and the katanas brandished by Snakes Eyes and Storm Shadow.
There’s actually a whole subtext to the relationship of the two key characters that the others in the franchise, except for Scarlett, has failed to see. Both are fiercely loyal to each other, despite what is seen and shown and while adversarial in nature, there is a love between the two that is complete. What drives both characters were forged by Hama when he first wrote the backstory of both ninja characters, and his brief but dense depiction of the duo has laid the groundwork for over almost three decades of world building that is ripe for live-action drama.
Since then, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, popularly known as G.I. Joe, but bearing little to no resemblance to the original G.I. Joe toyline from the 1960s, has been rebooted many times across comics, TV, and film, after its impressive 12-year comic run from 1982 to 1994.
In recent memory, more might be familiar with the movies G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) where actor Ray Park nailed the movement and physicality as Snake Eyes.
While both movies were commercial successes, that brought stars like Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Byung-hun Lee, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the fold, the reported third movie in the series is languishing in pre-production hell.
However, instead of moving the franchise forward, we now have an origin story centered around Snake Eyes.
We’ve been joking about how Snake Eyes is known to be grotesquely disfigured and unable to utter a word, so the casting of Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) is an interesting choice.
After all, while it’s never been explicitly mentioned, Snake Eyes is originally Caucasian. Hence the retcon of our favorite ninja has gotten fans riled up. Although, it doesn’t seem to faze Larry Hama back when Golding was in discussions for casting –
Some people are saying that casting Golding “fixes” the character of Snake-Eyes, but I disagree. I had wanted to keep him ambiguous until HASBRO introduced Storm Shadow as the only Asian character and made him a bad guy. I decided to “fix” that by delving into his background and gradually turning him into a good guy. This is why Snake-Eyes is a white guy.Larry Hama
Since then, Hama and Golding have appeared on panels and all seems to be good. Most of the discussion was focused on the character’s origin story and the action sequences that will take place on the big screen.
How these martial arts scenes are so central to the whole fabric of the story. In the other iterations, they were secondary. There were lots of vehicles and explosions and all these things, and the thing about having it be central to the martial arts experience and the conflict is that it brings it all down to the characters, and the characters are the only thing you really care about. I think that’s an important thing that potential viewers of this film should know about.Larry Hama
All things considered, we know for a fact that Golding is extremely excited to see the part come together on the big screen. After all, seeing his enthusiasm when unboxing his own Snake Eyes action figure gives us good vibes all around.
The Snake Eyes Movie
After being delayed due to COVID, the Snake Eyes movie has been pushed forward to 23 July 2021 from 22 October 2021.
We’ve known for a while that the movie is a prequel and that we’ll be hearing Snake Eyes speak but that should not detract that the movie actually brings together key characters from the universe such as –
- Storm Shadow (Andrew Koji)
- Scarlett (Samara Weaving)
- The Baroness (Úrsula Corberó)
- Akiko (Haruka Abe)
Of all the characters, Akiko is new to the franchise and we’re keen to see where her character leads us to!
Most importantly, the Snake Eyes movie has all the expectations from the 70s and 80s kids weighing down on it. If it achieves commercial success, we’re certain this would lead to renewed interest in the franchise…and plenty more toys.
Snake Eyes is targeting its release on 23 July 2021 as long as all things remain well in the world.
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!