Gemini Man Review: No ambition or performance from Smith can save Gemini Man
Despite the ambition that can be felt from director Ang Lee, his latest outing, Gemini Man, is a perfect example of ambition that’s gone too far and features a tiring script and story.
The film follows Henry Brogan (Will Smith), a highly skilled soldier who is looking to retire as he feels that his skills are reclining due to his age. However, Henry’s retirement doesn’t take the turn he expects to as he is labeled as a rogue agent after his last job and an old enemy, Clay Verris (Clive Owen), has his sights set on utilizing his secret program to take Henry out for good. Because there is no one as good as Henry to take him out, Verris decides to send a younger clone of Henry to take him out and become the best. Facing someone just as good is a tough challenge for Henry, but with his own skills and experience he must find a way to stop this younger version from killing him and take out Verris’ Gemini program for good.
The story, as a whole, is fine, but we’ve seen films like Gemini Man before and it offers nothing new to the premise. Films like Looper and Moon have given viewers the person fighting themselves before and Gemini Man doesn’t come close to wanting to offer anything besides two performances from Smith. In most cases two is better than one, but that’s not the case with Gemini Man. Smith definitely does his best to make Henry and Junior interesting characters and there’s even some solid attempts by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong to make their characters more prominent, but they’re constantly let down by bad dialogue.
Frankly, I’ve never seen a script have to reiterate its pretty straightforward plot and there’s such a significant amount of hand-holding that makes it easy to check out of Gemini Man. The dialogue is incredibly repetitive and it’s almost as if the writers were questioning the plot and accidently added it into the script. Not even the charm that Smith attempts to bring to both of his characters can save Gemini Man – and that’s really saying something. Even the plot, simple as it is, doesn’t escape its predictable trappings and ridiculous final moments that come towards the film’s finale. Every time I had just the slightest hunch as to where things were going, I was dead-on and it’s only because of how familiar and typical Gemini Man is.
Even the more unconventional aspects that Lee attempts to bring with Gemini Man, while ambitious, completely fall flat and totally ruin the viewing experience. One of the things that Lee bring to Gemini Man is having Smith play a younger version of himself through digital de-aging, a process used in films like Captain Marvel and It: Chapter 2, and it leads to mixed results. During nighttime scenes, it actually looks really good, but with scenes during the day and with a lot of movement – it looks atrocious. The end scene is especially terrible as he looks like a living video game characters and it’s easily the worst, I’ve seen this technology look.
Another thing that Lee attempts to implement is a higher change in framerate which allows for smoother movement. For those that don’t know, most movies are filmed at about 30 frames per second (fps) and Lee actually filmed Gemini Man at about 120 fps. In theory, this would allow for movement to be much more fluid and it can actually be seen in Gemini Man with some of the fight sequences. Henry and Junior are meant to be the best of the best and with this higher framerate it actually makes them look as if they are fighting at incredible speeds and gives them a look of being elite. However, most theaters don’t have projectors or cameras that can show films in that framerate, so the film actually has to be downgraded to a lower framerate and it has disastrous results. My viewing of Gemini Man mostly consisted of me wondering how long until the film was just going to collapse as the quality of the film is heavily hindered by this downgrade. In certain scenes, the quality degraded so badly that I’d compare it to watching a movie that was filmed on those VHS cameras that people used to make home videos. It was terrible and I highly suggest just seeing it as a standard viewing.
Ambition clearly got the best of Lee with Gemini Man and hopefully he can take the film’s immense shortcomings and learn something to take to his next film. I can’t stress it hard enough that if you’re going to watch Gemini Man, just see it in standard rather than IMAX or anything like that because seeing in a higher framerate is the equivalent of visual throw-up. Although, even just seeing it normally isn’t too much better.
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