Two Time Academy Award Winner Ang Lee Teams Up With Mega Producer Jerry Bruckheimer For The Ultimate Battle & Question…Is Two Will Smith’s Better Than One? We Find Out When Will Smith Tries To Outsmart Himself In “Gemini Man”. The Technology Used Is Cutting Edge, With Some Of The Best Visual Effects & Choreographed Action Pieces. But If You Strip Away All The Eye Candy & Spectacle, Your Left With An Uneven and Sloggish Sci-Fi/Actioner That Should Feel Big & Cinematic But Comes Out Looking Like A Daytime TV Movie. This Is A Rare Misfire For Everyone Involved & Is Now My Pick For Most Disappointing Film Of The Year.
“Gemini Man” is the latest return to the sci-fi/action genre for Will Smith, who has made his fair share of films in this genre. The script for “Gemini Man” has finally arrived after being stuck in a 22 year limbo within Hollywood. Throughout its development, it’s seen huge stars attached including Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and even Sean Connery.
Eventually, Will Smith landed the lead and acclaimed two time Academy Award winning director, Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”, “Life Of Pi”) would be at the helm. Originally set up as that trademark actioner from Tony Scott (“Top Gun”, “Days Of Thunder”, “Beverly Hills Cop 2”, “Deja Vu”). It would have been fitting for “Gemini Man” to be a Tony Scott film see as how it was produced by action mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and with the two having had such a rich career collaborating together. It would have been a perfect pairing.
With “Gemini Man” finally seeing the light of day. The question remains, was the long awaiting sci-fi/action flick worth the two decade-plus wait? It’s an action thriller that wants to be “Jason Bourne”, “Mission Impossible” and a high art version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cloning sci-fi/actioner “The Sixth Day”.
The film’s biggest selling point is the fact that it’s directed by Ang Lee, who’s not the guy you’d expect to see direct a Jerry Bruckheimer film. With his involvement he has a desire to push the boundaries of filmmaking in several ways. The first being of shooting the film in a Higher Frame Rate. Films are regularly filmed in 24 frames per second. That’s because that frame rate is the most cinematic, and looks the most natural to the human eye. For “Gemini Man” Ang Lee shot it at an astounding 120 frames per second and is presenting it in both 2D and 3D. By shooting it in 120 frames per second, it will then be slowed down to 24fps, which creates a smooth slow motion effect.
Unfortunately only a hand-full or so theaters will be able to screen the film in the way Ang Lee intended. Which means most of us will have to make do with a conventional version, which is the version I saw at last night’s screening. While the film looks crystal clear, it looks off and feels off. Looking like a movie that plays best on daytime tv or a pan and scan version of a 2:35:1 widescreen film. Without watching it in the intended 120 fps, we are only getting a taste of what Ang Lee intended. It even gives the film a dark, ugly look that I’m sure is an insult to director of photography’s Dion Beebe’s original intent.
The other big attraction here is the fact that they used CGI to digitally create from head to toe, a younger version of Will Smith who’s supposed to look like he stepped off the set of “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air”. The technology is created by Weta, the technology behind Ceaser of the new “Planet Of The Apes” films. The all digital re-creation of Smith is artificial looking and as cutting edge as we had hoped and have been promised by Ang Lee. It’s a monumental achievement that opens up some disturbing visions for what the future of filmmaking can be.
The all digital 25 year old Will Smith, who is named Junior is a stone-faced, nearly emotion-free stiff of a killing machine who spits out dialogue as stiff as an ironing board. Then again that doesn’t make Junior much different from the original Henry, who is 51 and has never had a meaningful relationship, never allowed himself to feel anything and has never experienced much of a life outside of being a hired assassin.
As remarkable as the technology is, it’s not to say their isn’t flaws in the technology as sometimes when the digitally smoothed out Will is on camera, it loses it’s realism and artificial look (which I noticed it the most in the films epilogue). At a rumored $138 million budget, “Gemini Man” is a dazzling production to showcase the cutting edge technology that overcomes of being a distraction. Their physical confrontations always play out this way, scary in the way Lee has captured Smith’s movements and recreated them down to the tiniest detail.
But strip away the eye candy and spectacle and there’s almost nothing left. As it’s an uneven, tonally off and slog of a film but it is an ambitious one. Making Ang Lee’s return to the action genre not as good as it should be. The movie is so uneven as it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a drama, a sci-fi or an action film? It’s so sloggish that it literally affects the brilliantly staged action sequences, such as when the younger Smith takes on the older one with motorcycle kung-fu, that is stunningly choreographed but doesn’t have the punch that a sequence like this should have. There’s even a thrilling fight sequence in the films climax that is so well choreographed it’s easily one of the best fight scenes in any film since “The Raid”.
Lee who shot the first big shootout and motorcycle chase in a first person point of view is fun stuff and wish their was more of it. He plays fast and loose with the camera as the two Will’s spar on speeding motorcycles, as Ang Lee keeps the focus squarely on the symmetry in their movements. It lasts just long enough to not wear out its welcome.
The film’s biggest problem is the story which is pedestrian at best. Nothing is explained and it just trots along Going for the ride and just playing a game of “I guess we will see where this goes?”. It’s a shame as it features a trio of good writers in one of the best screenwriters in town Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”, “Breach”, “Overlord”), David Benioff (“Game Of Thrones”, “The 25th Hour”) and Darren Lemke (“Shazam”) who have cobbled together a script that serves merely as foundation for the technology. The writers give some laughingly obvious bits of foreshadowing involving Henry’s deathly allergy to bees, and his deathly fear of drowning. There is bad attempts at comedy as when Will delivers the films so called “zingers” and attempts what little comedy there is and just comes off awkward. You know it’s the scripts fault because Will is one of the best at being charismatic and delivering one-liners. Most importantly the script is never strong enough to keep you intrigued as this is the exact kind of film that should be successful in its attempts to captivate and intrigue.
It’s a good thing that in the midst of all the blabbering and sloggish pacing and digital wizardry, that we take time out of the movie for the characters to get a drink. This is seriously the most let’s stop for a scene to have a drink movie in recent history. How much was the product placement budget for drinks? In the beginning of the film Will shares a can of Coke while his boss while he has a bottle of Stella Artois. Then they stop mid way to have Boilermakers. No wait let’s have some Budweisers on a yacht! In the mood for some quick pick me-upper? Let’s have Hungarian coffee! That’s not it as here is another sequence of beverage drinking but this time on an isolated stretch of beach and not once but twice they drink bloody Mary’s. But just when you thought the movie was over…nope. Another Coke for the boss! I had to get up mid movie myself to get a drink just to keep awake. Plus I was a bit jealous at all the drinks they were having and I didn’t have one in my hand. But anyway *raises glass* here is a toast to making the most disappointing film of the year.
After dragging us through excruciatingly dumb nonsense, it all ends with a cheesy epilogue on a college campus. I’m only thinking they intended it to be a franchise but honestly it’s not gonna happen as this a rare misfire for its academy award winning filmmaker.
When “Gemini Man” is being a big, silly, bombastic action film it looks exciting and with it’s stunning choreography it’s quite unique. It could’ve been a gritty, smart, action packed cerebral sci-fi thriller. It has so many working parts and interesting themes, it’s just not assembled correctly. It’s here to look impressive but not much else.
GRADE: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)