On paper, Gemini Man has all the makings of a great blockbuster flick. An old soldier looking to leave, only to be the target of another assassin, who turns out to be a younger version of himself.
And behind the camera, the award-winning Ang Lee, who has tackled everything from rampaging green giant, passion and lust, as well as the passion of two cowboys. But something had to give, when the director does more than necessary.
Think Face/Off, where two adversaries switch faces. Or a man trapped on an island with a volleyball – simple, slightly impossible and ludicrous premises, held together by a visionary director who took things a little too far.
Here, Ang Lee effectively turns this into a showcase of new motion capture technology thinly veiled behind a movie premise, where a legendary actor ends up fighting himself in a farfetched and morally ambiguous plot.
While we can all love Will Smith as much as the next guy, this movie is probably the worst project he has taken on in recent years, and that’s saying a lot, given his recent turn in Suicide Squad and Bright. It is not a question of his capabilities as an action star because we have seen him fight aliens, robots, metal spiders and the annoying Martin Lawrence, but how do you fight an awkward version of yourself?
Smith plays Henry Brogan, the best assassin people have ever seen. But after expressing his desire to retire, Henry discovers the agency he has dedicated his life to has been partaking in some shady business and he quickly becomes a target of one of their elite operatives, a younger version of himself named Junior.
The problem here isn’t with Henry, but with Junior. It’s an older Will Smith playing Will Smith from 20 years ago, but Will has outgrown himself. After audiences saw the first trailer, there was already an unsettling feeling that the special effects on Junior’s face looked unnatural and distracting. It was like looking at an extremely human-like doll, where the motion-capture face is truly stunning and disturbing all at once.
Smith is probably the best casting choice for this project, as most audiences are not only familiar with his most recent work, but also those from his younger self, from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Men In Black. This makes watching Junior way more believable and you might even be impressed at how Junior is that familiar face you can’t quite put a name to.
However, the cons of the film far outweigh the pros of such advanced motion capture. For starters, the story and characters are remarkably forgettable and lacklustre. And there isn’t much of a plot either, as there are zero surprises from start to finish. Emotionally, the only depths reached by the characters is a two-minute ramble from Henry about his life in a nutshell.
It was especially disappointing when the film attempted to create an understanding of the villain nearing the end, by providing a superficial philosophical dilemma.
We can all agree that Will Smith is a great actor that has only gotten better with time but his talent was underutilised with poorly written dialogue and a bland character that would be better suited as a supporting character.
Speaking of supporting characters, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Baron (Benedict Wong) don’t bring much to the table except a couple of snarky quips.
To be fair, nobody ever says that the strength of an action film is its dialogue. Unfortunately, this movie does not even satisfy the itch for sheer mind-numbing action. There is one scene that was particularly gratifying involving a motorcycle but many of the choreographed sequences are just dull.
Many of the scenes are shot in dark settings that undermine the severity of the scene because audiences can barely see what is going on. Even the solid action scenes are peppered with dialogue, killing the mood entirely.
This movie was made specifically for 3D, so here is a warning from a fellow sufferer of motion sickness: take a pill or just see it in 2D.
Lee intended for this movie to be seen at a framerate of 120 frames per second, using a 4K projector and in 3D. Another example of how his ambition became his undoing is that no cinema in the US can even support all of that.
There is really no reason why this movie had to be shot in 3D. Most of the time, you’ll be staring at the back of someone’s head and the other times, it is like someone lit a sparkler and put it a little too close to your face.
Overall, the only draw to this movie would be seeing Will Smith fight himself. Knowing that Ang Lee directed this film only made things worse as having an A-lister is sure to bring in viewers but it is clear that the priority in this movie was not the art.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Gemini Man illustrates the future of cinema and motion capture graphics but fails in its key purpose of entertaining audiences through vivid storytelling.
Story - 2/10
Direction - 4/10
Characterisation - 3/10
Geek Satisfaction - 3/10
User Review( votes)
Chelsea started playing video games at a young age and has since sunk deeper into the hole of geekdom. She dreams of one day studying pop culture for a living so she can watch Netflix all day in her pyjamas.