Great director, good cast, OK visuals, lousy script!
For starters, according to production notes, GEMINI MAN underwent an unusually long journey. How long? 20 years! 20 years before it would finally go before the cameras. The idea was original and presented no end of possibilities for development into a fascinating and highly original thriller. One that presents an aging assassin suddenly pursued by a younger, even more lethal antagonist who turns out to be himself! The problem was the concept would have to wait for technology to catch up to the plate before it could believably be transformed into a feature film.
It’s finally been made possible and tackling the process would be Academy Award winning director Ang Lee. The film presents Will Smith as both Henry Brogan, thee veteran ex-Special Forces sniper-turned-assassin for a government org, and, with the assistance of ground-breaking VFX, as Junior, thee mysterious younger operative with sharp fighting skills who is suddenly targeting him on a global chase, which include the streets of Cartagena, Colombia and Budapest, Hungary.
With Ang Lee on board, modern tech, and what seemed to be an intriguing trailer, what could go wrong? The concept of “playing God” piqued a lot of interest. Not that we haven’t seen people go against their evil selves before. I mean, if we recall not too long ago we had older Wolverine versus younger Wolverine in LOGAN. And going back even more, I also recall a rusty, robotic and mediocre WWE match between Undertaker versus Undertaker, at SUMMER SLAM, 1994. (I know. Strange. But it’s something that popped into my head as I was typing.)
That said, with all the noise over Lee’s 120 FPS (as opposed to the standard 24 FPS) approach in 4K-3D for GEMINI MAN, a Will Smith versus Will Smith angle had potential and chance to be memorable. A narrative that exposes a theme tackled in the film comes to life upon nature vs nurture. A web of complexity breaking down what makes a human, the universal questions surrounding mortality, and blurred lines between right, wrong, and reluctantly tolerated for purposes of “keeping a country safe.”
The concept of the film is very interesting. With a resume that’s put Ang Lee on the map, it’d be an understatement to say the man’s an ambitious filmmaker. With GEMINI MAN he reached a little too far. Visually, this movie was a bit too artificial (for me). Everyone uses CGI these days (which is OK), but on this approach, it felt like watching a computerized game. It’s kind of fun and entertaining to take in at first, but then the magic wears out. That alone ruined the experience within a story that had all the elements to come off solid. I like and respect the entire cast, but even they (including Captain Charisma, Will Smith) didn’t help much either. And if that’s not enough, the ending is so abrupt, it’s upsetting.
Quite frankly, it’s not fair to blame the cast. They’re there doing what they can to the best of their acting abilities. Most of the blame I feel goes towards the script. As much as the cast tried, the dialog is hollow and tries really hard to be edgy and comedic. It generates zero effect, emotion, or even liking to any of the characters. A cool action sequence here, gorgeous scenery there, and a bunch of tough-guy (and girl) jargon can only go so far as it runs parallel to all the hi-tech VFX for visual emphasis. Kind of disappointing considering its 20-year build-up…
Lee’s experiment is respected and appreciated, but cannot be taken seriously considering far better work at his hands in the past. LIFE OF PI only happens once a lifetime.
Grade: C / Genre: Action/Thriller / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1:56
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong
Directed by Ang Lee
Official Site: https://www.paramount.com/movies/gemini-man