GEMINI MAN is one of the best action films of 1997. 22 years later though…it doesn’t hold up. At all. Now that statement might confuse you. Because there are a lot of great action films in the late 90s that still hold up today. Face/Off, Broken Arrow, Con Air to name a few, but what I was really trying to say is that this film feels like it should’ve come out twenty something years ago. Not surprising when you learn that this script has been in development hell for precisely that long. Even then it probably would’ve only just been half way decent but ultimately forgettable. And while the fight scenes between Will Smith and his younger self might’ve been praised as something revolutionary back then, I doubt that they could’ve been done as effectively. For the most part, they only did it half well in this (more on that later). And seeing as though they only got it half right in 2019…it leads one to think that the movie might’ve been a disaster back then too. Ultimately, in present day, Gemini Man is a huge disappointment save for a couple of small bright spots, as the movie itself has some of the worst acting, dialogue, jarring action sequences and visuals from a format that should’ve died with The Hobbit Trilogy, and a cliched dull plot that has been cloned one too many times to care anymore.
Now I did try and see Gemini Man as close as director Ang Lee intended. Going to Cinemark West Plano, I saw the film in XD, 3D, and high frame rate. The only thing stopping me from seeing it exactly how he wanted, is that the version I saw was in 2K, and not 4. That being said, I’m telling you right now, if you see this on a plain ‘ol movie screen, you are going to think this is the dullest thing since un-buttered stale popcorn. If you see it as close as possible to how the director intended, you might get some small bright spots of really great technical wizardry. The 3D in this movie is utterly fucking fantastic, easily the best since Avatar, since this was actually shot in 3D and not converted. The best scenes with 3D are easily whenever there is an action sequence (particularly the cycle chase), anytime the film is a water level or below water, and where there is a lot of space and large depth of field. Basically, the 3D is near perfect, and if it were a masterpiece of a movie, it might even get 3D to have another spike in popularity. Unfortunately we will have to wait for Avatar 2 for that possibility. The large screen is nice because that combined with some great sound makes the film at least watchable. The real problem is some sequences with the stupid High Frame Rate format that needs to fucking die a quick and painless death.
I’m not going to explain what the whole High Frame Rate thing is, you can find plenty of articles online discussing it in this and more detailed in anybody that saw any of The Hobbit trilogy with it. Needless to say, some, emphasis on SOME sequences it feels nice and fluid and it is supposed to make you feel like you are actually there with all the action and characters, a sense of realism if you will. The parts that are really fucking jarring are some of the action beats in the action sequences. For example, some parts of the cycle chase are really nice to look and and very fluid with high frame rate, combine it with the 3D and I felt I was there in some shots. But then when the younger Will Smith is trying to kill the older one by punching, kicking, or trying to crush him with a bike, the action is too fast, making them look like Wilde E. Coyote and the Road Runner going at it. Then they fist fight later, and the action is so jarring it’s like taking a real boxing match on television and just hitting the fast forward button and watching it that way. When the camera is static and the scenes take their time, the High Frame Rate works. But what works isn’t near enough to keep the format. The one positive thing to come out of this movie is that I hope filmmakers never ever try to bring it out of hibernation again, it is truly overrated.
Here’s the synopsis for the very lame ass plot, which is basically if Looper and The 6th Day fucked and had a baby. Old assassin decides to retire, some of his former colleagues don’t want that happening while also finding out this old assassin has stumbled onto a conspiracy they are a part of, these associates send some other assassins to kill him, one of which is a cloned younger version of himself. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. And maybe that the older assassin discovers this clone oddly quickly after the first attempt to kill him by said clone and doesn’t want him dead because he knows there is a good and decent person somewhere inside him. Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda, you can guess the outcome from just the few sentences I’ve given you. Let’s quickly talk about the only two really good things about the movie: Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Now while Will Smith is now 0 for 2 with movies he’s been in 2019, his acting was at least the best parts of each. You can tell that Smith is enjoying the work, and really wants to be there, which is admirable. Mary Elizabeth Winstead REALLY wants to be there, as she is the best performance in the whole movie, and is a real bad ass in it. I would like a regular action film with just her character, not relating to the events in this film, but with how poorly this film is doing at the box office, we’ll never get it.
Now let’s welcome the rest of the suck. Clive Owen is a Jason Garrett robot in this film, and looked like he wanted to kill himself during filming. One of the worst villains of 2019, if not the worst. The dialogue is really, really, really, really fucking bad.You could even make a checklist of the shittiest cliched dialogue you have ever heard in an action movie and it would probably check every single box. And the entire story and narrative is just playyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyed. So played. That’s not surprising though when you look at the screenwriting credits. David Benioff co-wrote the film. Ring any bells? It should, he is one of the two men that are responsible for ruining the last season and the end of Game of Thrones to a lot of people. Whenever he can’t write scripts based off previous material, he just completely falters with coming up with anything half way coherent. Here, he was asked to spruce up a script that was put together in the 90s. If you give a mediocre writer a mediocre script to spruce up, you aren’t going to change anything. Honestly, the whole thing should’ve just been shredded and the file deleted off the computer and started from scratch. This thing should’ve never been made. Speaking of never been made, there is this really really really really stupid little last minute eye rolling twist that was almost vomit inducing.
It’s not one of the worst films of the year, but it is one of the most forgettable. And if you really, really, really don’t give a shit about my review and want to see it anyway, might I suggest shelling out the extra few bucks to try and see it as close as director Ang Lee intended. I know telling you to spend more money on a lame film is weird but if you just see this in a plain old theater, your just going to end up truly wasting your time. Make it at least mean something with some extra visual flair. Ever since Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s career has been in a sharp decline, with this and that other piece of shit that is actually worse than this, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Maybe he’ll be smarter with his next project and pick up the pieces, we shall see. He doesn’t have some talent with some of his older films, I will give him that. Real quick comment on the de-aging of Will Smith into a younger clone. In the dark, the visual effects look freaking fantastic. But when this clone is in the light, especially the very last time you see him, it is so jarring I was rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinated. Especially the last time you see the clone, fucking God damn awful. Maybe they ran out of money. 2019 is not the year for a Will Smith comeback. He’s got one more film left, an animated film called Spies In Disguise, but even if it is a masterpiece (it looks only okay), it will in no way make up for this or the shitty live action remake of Aladdin. Maybe 2020 will be more his speed, where we get to see the third and hopefully final Bad Boys movie. But oh shit, it’s being released in dump month January…yet…it is more likely to be better than this film as cloning his chemistry with Martin Lawrence is probably much, much easier.