Smith vs. Smith: Everybody hates cilantro.
Gemini Man sucked.
In order to best convey my disappointment with Gemini Man, I need to first show you the trailer that got me excited for this movie.
I think that Gemini Man would have been an exponentially better film if it followed the plot that the trailer set up. Assassin goes after a target, fails, and spoiler: The target is him, and he is a clone! OH MY GOD! Cue dramatic music!
Gemini Man is a lesson in how to avoid flaunting the worst aspects of a film, what otherwise might have been a minor technical achievement is now remembered for how bad it looks and not even the Chinese market could help prevent Paramount from taking a $75 million deuce in box office losses.
Let’s talk plot. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, DIA assassin who decides to retire after a hit nearly goes bad. He learns that his last target might not be who he was told to be, and of course the US government does what it always does in action movies: It puts a hit out on the agent and pretty much everyone they know. Brogan’s assassin just happens to be very familiar. He is a clone.
What happens next feels like Ang Lee saw this Mad TV skit and decided to turn it into a feature length film.
I lost count how many times spies inexplicably wake up with their pistol drawn to find another spy in their bedroom, as well as how many times the DIA directors said “we’ll make it look like a Russian OP” when talking about killing Brogan’s associates. In a film that didn’t try to play itself this straight, the scenes might be charming in their cliche’d nature.
The CG in Gemini Man sucks and for a reason that could have been avoided with some basic cinematography. Junior (young Will) looks decent in the trailers because he is mostly in dark scenes, in the background, he has stuff on his face. Your mind knows something is wrong but there is so much interference that you really can’t pick out the details and it looks less unsettling.
The movie features Junior in full sunlight, very well lit scenes, and very close to the camera. Ten years ago this tech would have been very impressive. Now it looks like a bad video game cinematic as CG Will Smith’s face doesn’t quite move in natural ways. It falls into the uncanny valley, especially since director Ang Lee likes to stick Junior in scenes right next to his co-stars. Fake face and real face two inches away from the camera in broad daylight only serves to emphasize how unrealistic the CG is.
Gemini Man loves slow motion, which really plays to its disadvantage because it also makes the CGI very obvious and amateur looking. Imagine goopy splatters that are supposed to be water bottles being shot and Lays potato chips exploding in a way that looks like a crappy free After Effects plugin and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Scenes where guns are shooting and debris flying everywhere looks pretty good at full speed, but slowed down the animators didn’t bother to make the (real) environment properly respond to the (CG) bullets and explosions.
Same thing goes for the hand to hand combat scenes between Old Will and Young Will, which devolves into a really awful looking CG battle that seems to speed up with the characters moving in faux motion blur that makes the whole thing look like it was shot in Terminator 2 era technology. Actually on that note the characters fight like terminators. It’s jarring and the audience very quickly is going to stop caring.
Side characters in this film only serve to give Will Smith information or make a quip and then be killed off screen. Benedict Wong plays Baron and gets the most screen time of the expendables.
Which isn’t to say bad things about the acting, which is the only place where the movie excels. Will Smith does an excellent job playing himself twice, Mary Winstead plays his plucky DIA agent unwilling co-op partner, and Benedict Wong is charming as always. Clive Owen and Linda Emond play out their roles as sadistic DIA assholes well enough to make you really hate them throughout the film.
This is a Will Smith movie, so naturally our hero and antagonist (being a clone of Will Smith) both have unsolved daddy issues.
Gemini Man has been gestating since 1997 and at one point or another has picked pretty much every male actor in Hollywood as its lead. Clint Eastwood would have made for a kickass film if they’d pulled this off in 1997.
The problem with Gemini Man is that it spent over twenty years in development hell waiting for a technology that didn’t need to be made and didn’t improve the film. Hollywood could have plucked an older actor and a younger look alike, and the end result would have been a film that looked 100% more natural. It would have been done a lot sooner at a fraction of the budget and probably would have gone down as another schlocky but enjoyable spy film.
Gemini Man might be worth watching if it ends up on a service you’re already paying a subscription for. Don’t pay for this thing ala carte.