Double vision? More like blurred vision.
Will Smith has acted in many movies throughout his illustrious career, but never in those decades has he ever gone against an enemy like this: himself.
He also turns 51 years old this year, a fact that he can’t stop reminding everyone of every few minutes in Gemini Man, just to prove that this Old Man Smith can still kick ass.
So much so that the movie essentially becomes a meta-commentary of how Will Smith is as much of a star now as he was in his golden era in the 90s and 00s, when he was still the Fresh Prince who could save the world from aliens and futuristic vampire monsters. Well, that’s what Gemini Man could have been, if not for the utterly predictable plot and laughable script saved only by its action scenes (still pretty meh) and technical wizardry.
Literal Old vs. New
Gemini Man turned out not to be as self-indulgent as I thought it’d be, especially for a movie starring Will Smith fighting against a younger version of himself. He plays Henry Brogan, an ageing government assassin looking to retire, but instead finds himself going up against a younger clone of himself named Junior (also played by Will Smith, made possible by advanced de-aging tech) as the government wants him dead.
The basic premise of Gemini Man is like the plot of every action spy espionage movie from Jason Bourne to Johnny English, with the exception of a science fiction twist (in that the hitman is the clone of the protagonist). The movie can’t hide the fact that it offers nothing new in terms of narrative or plot twists, all of which you’ve likely seen executed elsewhere in a much better fashion.
The script is terrible, to the point that some of the dialogue comes out as unintentionally funny and hilarious. For example, one scene has Junior (the clone) shooting Brogan (the hero) with a dart containing bee venom (to which Brogan is allergic to). That act prompted a supporting character to react by literally saying, “You can’t do that. He’s allergic.”, spoken in a way a child would to someone hurting his/her friend.
There’s nothing that you haven’t seen in this way. The only saving grace is the action scenes, which are decent but not that impressive either. The highlight of the movie would have to be the intense motorcycle chase scene, the only scene in which I feel like the Junior really could kill Brogan. The other scenes are Old Man Smith just showcasing to the world how he’s the best at what he does.
Gemini Man could have been something great if it focused more on how it’s a meta-commentary on how Will Smith still regards himself as a massive star but gets ironically slammed down to earth by a younger version of himself at his prime, mirroring how the world sees Will Smith now as a shadow of his former self.
However, that’s not what happens in the movie.
Throughout the movie, Junior never really feels like a real threat to Brogan, despite him supposedly being him at his prime. Heck, he even looks like Will Smith during his Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air days, and the filmmakers even put a reference/easter egg to that in the movie itself, so I definitely know that I’m not just spouting nonsense here.
As Brogan, Will Smith is a slightly more serious version of his usual charming and charismatic self, as Brogan is supposedly haunted by his 72 kills throughout his career. He then tries to be an angsty and brooding teenager as Junior, which is convincing mostly due to the impressive technical effects at play.
As much as Will Smith carries the movie, Gemini Man is made a little bit better by the presence of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Danny Zakarweski and Benedict Wong’s Baron as supporting characters. Wong’s Baron acts as the comic relief and gets the best one-liners, while Winstead tries her best with the script she received, which unfortunately includes the cringe-worthy line I previously mentioned above.
Technical Cinematic Feat
Director Ang Lee boasts that Gemini Man is one of only several movies to have been shot entirely at high frame rates (HFR), specifically in 120fps. However, due to how badly the first Hobbit movie at 48fps was received by the general audiences, Paramount is distributing Gemini Man in versions ranging from 2D 24fps to 3D 2K 60fps and 3D 4K 120fps.
The problem with this is that only entirely new and costly projection systems are capable of presenting Gemini Man at its top-range format of 4K resolution in 3D at 120 frame rates per second. I was lucky enough to catch the 3D 2K 60fps (which is already a major change in fps from the usual 2D 24fps of normal movies) thanks to United International Pictures Malaysia and MBO Cinemas 3D+ halls.
Gamers would know how much playing in different fps modes results in improved gameplay experiences, though I find anything higher than 60fps to be nauseating and headache-inducing. The same applies to movies as well, though in even starker contrast. Watching Gemini Man in 3D 2K 60fps felt jarring at the beginning and took my eyes a while to get used to.
However, the feeling that I’m watching something as if it’s filmed directly in front of me never goes away, as everything looks too realistic. It feels as if you’re right there with the actors on location or like something recorded on a DSLR camera. The biggest pet peeve I (and many others) have about watching movies in HFR is how immersion-breaking it is.
Watching a movie in 60fps made the movie look fake and made-up, especially the action scenes, losing the cinematic sheen that’s supposed to be part of the movie-watching experience.
I would even say that it’s like watching a video game in movie form, which is particularly apparent in Gemini Man where some scenes feature the camera in first-person-perspective.
As for the 3D effects, those were negligible at best. Only one or two scenes truly made noticeable use of 3D, and one of them just featured the muzzle of a gun pointing towards the screen and poking out. How innovative indeed (I’m being sarcastic).
Many gamers will be there scratching their heads and wondering what the big deal is with HFR when high framerates have already been utilized in gaming for years.
The future of cinema? Nope. It’s really just more of a gimmick or tech fad, the same way that tacky 4D or 3D movie experiences often are.
A Typical Action Flick
If you’re a fan of Will Smith or just looking for an action popcorn flick for two hours of mindless entertainment, then you could probably watch Gemini Man. If you’re interested in experiencing HFR movies for yourself, just make sure that you’re choosing the appropriate cinema halls for 3D 2K 60fps and not just standard halls, which will likely just screen the normal 2D 24fps version.
Just like James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009, Gemini Man is only good for being a piece to showcase achievement in cinematic technology, but nothing can save it from ultimately being a shallow movie.
Is it worth it catching Gemini Man in HFR? You’re better off playing any FPS/action game on a decent PC rig and getting the same results.
FINAL SCORE: 30/100
We received a preview screening courtesy of United International Pictures Malaysia. Gemini Man premieres in Malaysian cinemas on 3 October 2019.