The word on Ang Lee’s latest experiment with digital technology has been that it was a misfire. Complaints have been thrown around about its frame rate, 3D, and digitally de-aged Will Smith. However, most have just pointed out that the story is kind of dull and similar to plenty of other films of its genre. In other words, if you don’t like the fancy technology being used for this film, there’s little else to recommend it for. Now, while part of these arguments have merit, I beg to differ on the overall product.
I will start with the problems inherent in the films screenplay. The writing is pretty old school. There is little time spent just developing characters, but a lot of time spent with characters engaged in descriptions of themselves. Which sounds odd, but it’s an interesting dynamic that plays out between the older and younger version of Will Smith. The story is a fairly standard thriller that trots around the globe. Which works perfectly fine, but doesn’t stand out in any way.
Then there is the use of technology. The screening I went to did not play the movie in 3D with the HFR. Which truly felt like a cheat if they are trying to give critics the true experience of the film. So, now that I have seen the film on a large screen and in HFR (high frame rate), I can tell you it is both distracting and interesting. The action sequences where the two versions of Smith chase each other on motorcycles looks amazing, but it also looks fake. Which is truly my overall problem with the use of 3D and the fast frame rate. It just makes everything a bit too hyper real. Like being thrown into a virtual reality version of reality.
The real stand out thing in this film is Will Smith. I’m not sure we really needed another movie about cloning. Technically, we don’t really need any movie about anything. Yet, in recent memory there are plenty of smart movies about the dangers and ethics of this particular subject. Still, Will Smith almost makes up for it. He fully commits to these roles, and delivers a set of performances that are pretty moving at times. There is also a level of physical prowess that is pretty impressive for his age. Which is no defense of the boring other characters around him, but certainly helps to entertain while you are watching the film.
‘Gemini Man’ wants to be a lot of things. It wants to take technology in a new direction, deliver some thrills, and make a statement about cloning. Sadly, it works as nothing more than a forgettable thriller. I think most audiences will be decently entertained, but it’s not worth seeing in the theater. Which is the biggest reason for all the bad reviews. When you provide a bunch of bells and whistles that can only be provided theatrically, but your movie is only worth watching on Netflix, then you have you failed? I guess you will have to be the judge when it eventually starts streaming.