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What Went Wrong With… Gemini Man?

A review of Gemini Man and HFR 3D by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?Gemini Man is a sci-fi action movie directed by Ang Lee starring Will Smith. Smith plays Henry Brogan, a 51 year-old retiring government assassin who is double-crossed in his final mission. After killing a good guy (a biological scientist rather than a bio terrorist) Henry himself becomes the target of assassination. The man tasked to take Henry out is his clone named Junior, an assassin in his twenties who has no idea who his target is. This all sounds intriguing and promising but Gemini Man is unfortunately another unsatisfactory tale of clones; this is basically The 6th Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger meets Multiplicity starring Michael Keaton but somehow worse.

Gemini Man takes an alluring premise and makes it utterly dull. There’s needless travelling around the world and endless chatting about what it’s like working for the government or the military. This would be fine had the plot led to something worthwhile but the action scenes are separated by what seems like hours whereas the boring conversation feels never-ending.

In terms of storyline, the concept of a clone assassin isn’t used to excite or pose questions. The idea of age versus skill, the concept of playing god, none of this is really explored. Instead we have the cliché of a black man with an absent father and then some kind of pussy-liberal-civilian stance in regards to troops; oh how horrible it is for American soldiers to suffer from PTSD or die (let’s ignore the countless dead innocent foreigners in every conflict). Ang Lee’s last flop… I mean film (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) essentially possessed the same sentiment …“to the next war… which is no war”… fuck off.

SPOILERS AHEAD

In terms of acting, Will Smith plays his younger self with emotion (tearing-up when needed) it is however, his second clone (the one who feels no emotion or pain) that you feel sorry for, and without even speaking Smith arouses sympathy from the audience for that momentary scene. The performances and plot points are unimportant however, as it seems this movie is created simply to promote two film formats: HFR and 3D.

Gemini Man is the latest film to be shown in High Frame Rate. If you don’t already know, normal movies shown at the cinema are 24 frames per second. This film is 120 frames per second or 3D at 60 frames per second. If you recall, back when I reviewed The Hobbit (which was shown in 48fps HFR) I commented how a “real” movie such as an action film might benefit from this aesthetic. After watching Gemini Man, I feel I’ve been proved right but the problem with this movie is despite it being set in the real world, there’s not that much action to warrant the use of HFR.

Before I go on, I’ll point out that the 120fps version was unavailable to me, I watched the movie in 60fps in 3D which was advertised as “Ang’s unique vision” (which I assume is for the film to look as realistic as possible). If you’ve watched the 2D 120fps version leave a comment below, I thought the 60fps variant looked no better than The Hobbit in terms of overall realism.

HFR even at 60fps creates the look of a soap opera or some home movie shot on Mini DV tape. That typical Hollywood sheen is removed from the screen and everything looks “real life”. This heightened realism or hyper-realism, works really well for the action scenes (namely the motocross dirt bike chase) but for everything else it’s jarring to your eyes, in fact it makes ordinary scenes where two people are talking to each other look somehow amateur. Unfortunately for Gemini Man, there’s not that much action. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen all the action scenes, there isn’t much more. There’s also way too many lulls and any action that takes place only lasts for a few minutes or looks as fake as the video segment of a computer game. There’s also the issue with Junior’s mouth which has that usual motion capture problem of looking false when speaking, kinda like animated Plasticine.

The camera zoom toward the masked minigun operator, the high-speed running of the bulletproof second clone, some of these scenes make good use of HFR. And of course with the increased frame rate there’s no motion blur when the camera pans left or right. A film that is non-stop action (something similar to Speed or one of the original Bourne films) may benefit from HFR but so far this technology has been wasted. James Cameron has said High Frame Rate should be used as a tool rather than filming an entire film with it, I guess we’ll have to wait a few years for Avatar 2 to 4 (or possibly 5) before we can say whether he’s right or wrong.

In terms of 3D, this isn’t a film that’s going to reinvigorate interest in this almost dead format. All the problems with 3D are present here, namely the fact that there’s no “pop-out” (except for one scene where glass shatters and comes towards the audience). The rest of the film has a little bit of depth but not enough to make the movie feel immersive. This is not a great example of three dimensional cinema.

Ang Lee generally makes dramas but he periodically pops-up with a sci-fi blockbuster now and again and he regrettably fails every time. Lee isn’t the greatest action director in the world (remember his disappointing Hulk?) and Gemini Man is yet more proof that Ang should stick to movies like Life Of Pi.

If you want to watch a movie about clones, you’d be better off watching The Boys From Brazil or even The Island. Gemini Man takes this concept and makes a lifeless and soulless flick that’s not worth wasting your hard earned cash on. As a sci-fi movie, Gemini Man contains no commentary about life, for instance how upbringing can change someone’s personality or whether youth is preferable to experience. There’s not much to this film; it’s not deep, it’s not interesting, it’s not engrossing, but at the same time it’s not a fun, escapist, popcorn-chomping blockbuster either. Very disappointing (like every other Clive Owen movie).

Not A Gem-ini.

Writing: 2/10

Directing: 3/10

Acting: 5/10

Overall: 3/10

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