Ang Lee's Gemini Man gives us a promising look into the future of the tech behind how we create and consume movies, but not much of anything else. The film itself is a middle-of-the-road Will Smith action film that feels far more innovative from a technical standpoint than it does as an actual film. See it in the highest resolution and frames-per-second as possible or don't bother seeing it at all.
The Life of Pi and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk director Ang Lee returns to the screen with his advancing technology (3D, 4K and 120 frames-per-second) for Gemini Man, an action picture that features star Will Smith going toe-to-toe with a younger version of himself, thanks to the technological advances of CG and motion-capture, which makes for an action film that’s loaded with gunplay and hand-to-hand combat, but suffering from a story that doesn’t really feel all too new or exciting.
Gemini Man works for several reasons, but most of those reasons aren’t related to the script.
For starters, Will Smith gives a pair of serviceable performances that remind us yet again how effective he is at being an action movie star. His seasoned character Henry Brogan is an aged assassin that simply cannot look at himself in the mirror, ready to retire and put behind him a life of regrets and failed opportunities. He’s still the best hired hand in the world, despite the cracks in his life starting to open up, but he’s just sick of doing it and wants to live a simple life, with as little killing as possible.
But that’s not going to work out, because he’s (of course!) been set up and double-crossed, typical action movie stuff that now finds him on the run from his own government, only the kicker here is that they’ve sent a clone of himself to kill him.
This doesn’t really advance the film’s excitement levels, but it does allow for Lee and his writers to throw some more emotion at Smith as he now is presented with a younger version of himself that still has the ability to create his own path in the world, hopefully filled with less mistakes that older Smith has already made.
This leads Henry and his newly-formed team down the road of redemption as they try to “turn” his younger self (Junior) from new-breed assassin to normal person that can do whatever he wants.
The film itself struggles to achieve anything more than just another Will Smith action movie, only this time with a slight twist. I wish I could be writing this review, praising the performances and the overall film itself, but sadly most of the movie left me cold, aside from the cutting-edge effects that director Ang Lee and his team have brought to this movie.
The CG and motion-capture work done to make Will Smith look like a man in his twenties is innovative and almost there. I say almost, because the occasional day shots look very phony and out-of-place, but most of the night sequences make it hard to tell that Will Smith doesn’t have a younger sibling or son that looks identical to him.
I’m glad to see this technology take off, because it opens up the doors for more creative concepts that might not have been possible otherwise. I do still think that we are another five to ten years away from perfecting this form of special effect as Junior still didn’t quite move and breathe like a real human being.
Gemini Man was shot at a 4K resolution, with full 3D in mind and at 120 frames-per-second. A traditional movie is generally shot and presented at 24 frames-per-second, which gives this film a look and feel of complete fluidity. Motion is so smooth to the point that your eyes might not be able to understand or process what is happening. Some have described this effect as blurry or too fast, but it’s really just your eyes being so comfortable with traditional 24fps and taking a little bit of extra time to adjust to the increased motion.
Unfortunately, the film is only presented in its full glory at a handful of cinemas across the country, with most theaters opting to present it in 3D at 2K and 60 frames-per-second. That’s half the resolution and half of the motion.
I was able to view it in this specific configuration and I can say that the increased motion made the action scenes feel that much more real. It also added heightened detail and urgency to faster movements, with the motorcycle chase feeling like a full-fledged experience versus just another chase scene.
The 3D/2K combo has its flaws, including a more dimmed and faded picture, combined with less detail.
I had the chance to view Ang Lee‘s previous film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, in 2D 4K at 60fps and I must say that I prefer the added resolution and color spectrum to the added dimension of 3D. That being said, I would really love to see this thing in its full-on 3D/4K/120fps presentation, but I doubt that will be coming to MN anytime soon.
Gemini Man is a fairly standard action movie made slightly better by the tech involved to make and present it. If you’re the least bit excited for this film, I urge you to seek out a HFR (high frame rate) presentation, most are dubbing the gimmick as 3D+. I don’t know if the standard 2D/24fps presentation will have the same “jaw-dropping” effect that the 3D+ had.
Gemini Man is proof that there’s still a “future” for movie-making and how we consume media that’s beyond typical 3D or even 4K and 8K. I can’t wait to see other filmmakers work with High Frame Rate and craft new stories with an entirely different approach. Gemini Man is far from a perfect demo reel for the technology — the cinematography and lighting definitely need some adjustments and refinements, but the technology is exciting stuff that surpasses the film’s somewhat pedestrian story. The movie won’t be winning any awards for creativity in terms of how it was written, but the technology is surely going to keep the conversation going, long after this film has left your brain.