A film 22 years in the making, "Gemini Man" is an impressive show of a visual accomplishment that is hindered by its mediocre story.
Director Ang Lee attempts to anchor his movie with a story that does not allow its striking visuals to shine. Though the film presents a gripping performance with a young and old Will Smith, "Gemini Man’s” mistakes overlook what works.
After nearly 30 years as a government assassin, Henry Brogan is forced to go on the run as he is hunted by his old agency. Knowing that nobody can match Henry’s skill, the agency sends the only person who might possess the ability to defeat him — a younger version of himself.
Although the film has been floating around Hollywood for more than two decades, Lee claimed the technology was not advanced enough to bring his vision to the screen until more recently. However, this delay in creating the film left the story feeling dated, as the script is not able to aid the visual presentation that the film is trying to pull off. “Gemini Man” moves at a sluggish pace, as the story must create reasons for Smith to fight his younger self. The movie almost expects the audience to have seen the trailer beforehand, as it immediately jumps into the conflict after a dragged-out opening. Viewers could be more forgiving if the script’s only purpose was to tie together each action set-piece, but the movie is not even able to accomplish this. The lack of action is incredibly poignant, as each scene concludes too quickly, unable to give audiences a good impression of the visual effects on stage. This does not bode well, and with a less than mediocre pace, the film is never truly able to amplify the tension or conflict even in its dynamic action scenes.
Yet the story is meant to be a platform for the real star of the film — the effects used to create a young Smith. Though it is advertised and presented as de-aging, the younger Junior is instead a completely computer-generated image that Smith plays through motion capture. This is the result of misdirection by the visual effects team at WETA Digital, who claimed that making Junior a digital creation allowed for a more natural and human portrayal from Smith. The effect is a truly daunting task, as audiences have vivid memories of Smith’s appearance and mannerisms back when he was in his early 20s. Although it’s almost haunting to see both Smiths sharing a frame, the film fails to have Junior make an impact on the audience. Junior’s screen time is scarce, appearing more like a gimmick for the movie, as the character isn’t given much depth until the last act of the film. Although the effect proves to be a visual marvel, it’s presented more as eye candy with very little depth.
But equally as important as the de-aging technology is the film’s use of High Frame Rate (HFR). Lee has been a strong advocate for the technology, with many of his prior films using the technology to little success. The use of HFR is not something that will be noticeable by many audiences, but it does give action scenes a more natural fluidity. The HFR complements Lee’s shooting style of long takes, as quick cuts are limited to not distract from the technology. However, theaters’ decision to restrict the presentation of HFR to only be in 3-D showings will no doubt push many viewers away from the format. The 3-D technology proves to be more of a distraction rather than a compliment, as less climatic dialogue scenes contain a fake quality to them. This is a result of the 3-D pulling the main subject forward and blurring the background resulting in an abnormal environment. Although the use of 3-D complements the HFR in action scenes, it proves to be an annoyance for the rest of the movie. With it already being difficult for audiences to notice the use of HFR, the distracting appearance of 3-D makes the upgraded experience not worth it.
"Gemini Man’s” impressive visuals and dynamic action do not excuse its uninspired plot. The second-rate story and sluggish pace end up rushing moments that are phenomenally crafted. The use of 3-D distracts from the well-imagined use of HFR, which is something that most viewers won’t notice. Though it offers a multitude of fast-paced action mixed with impressive visuals, there is just not enough here to convince audiences to see it in theaters.