Gemini Man is one of those scripts that has been in development hell for years, since the late 90s in this case. Finally it has been made, led by Ang Lee, the man behind Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. And frankly I’m just not sure how such a talented creator has managed to make a film as uninspiring at Gemini Man.
Conceptually it very much feels like a throwback to the action films of the 90s, when we had movies like Face/Off and Independence Day. Following a retired hitman, Henry Brogan, who is being hunted by a younger version of himself, it feels extremely tonally like those older films. But really beyond this concept there isn’t too much to Gemini Man, nothing to really connect you as the audience, and there’s a good chance that is why no one has been able to make the film work for 20 years as much as the technology needed.
And it appears like Ang Lee is aware of this, because his big focus in making the film seems to be on using it as a chance to push technology. He filmed Gemini Man at an extra high frame rate of 120 frames per second. The problem is that this doesn’t translate to the capacity of most cinemas, meaning only a small number of people will be able to see it with the enhanced frame rate, and those that have been able to haven’t been hugely complimentary of it.
It certainly hasn’t helped the action in the film, which is sadly as poor as the script. It is hard to believe that the same director who made Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon directed Gemini Man given how poorly the action is done. Whilst it is better than the super fast cutting and lack of clarity involved in many 2000s action films, it just all feels so bogged down in CGI that the action all winds up feeling very unnatural.
Gemini Man’s one real saving grace is Will Smith. Smith has built a career on his raw charisma, so having two Will Smith’s running around is always entertaining. It is as Henry, the original, that Smith gets to really play his usual quippy and entertaining self. The supporting performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong are all very solid, but there is only so much they can do with their paper thin characters.
The CGI work done by Weta DIgital to create a younger version of Will Smith is fantastic. De-ageing technology is something we have seen plenty of in recent years, with the Marvel film pushing it a lot. But what Weta have done with the younger version of Henry is possibly more akin to what they have done in the past with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings or Caesar in The Planet of the Apes where he is a completely CGI character matched with Smith’s physical performance in a motion capture suit.
But the impressive visual effects and Smith’s dual performances just cannot overcome Gemini Man’s poor script. I wish Ang Lee would focus on making the films great before he started pushing the technological aspects of them, as he has done in the past.