Gemini Man (2019)
Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong
By Tim Basaraba
When silent films gave way to “Talkies,” and when black and white gave way to color, some people scoffed. If Gemini Man is any indication that the next evolution of our theater experience will be 3D+ High Frame Rate, then consider this my first official scoff.
Ang Lee is undoubtedly an amazing filmmaker. From his Hollywood debut Sense and Sensibility (1995) to the Academy award Winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (1999) to his Best Director Oscars for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Life of Pi (2009), Lee has had some hits. He’s had a few misses too – Hulk (2003) was not well received, for example, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) was a box office failure – but neither compares to the debacle that is Gemini Man.
This action thriller sees a de-aged Will Smith taking on an aging Will Smith in a battle of young against old alongside Oscar-nominated costar Clive Owen. What could go wrong? Apparently, lots. For example, a wooden performance from both Will Smiths and a globetrotting, no consequence plot that seems like an excuse for the cast to visit Hungary and Columbia.
The worst part of the film, however, is the flimsy, Play Station 3-era de-aging of the younger Will Smith’s face. Marvel Studios wowed us earlier this year with a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel. Even Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, Professor X and Magneto respectively, looked more believable in 2006’s X Men: Last Stand.
Add in the film’s format, and it may be one of the worst viewing experiences I have had all year (OK, maybe Dark Phoenix). The best way to explain the absolute absurdity of 3D+High frame rate is this: Have you been to grandma’s house and that flat screen she was so proud to buy in 2017 is stuck on factory settings and has the Auto Motion Plus setting switched to On? It’s like that. Every character, even the greats like Vito Corleone, look trapped in a daytime soap opera. 3D+High frame is worse, making one feel they are playing a poorly realized Uncharted game on the PlayStation 3 with Will Smith as the protagonist instead of Nathan Drake. The action is immersive in Gemini Man, but only in a few short 5-minute bursts until you remember you don’t care about the characters. Seriously Ang, did you even view the film in 120 FPS and still sign off on it?
I’m ranting at this point so I’ll conclude by reiterating: I do not recommend Gemini Man, or any film in the 3D+High frame rate format.
If Ang Lee’s Life of Pi was an A and his Hulk was a C, then Gemini Man is an F.