“Gemini Man” (Rated T)
Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
Much like how those born under the astrological sign Gemini are notoriously known for their dual natures, the new film “Gemini Man” has a bit of a split personality.
And like some of those zodiac twins, “Gemini Man” has quite a few positives but also a few negatives, with quite a bit to like, but also quite a bit that needs to be questioned.
This big-budget film stars Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an elite 51-year-old assassin who’s ready to call it quits after completing his 72nd job. His plans get turned upside down when he becomes the target of a mysterious operative who can seemingly predict his every move. To his horror, Brogan soon learns that the man who’s trying to kill him is a younger, faster, cloned version of himself.
The action sequences are thrilling, especially whenever Smith gets to face-off against himself. A motorcycle chase scene is particularly exciting. There’re also some frenetic fight sequences.
Smith is good in the dual roles, and has a decent supporting cast; Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) is a strong standout.
The topic of clones, in general, is fascinating. And I’m exceptionally intrigued by the idea of interacting with a clone.
Perhaps “Gemini Man” doesn’t go far enough – and especially not soon enough – delving into its clone storyline, spending too much time being a regular operative-gone-rogue action flick, a la “The Bourne Identity” or even “Mission: Impossible”. Quite a bit of time passes before Smith comes face-to-face with his younger doppelganger.
It’s unfortunate this doesn’t happen sooner, as the film raises some interesting questions about clone behavior. Like, would your clone necessarily have all your quirks, particularly if you’re raised by different people and in different parts of the world and in different eras?
I would think not. While he might be predisposed to the same allergies, illnesses and disorders, I doubt he would necessarily like the food you like and share the same fears and interests.
Perhaps it’s just nitpicking, but it’s one possibly hokey part of the plot. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting matter to debate.
The bigger issues, though, are that while “Gemini Man” is an entertaining picture, it does not feel quite as special as it should, particularly with what we’ve come to expect from acclaimed Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Life of Pi”, “Brokeback Mountain”).
It plays like an episode of a typical procedural TV drama on CBS – albeit a good episode of a good procedural drama, but an episode of a procedural drama, nonetheless.
Also, while one might want more interaction between Henry and his clone, that would mean we’d have to spend more time looking at this clone – something one might not necessarily want to do. The clone looks quite remarkably like a young “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”-era Will Smith (and even quite a bit like Smith’s son Jaden), but there are even more times when it appears the fancy technology used to de-age the CG-version of Smith by some 25 years hasn’t been fully rendered.
As such, the clone has some weird, crazy eyes and bizarre skin. (Seriously, in which direction is this clone looking?)
Then again, perhaps this was all because of the glasses; I watched “Gemini Man” in 3D, which increases the frames-per-second (FPS) rate dramatically over the standard 24 FPS of most motion pictures in theaters. But even in 3D, we’re watching nowhere near the 120 FPS in which Director Lee shot (and would desire everyone to see) the film, and this creates a very unusual visual experience. Often, it’s almost (almost) like you’re watching real life unfold through a glass window.
But that’s just “almost”. Most often, it’s like you’re watching a Spanish-language telenovela. And it’s got that strange camcorder-look when daytime soaps shoot outdoor sequences.
The end result: “Gemini Man” just doesn’t feel as expensive as its reputedly massive (at least) $138 million budget. I can’t say I can fully recommend watching in the 3D format, as you’re almost guaranteed to have a better experience in a traditional screen format.
This all adds a distractingly negative blemish to an overall decent action flick that some might say goes just a bit too far focusing on the latest technology at the expense of a more focused and human experience.
Ironically, that’s actually the moral of the whole story. And as we’re discussing Geminis, I’ll give Ang Lee the benefit of the doubt; this might have been the expensively elaborate intention all along!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.