I think I just watched the most video gamey movie of all time. I’ve seen movies with Super Mario, Pokémon and Creed bearing Assassins but Gemini Man reminded me more of that medium than any other film. Imagine if Naughty Dog were to make a 2hr game and then the only way for you to access the game was to watch Ang Lee play it on Twitch. Then imagine that the stream was in 3D, 4k resolution (my screening was unfortunately in 2k) at a consistent 120fps that never dropped.
Technical innovation can often be scary when what once was ground breaking becomes tradition. I heard the horror stories of The Hobbit in 48fps which were said to resemble the presentation of a soap opera. I was planning to steer clear of this type of change but I had a change of heart after reading that Ang Lee was adamant that his piece of art be viewed only one way. My resolve to see the film as intended became even steelier when I heard that critics were being shown the film at 24fps or 60fps and wanted to see if it would truly make any difference.
I’m so glad I sought out the technically advanced version because I am all turned around on the higher frame rate presentation. The movie looked so crisp and so clean. I was totally blown away by how good it looked and how combined with the 3D I was continuously drawn into every frame. I remember reflecting on Avatar after I saw it at the cinema and thinking that despite the generic plot it was such a thrilling experience that largely to the 3D. Gemini Man should be categorised the same way as Avatar as a sort of “experiential” genre.
Plot wise Gemini Man is not all that strong. It doesn’t quite reach the exciting heights of action adventures and it doesn’t lean hard enough into science fiction to be a techno thriller. It does, however, avoid the clichés that many films fall into. There’s no forced romance, there’s real empathy and compassion shown by characters and the action isn’t quick cutting “we’ll find it in the edit” shlock. The film is also not as simple as Will Smith vs Will Smith as the marketing would have you believe.
Will Smith is in his usual good form, playing himself but with some real overtones of sadness and empathy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in breaking with the norm, is a very competent female lead. I particularly like the choices that were made with her character and how she isn’t turned into a stereotype or a damsel. Clive Owen has some layers to his character and it was nice to see him in a big film. Benedict Wong isn’t quite as scene stealing as when he’s with Doctor Strange but he is still very charming.
The CGI is amazing but also still at a point where we’re still staring into the uncanny valley. The bold choice to set a lot of the CG heavy scenes in the daylight ultimately comes back to bite the film in the butt. It’s in the bright sunlight that the film really looks like a video game and this time that’s not a compliment. The 20+ year wait for this movie was supposed to be because the technology was finally here to bring this concept to the screen but it still feels like we’re a little bit away from that being the case.
To go back to my comparisons at the start of the review this film feels a lot like a video game. And you know what? It probably would have been a lot better if it had been. This story is being told in the wrong medium and I wish that blockbuster films still had video game tie-ins because I would play the hell out of it.
Ultimately the film is not essential viewing but it was enjoyable nonetheless:
Written by Benjamin Boekelaar