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New Release Review - GEMINI MAN

gemini man review
An assassin is chased by a clone of his younger self.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ang Lee

Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge

gemini man poster



*UPDATE: Since posting our review we've received feedback from Paramount Pictures, who have confirmed that the issues with the image mentioned in our review were specific to the press screening we attended, at which the film was incorrectly projected.


When the infamous showman filmmaker William Castle released his 1958 thriller Macabre, he came up with the attention grabbing gimmick of stationing nurses in cinemas, claiming his movie was so terrifying it could cause heart failures among cinemagoers. Cinemas showing Ang Lee's Gemini Man in the filmmaker's preferred format of 3D High Frame Rate might want to have opticians on hand, as if my screening is representative of the general viewing experience, a lot of viewers will need to have their eyes reconfigured.

High Frame Rate - in this case projecting images at a rate of 60 frames per second rather than the traditional 24 - is an experiment first tested out in the mainstream by Peter Jackson with his Hobbit movies. It was declared a failure at the time, with viewers likening the experience to watching something between jerky silent movie footage and the video aesthetic of '70s British sitcoms. Jackson ditched the idea but Lee ploughed ahead with the equally disastrous Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk, which again received similar complaints regarding the unreality of the image as Jackson's Tolkien adaptations.


gemini man review
That hasn't stopped Lee continuing stubbornly with this experiment, and based on my screening, Gemini Man is one of the biggest filmmaking disasters in Hollywood history. Hollywood has largely given up on 3D by this point, having finally listened to the moans of most cinemagoers regarding the format. Only the staunchest 3D defenders would claim it's an acceptable experience at this stage, but no 3D movie has ever looked as atrocious as Gemini Man. It's difficult to describe the horror that greets you on screen when you don the glasses for Lee's movie. The image appears to be broken down into multiple layers, each of which seem to hover onscreen as though dangling from strings, and foreground images often sink into the background, creating a near vomit inducing effect. This is particularly an issue during any shots shot with a long lens, which creates a blurry shallow focus background that overwhelms the in-focus foreground. The effect is like some cut and paste collage from a madman's journal brought to life, or ill-fitting jigsaw pieces hammered together by a frustrated toddler. I found that if I closed one eye I was greeted with a more watchable 2D version of the film, but that's not something I could do for two hours. Had I known of this beforehand I would have worn an eye patch.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Joker ]

Was this issue specific to my screening? It seems unlikely, as this was a press screening overseen by Paramount, who made us wait 80 minutes while they configured the projector to Lee's specifications. I can only imagine what the average screening at your local mall multiplex will look like, and my sympathies are with the cinema staff who will no doubt have to deal with a lot of refund requests. I suspect with Gemini Man, Lee has released a CD in an eight-track world, and that no more than a handful of cinemas around the globe will be able to project his film in an acceptable manner.

Enough about the disastrous image, what of the movie itself? Well, it's difficult to give a qualified take on its merits as so much of it went by in a literal blur, and I spent much of the first 20 minutes trying various glasses on, glasses off combinations to figure out if there any way to watch this thing without getting a migraine. But I'll give it my best shot.


gemini man review
Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a 51-year-old government assassin who decides to quit his line of work when he learns many of the people he's killed over his career weren't the threats to national security he was led to believe. Of course, his agency now considers Brogan a liability, and so he is forced to flee, along with fellow agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), following an attempt on his life. When Brogan is tracked down by another assassin, he learns that this hitman is no ordinary trained killer, but a 23-year-old version of himself cloned in the mid-90s (a year before Dolly the sheep, we're told).

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The King ]

The idea of a protagonist being chased down by a younger version of himself is certainly an intriguing one, but Gemini Man seems so proud of the idea that it forgets to add the sort of elements that would make this work, namely suspense, thrills and action sequences that aren't rendered incomprehensible by Lee's failed technological experiment. Whenever an action sequence began I made sure to close one eye, so I can say that if you watch this in 2D they're actually decently enough rendered, particularly a bike chase involving the two Smiths.

So how about that de-aging technology we've been hearing about? Well, it's generally pretty good. When Smith himself is behind the green mask, it usually looks flawless, but in the action scenes it's all too obvious the face of the young Smith is being projected onto a stunt double, and in some shots it looks like the blackface mask worn by Robert Pattinson's bank robber in Good Time. I also found it amusing how the 23-year-old Smith sports the very '90s flat-top haircut we associate with the real life young Smith.


gemini man review
Even if I wasn't so distracted by the disastrous visuals, I doubt I would have been too impressed by Gemini Man's hackneyed plot. The dialogue is laughably bad, especially the many exposition heavy speeches afforded to Clive Owen's baddy, the Doctor Frankenstein who cloned the Fresh Prince. With its globe-trotting plot, digital aesthetic and on-the-nose dialogue, Gemini Man plays how I imagine Brian de Palma movies play for people who don't like Brian de Palma movies.

I never thought I'd say this, but Gemini Man is a movie that's probably best viewed at home on your TV. If you must see two Will Smiths, opt for two, rather than three dimensions.

Gemini Man is in UK/ROI cinemas October 11th.




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