Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Will Smith signs on to a movie with an incredibly subpar story, and his charisma combined with fun special effects are basically the only reasons why the movie is worth watching. Like many Smith movies, how much you like him is the only way to predict how much you will enjoy Gemini Man. Did you enjoy Hancock? Then you’ll like Gemini Man. Is the first thing you think of when you hear “Actor Will Smith” suicide by jellyfish? Then you should avoid this movie entirely. Gemini Man felt outdated and stale. But I truly enjoyed it in spite of the stupidity collapsing around my favorite leading man.
The story of how this film got made is as interesting as the movie’s plot (not a compliment on either side). The script has bounced around since the late 90s, getting rewritten and recast countless times. Plenty of other huge names have been associated with it, but of course it’s Will Smith who ended up seeing the film to its completion. If it was actually made when it was written, Gemini Man would have certainly been on trend. The late 90s saw Hollywood go crazy with Dolly the Sheep and cloning, producing tons of movies that considered the humanity of clones and robots, such as Gattaca, The Fifth Element, The Sixth Day, Bicentennial Man, A.I., and on and on.
*Spoilers begin ahead*
Gemini Man was so obviously from this dated strain of sci-fi that it aged the entire movie. Considering the morality of cloning technology felt so new and controversial before rich people realized that social media was a much more effective way to control humanity. Protagonist Henry Brogan and company did have access to current/futuristic tech, but they mainly only utilized it for phone calls and alarm systems. At one point in Gemini Man, Dolly is specifically referenced as being born the same time as Junior, hilariously showing its age and making me question how much validity there is to the claim that the script has had substantial rewrites.
Actually, the idea that there were rewrites makes it even worse that the story was as absurdly flimsy as it was. The motivations of all of the main characters and the made-up government agency were all so confusing. Creepy bad guy Clay Varris wanted Junior to kill his elder self in order for the former to “kill that part of him.” But at the same time, he never intended for Junior to know that he was a clone of Brogan. Then, when Junior is about to kill Varris, Brogan explains to him that murdering his supposed father would scar him forever, yet Brogan has no qualms with subjecting Junior to the trauma of watching his father get a point-blank incendiary shotgun round to the chest immediately after. Couldn’t he have made the poor kid turn around at least?
The one part I could tell was rewritten was the prologue. It felt so grossly saccharine that I can’t imagine more than two writers approving it. Here’s a positive, however: the whole team was smart enough to know that teasing a sequel was a waste of everyone’s time. I was so scared the movie was going to end with a group of Brogan clones climbing out of the rubble of the Gemini facility or something.
Now enough with the complaining. As mentioned in the beginning of the review, there are two reasons to see Gemini Man in theaters: Ang Lee’s direction, and Will Smith’s awesomeness. Ang Lee filmed Gemini Man the fanciest way currently possible: 120 frames per second, 4K, and 3D. No theater in the world is equipped to watch it that way, so it’s kind of a waste. My showing was “60fps 3D+”. For those wondering, the usual film frames per second is 24, so that’s a big jump. When watching television, I’m one of those people who complains loudly about motion smoothing and the so-called soap opera effect. But if all films in 60fps looked like Gemini Man, I would have no complaints.
Action scenes with most shots from a medium to long perspective looked so smooth and beautiful. They benefitted greatly not only from the increased film rate but also the wonderful location choices, and the 3D actually added instead of detracted from the experience. Seeing the motorcycle c `hase scene was worth the price of admission alone. The culminating fight between Gemini soldiers and our protagonists similarly benefitted from the upgraded filming. On the other hand, the low-light close-combat fighting looked incredibly blurry and disorienting at times, a problem I bet is more due to the 3D aspect than the increased frame rate, which should have the opposite effect. Either way, I think that the movie is absolutely worth seeing for the fun action moments. The plot was awful yet rarely dragged too much between fun action sequences.
Say what you want about Will Smith. When he is in a movie, he truly commits. No, not in the way that Bale and Phoenix commit to roles. But he just seems to enjoy occupying these weird characters and letting his charisma and occasional tears steal the show. I love it. Every time. I haven’t watched After Earth out of fear that I will have to admit I liked an M. Night Shamylan movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a great co-lead for Smith, and her character had both the skills and quips to keep up with him. And no forced love story? There’s one good choice for the writers. And in this movie, we not only get Will Smith, but we get de-aged, kind of janky looking 23 year old Will Smith at the same time. However, the film would have been much more interesting if they leaned into one or the other’s motivations and internal struggles and not splitting the time trying to show both.
Gemini Man took a point of view with central conceit that was fully void of scientific realism, ignoring what we’ve learned about the difficulties of cloning since the 90s and pretending like the debate between nature and nurture doesn’t exist either. The more you think about the plot, the less sense it makes. Nevertheless, the action and events offer perfectly adequate opportunities to watch Will Smith be Will Smith. And I for one can’t complain about that.