The creative team behind the new Will Smith action offering, "Gemini Man," has created a situation where their patience to make sure the technology was available so they could make the movie they wanted ended up being the biggest drawback of the film. Without being able to marvel at the special effects wizardry they so desperately want to play down, the film ends up being little more than a passable production when focusing on the story.
Everything starts with the potential to be highly entertaining. Will Smith plays 51-year-old burned-out elite assassin Henry Brogan, and a 24-year-old version of himself known as Junior, who is his clone. A decision by Brogan to retire puts him in the line of fire with Junior holding the weapon.
Past films have used special effects or makeup to make actors appear much younger. Director Ang Lee would only make the film when the younger Will Smith would be completely created through computers. Smith does the acting, but what ends up on the screen is all made of pixels. It is a giant step forward from how Smith was turned into a genie for the live-action "Aladdin."
It took 10 years before visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer and Weta visual effects supervisor Guy Williams were confident they could create the computer-generated costar. It was worth the wait because the younger version of Smith generally looks real, and that's what has caused the dilemma. The creative team wanted the computer work to be so lifelike that audiences would not think Junior was anything but a young Will Smith.
But if you ignore the impressive visual effects, all "Gemini Man" is left with is all the action film tropes – big car and motorcycle chases, massive gun battles, hand-to-hand combat – with the philosophical aspects of a story dealing with cloning brushed over with little fanfare. There needed to be more concentration on nature vs. nurture, the wisdom that comes with aging and the ramifications of playing God.
Screenwriters David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke opted instead for a lazy script. Brogan is the most elite assassin on the planet, but he can't seem to figure out how the super-secret organization that employed him could keep up with his movements. There also are major explosions where no one in town seems to notice because a logical reaction would mean having to come up with a solution to get out of the problem.
Just as frustrating is the way Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character is treated. She gets pulled into the battle between the younger and older versions of Brogan through a flimsy plotline. Once she becomes part of the spy vs. spy saga, her character is demoted to mostly standing around. She could have sparked some heavy conversations, but that never happens.
Those who can forget about all the technology and just get a whiff of the deep topics will find the film missing the target. And speaking of technology, Ang Lee shot the movie at a super high rate of film to help with the special effects and make the 3D version look sharper. The 3D ends up looking muddled and distracts from the beautiful locations.
The major reason to see "Gemini Man" is the advancements in CGI work to be able to create fully functional characters. But that technology is presented in a way that you should not be overwhelmed by how the future of filmmaking is here. That leaves you with a storyline that gets elevated by Smith but never to the point of awe that the technology creates.
Cast: Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong.
Director: Ang Lee.
Rated: PG-13 for action, peril, strong language.
Running time: 117 minutes.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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