Awarding-winning director Ang Lee uses the latest in filming making technology to pit a 50-something Will Smith against, well, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, in Gemini Man.
I’m a huge fan of 3D movies. I have even resorted to importing the last few Marvel movies that have not had a local 3D Blu-ray release. Done properly, 3D adds so much to a movie. Unfortunately, most 3D movies are converted in post-production rather than being shot natively in 3D. Many 3D movies also suffer from cross-talk as a result of the polarisation used to generate the effect.
Gemini Man uses “3D+ HFR”. That’s your usual Real 3D-style polarised 3D, but running at 120fps. In theory, the result is a very crisp, real-looking picture with no 3D cross-talk. The reality, at least at the press screening in the Vmax auditorium of Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, was somewhat different.
A couple of technical issues with the projection were puzzling. The aspect ratio was closer to 4:3 than 1.85:1, I wonder if I was watching an IMAX movie in a regular theatre. The other bloody annoying thing was that the audio was out of sync. An absolute disgrace, to be honest.
The story has a washed-up government assassin, Will Smith (old), questioning his life choices. When he takes out an innocent man, due to his handler, tampering with his file, a US government official decides to get Will Smith’s character eliminated in order to cover it up. The handler is played by the very British Ralph Brown (using a very dodgy US accent), best known as Danny the Dealer in Withnail and I for us oldies and some pilot in one of the Star Wars prequels for the younger peeps.
Mary Elizabeth Winsted plays an appallingly rubbish spook posted to keep an eye on old Will Smith, by working in a booth on a dock where he going fishing from. Luckily, whilst her undercover skills are lacking, as will all modern leading ladies, she kicks ass. Between Winstead and Smith, they take out all of the hit squad and use a motorboat to escape.
Cue a massive aerial long shot of the boat skipping across the ocean that, running at 102fps, looks like one of the promo videos that Harvey Norman use to sell TVs. Thankfully, old Will Smith’s buddy (we can tell this as they have the same tattoo on their wrists), Benedict Wong, is on hand with a seaplane to whisk them away.
With the stakes now suitably high, Brit actor and the movie’s bad guy, Clive Owen (doing his best American accent) sends 23-year-old Will Smith 2.0 (aka Fresh Prince) out to take down old Will Smith.
What follows is a tour-de-force of clichés and over-the-top film-making by a lot of people that really should know better.
Ang Lee isn’t scared to throw in a few cheap gimmicky moments that exploit/abuse the film’s 3D effects. That sort of thing is fine in a kid’s movie or a Harold and Kumar flick, but not is a movie that trying so hard to promote the “next big thing” in cinema technology.
There’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of effort has gone into the technical wizardry required to create a photo-real 23-year-old Will Smith in a 3D movie running at 120fps. Weta Digital have truly outdone themselves, but the actual movie, helmed by the incredibly over-rated Ang Lee, is, well…shit.
The dialogue splutters from the actor’s mouths in such an embarrassing fashion I’m surprised they could keep straight faces. It’s a massive waste of talent. The likes of Benedict Wong, Clive Owen, Ralph Brown, Mary Elizabeth Winsted and even The Fresh Prince can all put on a good show. But, what do you expect from a movie that’s been in development Hell for over two decade and passed on by everyone from Harrison Ford to Mel Gibson?
The plot is so on the nose it felt like getting punched in the face. When I’m in Hungary, of course I know how to find someone in a library to do DNA testing. “It’ll take two days”, the bookish girl tells our heroine. She hands over extra wad of cash, she replies, “I need it in two days”, or something like that. Chances are, though, that my paraphrased dialogue is a bit less clumsy.
If I was watching the movie in normal 2D, apart from the unsubtle 3D-gimmick shots, this would be watchable, half-decent Netflix Original-style fayre- the kind of half-baked sci-fi I grew up on. Despite the plot’s HUGE leaps, the story moves at a good pace.
Ignoring the technical issues at my screening, the movie serves as a good, if unsubtly shot showcase for the sort of film-making wizardry we can look forward to. I left wishing that Ang Lee subscribed less to his own hype, and wondering what John Woo could have done with the movie, instead.
Gemini Man is better that it deserves to be, considering the plot and dialogue, but worse than it ought to be considering the talent behind it.