Usually a Hollywood heavy-hitter, Will Smith is Henry Brogan, a hitman with 72 kills under his belt, the latest and last playing out as the film begins, but although he now wants to retire, there are baddies who want to ‘retire’ him by bumping him off, but only to him (because we’ve all seen the trailer), he’s surprised that the person coming after him looks pretty much identical to himself, albeit younger.
As a premise, that wasn’t what made me want to buy a cinema ticket, but in the way it’s been put together. Back in 2012-2014, Peter Jackson filmed his The Hobbit trilogy in both 3D *and* high-frame rate (HFR), at 48 frames per second. Normally, film runs at 24fps, so when I started watching each of those, I did enjoy the effect, but it took around ten minutes to ‘settle down’. For some people who went to see that version (showing on *both* IMAX and regular screens), it gave them a headache. So, to go one better is a hard sell.
In 2016, Ang Lee shot Iraq war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 3D 4K *and* in HFR, but at 120fps. That one barely saw a cinema screen in the UK in any form, so he gave it a second shot (hitman-related pun not intended) with this movie, and with a big star in the cast.
I had high hopes for watching this the proper way at Vue Printworks, a place whose IMAX screen is the second biggest in Europe (BFI London being slightly taller), so where better to see it, especially because last November, they updated their IMAX system to IMAX Laser, apparently being “the latest technology”. Clearly, not…
When the Gemini Man screenings first showed up on the website, EVERY IMAX screening was in 2D! I also checked Odeon’s Trafford Centre for their screenings – even though their IMAX screen is pint-sized by comparison, and doesn’t feel ‘IMAX’ at all – but their IMAX screen is one of those currently having all the seats ripped out in favour of way-overpriced (and pointless) recliner seats. I actually quite like the original seats in most cinemas I’ve frequented, and find that when it comes to recliner seats, it’s really NOT worth the extra £5 you’re paying for the privilidge, but that’s a separate gripe.
After the first Friday night, Vue Printworks stopped showing any films until the following Tuesday, after they had a false fire alarm go off and evacuate the cinema, so I planned to watch this on the Sunday evening of the opening weekend… but then even with just 2.50pm and 8.30pm screenings being available, the evening ones mysteriously disappeared from the schedules! I tried asking Odeon why, via their website.
‘Katie’ replied: “Our cinema’s do sometimes have to make changes to their schedules, this could be for a number of reasons. Sorry for any confusion.”
(Okay, “cinema’s”… does not require the apostrophe, but anyway)
I then asked: “Katie, instead of giving a stock answer, and since you don’t know, please can you find out the answer? That is what I do in my workplace. Thankyou.”
I later got a reply from ‘Danny’ who said, “I’m afraid not, Dom.”
I tried asking why not, but no-one bothered to respond. Utterly piss-poor customer service.
Anyhoo, I settled on the Tuesday 2.50pm screening, and was joined in the huge screen 7 by just one other patron, but was it worth the trip to see the film shown almost as intended? And I say ‘almost’, because none of the 3D HFR screenings were in 120fps. They were all in 60fps. I understand only 14 cinemas in the entire USA can present this movie properly, and there must be just one in London, as Mark Kermode said on BBC News’ Film Review that he saw this in 3D 120fps.
Okay, well, I’m glad that I did see if that way, if only to try it out, but as the frame rate has gone from 48fps to 60fps, the effect feels more like something you’d expect from a videogame’s cut-scenes or a fly-on-the-wall documentary. I was also thinking soap opera, but over time, they’ve all shifted to treating their shows to look like film, making this movie look a bit odd at times.
As for how well the effect is used, it’s not actually so necessary in this movie. It’s 35 minutes before the ‘pair’ first meet, and that leads to the best part of this film, and worth watching in 3D – especially in 60fps – which is the motorbike chase. When it comes to the later fight between the two Will Smiths, it’s stupidly done in the dark which makes it lose a lot of that impact.
Elsewhere, there’s also some cool 3D when glass is shot and it shatters towards us, plus, a tripwire for a grenade is laid down, and that is left to linger towards the camera. But those elements are things we’ve seen countless times before, and overall, the 3D is nothing like as abundant or incredible as we saw in Ang Lee’s movie version of the novel, Life of Pi.
Take away the 3D and HFR, and Gemini Man is re left with an incredibly well-worn tale, where even if you’ve checked your brain at the door, you’ll instantly know who the baddie is behind all the shenanigans. So, with the effects, it’s only slightly better than the godawful Angel Has Fallen, which is another of the year’s biggest disappointments for me after hugely enjoying the first two entries in the series.
The only way I’d give this a second viewing would be if I actually got to see it in 120fps 3D 4K, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, and the lack of enthusiasm from the public means even less chance of cinemas upgrading their kit to present it properly.
Just to cement my feelings, Gemini Man really has the most lame of plots. It goes on way too long and I was just waiting for the film to end, hoping it would deliver on the promise that the technology was meant to give. This film has been around 20 years in the making, as they ‘wait for the technology to catch up’ (so the usual saying always goes). Now, you realise that they need not have bothered.
There’s also precious little comedy in this, only one being memorable when Will Smith tells ‘Junior’ that he knows of their similarity by stating “You hate cilantro!”, to which comes the reply, “Everybody hates cilantro(!)”
Plus, the film feels more like a series of random cut-scenes from a videogame than a movie proper, and the characters portrayed by both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong are utterly redundant.
One slight positive I’d give to it is that some complained that the CGI for the young Will Smith isn’t all it could be, such as with his bottom lip, but I didn’t see anything out of place.
Will Gemini Man get a 3D home release? Well, Paramount Pictures didn’t release Bumblebee in 3D (and it was censored in the UK, anyway), so I’m guessing a 3D release is slim, which would be a massive shame since that’s the best thing about it. Plus, I’m not sure if they would release a home version in HFR, as we never got that from Warner for The Hobbit in 3D.
A 60fps version is perfectly possible in 4K, since the spec includes that, but what 4K does NOT include in the spec is… 3D. So, that was my one and only chance to see the film almost-properly.
As a side-note, there’s a reference to being “AMF’d”, with AMF standing for ‘Adios Motherfucker‘, meaning this is the first time I’ve heard the full swear word allowed in a 12-certificate movie. The last time we had anything approaching that was in 2013’s A Good Day To Die Hard, which coincidentally also starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead… in the theatrical version only, oddly. It was also the theatrical version which was horribly censored, only allowing the maximum (at the time) of four f-words before all the rest were horribly replaced with ‘Jeez!’. The later Blu-ray release restored the swearing, but this ‘harder’ cut snipped out Mary’s scene as she dropped off her Dad at the airport. I never understood why they did that, and it not only added to the family aspect of the movie, but also server as a references to Die Hard 4.0 where she was a major character.
Running time: 117 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Format: 1.85:1 (HDCAM (4K/120), ProRes 4:4:4 (3.2K/120)
Released: October 10th 2019
Director: Ang Lee
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger
Screenplay: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke
Music: Lorne Balfe
Henry Brogan / Junior: Will Smith
Danny Zakarweski: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Clay Verris: Clive Owen
Baron: Benedict Wong
Jack Willis: Douglas Hodge
Del Patterson: Ralph Brown
Janet Lassiter: Linda Emond
Yuri Kovacs: Ilia Volok
Marino: EJ Bonilla
Junior On-Set Reference: Victor Hugo
Bicycle Messenger: David Shae
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.