Monday, November 18, 2019

Eagle Butte
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Movie Review: Gemini Man lacks depth of story and character even as it breaks technological ground


My excitement built as the day neared, and I would have the opportunity to watch Will Smith fight a younger version of himself in the new film Gemini Man. 

From the beginning of the movie, I waited for the quintessential surprise, the twist that made the whole movie worth the money, but this story element emerged more like the way you might notice Bambi laying at his mother’s hooves in a field of flowers after careful inspection, and then the movie was over, and I was disappointed. 

Despite Will Smith’s star power, his portrayal of Henry Brogan, an elite, 51-year-old assassin for the U.S. government is unoriginal, and his portrayal of his identical younger self, while interesting, is minimally developed. 

This film is about two things: the use of “allegedly-revolutionary-but-mostly-confounding high-frame-rate technology — in this case, filming at 120 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 frames per second” and the ethics of science.

Not all theaters can even play the film at that speed, but even if we in Eagle Butte watch the film at 60pf or 24pf, the CGI is easy to spot and hard to forget when Brogan battles with his younger self, who is named Clay Jr. and was raised by the bad guy. 

Billed as a science fiction film, Gemini Man really seems more about the science of how it was filmed and the CGI make-up job done on Smith as he plays Clay Jr. 

The film focuses less on character development and more on the relationship between the older man and his identical, although much younger, twin. Even that relationship is developed hurriedly and between gunfights and fistfights, making it difficult to suspend disbelief and forget I was sitting in a movie theater. 

To make Smith’s younger self, the CGI team used clips of Smith acting in other works as far back as his role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the 1995 Bad Boys (Bad Boys for Life will be out Jan. 17, 2020) to name a few. 

Smith acted in both roles, and then Director Ang Lee’s team touched him up, but in interviews with Smith, the CGI team also created Clay Jr. as a full-blown CGI character that can be manipulated on screen to act out the role without Smith’s consent. 

In an interview posted on YouTube, Clive Owen, who plays the bad guy in the film, is asked if he would be okay with someone bringing him back to life in CGI form to play in a film after he has passed away. Owen’s reaction was interesting in that he seemed surprised by the question, as if it had not occurred to him.  

Who would give permission to have an actor in any version of him or herself, play in a role after his or her death? The estate? The family? How would actors feel about that possibility? 

Owen said he would not be comfortable having his CGI image recreated and acting in films after death. 

Like author Isaac Asimov, Gemini Man seems more a film that explored ideology and technology more than it builds character, plot or societal impact. 

I would not recommend the film for its storytelling power, but it is worth a visit, if only for the cinematic technology and the underlying scientific ethics the plot raises. You will have to watch the film for that ethical debate though, but the title provides a hint of what it is.