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Will Smith is known for being a hustler, appearing in multiple film projects every year. The 51 year-old actor recently celebrated the biggest box office success of his lengthy career, as Disney's Aladdin remake made a ton of money at the box office. Smith was the subject of a ton of CGI in the movie, as he was transformed into the magical genie. And now he's got another visual effects- heavy project in Ang Lee's Gemini Man, which sees Smith fighting a de-aged version of himself. Gemini Man has been hotly anticipated, and now the movie's reviews are rolling in.
Reactions to early screenings praised the movie's visual affects, and Ang Lee's ability to immerse audiences through stunning visuals, wide frames, and increasing the frame rate. But the reviews haven't been quite as kind, including CinemaBlend's official review by Mike Reyes. He gave the movie 3 stars, lamenting how Gemini Man's time in development hell was a downside to its story. As he put it:
Instead, what Gemini Man represents is a film that’s crossed the finish line, only to look back at what it could have been and sigh. While Ang Lee’s technical mastery is something you need to see to believe, the story that sits behind the stunning visuals is a little hollow and dated. Gemini Man is the ultimate catch-22. It's a story that would have worked so much better when it started development in 1997, but now includes current-era visual effects that best serve the spectacle Gemini Man sets out to achieve.
Ang Lee might have been able to pull off some stunning visuals in Gemini Man, especially related to Will Smith's de-aging process, but it seems the story itself is lacking. This is what brings the film down in Mike Reyes' opinion, as the highly anticipated blockbuster doesn't have the foundation to support the bonkers action.
The concerns about Gemini Man's script and story was echoed by IndieWire's Ella Kemp, who graded Ang Lee's latest with a C+. She described the script's issues, saying:
But it’s the script that fails the concept. Once the initial shock of the twist has worn off, revelatory conversations are paced with a total lack of tension, acting as wooden narrative roadblocks rather than crucial words between actual living, thinking human beings. Everything is in service of the aesthetic – in the same way that Junior struggles to become his full self, a clone with a soul, Gemini Man fails to ever fully become a whole movie, surviving instead as a successful science experiment of great tech and poor heart.
While the script might leave something to be desired, Gemini Man has been getting a ton of attention over its visual effects. Will Smith battles a younger version of himself throughout the blockbuster, with CGI de-aging him decades until he resembles his humble roots on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But Variety's Peter Debruge did find some issues in the visuals, as he explained in his review:
Here, there’s something off about his mouth, a slight lag to the way his lips move, like watching a hologram or a video-game character. And yet, just as Junior gets his chance to redeem himself in the good guys’ eyes, so too does he win us over, incrementally, in a series of dramatic scenes that call for the kind of finely calibrated forehead-creasing, eye-narrowing nuance that’s missing early on. This CG clone may not be ready to take Will Smith’s place just yet, but with a bit more refinement, he could conceivably hasten the star’s retirement.
The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton was especially disappointed in Gemini Man, claiming that the excitement of the movie's visuals will only temporarily excite moviegoers, and not enough to make up for Gemini Man's faults. As he put it:
Behind its high-tech visual gimmicky, Gemini Man is a dumb, depthless, undemanding fanboy pleaser which plants Smith dangerously close to Liam Neeson and Nicolas Cage in the midlife action-man league.
These reviewed seem to be in stark juxtaposition to the reception for the film's early screenings. So it should be interesting to see how audiences response to Gemini Man. Will they be kinder than critics? Only time will tell.
Gemini Man's story seems to be the biggest point of contention among reviewers, despite the movie's cutting edge visual effects. The Wrap's Nicholas Barber criticized Ang Lee for not thinking out his story, seemingly focused on the visuals of the upcoming action flick instead. He said:
Lee was patently less interested in the whys and wherefores of cloning than he was in other technological advances. Principally, there is the digital de-aging which allows Smith to look like his current grey-templed self and also like the goofy youth he was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The gimmick works well enough, in that Junior doesn’t seem much more fake than anything else in Gemini Man, so that’s something.
Gemini Man seems to be getting the most positive attention for its visuals, but not all critics are applauding the blockbuster's imagery. Screen Daily's Fionnuala Halligan had issues with the coloring of the movie, despite the groundbreaking CGI work that's present. She said:
Undoubtedly, this level of technical finesse puts all departments under immense stress. With such intense pixelated scrutiny the actors struggle to convey naturalism in a film which wants to emphasize realism. While Dion Beebe’s cinematographic achievement is never anything less than impressive, it’s also there to be admired in itself, as opposed to always servicing the story. Colors, in particular natural greens, are too hard on the eye. And production design is extremely challenged to carry off studio work with any degree of believability. Some finished sequences mimic the experience of actually standing on a soundstage. Continuity is exposed, especially with the actors – hairlines, hair color, ‘injuries’.
Overall, it doesn't appear that Gemini Man is getting much love from critics. But the action blockbuster has an A-List star, and the visual effects have been helping anticipation steadily build. We'll just have to wait and see how audiences react, and if it differs from the movie's poor critical reception.