Gemini Man is a sci-fi and action film that intends to show the world something it's never seen before, with Will Smith’s dual roles fighting each other for their lives. At the helm of this ambitious undertaking is none other than director Ang Lee, the man who pushed boundaries with action movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and his foray into the early world of modern comic films with his Hulk.
Yet, there’s a difference between those films, and this most recent work; and during the press day for Gemini Man, CinemaBlend’s own Jeff McCobb spoke with Ang Lee, discussing the following reasons why this film’s action is unlike any of the other work he’s done to this point. And you can hear it for yourself in the video below:
As you heard above, Ang Lee’s concerns with the action in Gemini Man came from two different sources: the action choreography, as well as the fact that instead of watching a flat 2D fight, this film would ideally be seen in a full 3D context. Right there, you’ve got two pretty big bridges to cross, and that’s without the fact that Lee would be breaking out his High Frame Rate toys again, to create a 120 frames-per-second experience like he did in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
With Gemini Man already requiring the major effect/character that is Junior to be a full CGI creation, piling on concerns of more realistic action choreography might feel like a burden. Not for Ang Lee, as his mission statement to push clearer and more lifelike imagery required that the action be just as authentic as a young Will Smith walking around on the screen.
Since 120 frames-per-second action doesn’t allow for a lot of the usual pacing and editing that a traditional 24 frames-per-second image does, you have to get creative with how you do things. Ang Lee realized this when it came to two of the film’s most important action sequences between Henry Brogan and Junior: particularly the bike chase we've seen in the trailer, and the separate catacombs fight sequence.
Much like Gemini Man blessed the world with two different versions of Will Smith to fight each other to the death, we were lucky enough to also have been given a double dip of our own when it came to director Ang Lee. In addition to sitting down with the director during the TV press day, we were also able to sit down with Lee during a roundtable after an early screening of the film.
During this discussion, Ang Lee gave CinemaBlend some more details about how he really wanted to get that more realistic action in Gemini Man right for the big screen. Not only that, but as Lee spoke about the catacombs scene in particular, he mentioned that the action challenges of this film were one of the big reasons he took the project on in the first place:
[The catacombs sequence] is one of the three main reasons I wanted to do it. I wanted to do a realistic fight, but choreographed. I’ve been trying to do that [since I] first I shot Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and for 20 years I couldn’t crack it. Movies have been made for 100-something years, nobody could crack it. You hurt people, they have to count numbers. It’s really dancing, it’s not fighting. When I flip you over, you let me make that flip. It’s not because I flipped you over. So the physics are the opposite of what a real fight is.
Ang Lee wanted Gemini Man to have, what he calls a “messy fight” style to its action. Injecting near misses and a movement that, while choreographed, felt like an actual fight, Lee has been chasing this white whale of cinema for a while now. Gemini Man represented his chance at going for it yet again, as he explained in his continuing remarks:
A realistic fight lasts, what, like two seconds, and you see it on YouTube? You want more drama, and you have to choreograph it; so it’s really like a paradox. So I thought since we’re bound to have Junior’s body, we already made that model, and Henry’s not that different, just different clothes. I thought, ‘This is the one chance in 20 years that I may crack this a little bit. I can’t imagine I’ll crack the whole thing, but I’ll have a little taste.’
Watching the fight between Will Smith’s Junior and Henry Brogan in the catacombs, you can definitely see that approach coming to life with impressive results. Throwing this ambitious fighting style, on top of the technical challenge of filming Smith’s two characters fighting this scene out, is exactly the level of artistry that you’d expect out of an Ang Lee movie.
If you're actually curious to see how that particular Gemini Man fight turned out, you can actually see for yourself, courtesy of the clip released by Paramount in promotion for Gemini Man's impending release. Henry and Junior's big brawl is just a taste of what you'll see on movie screens around the world this weekend. Take a look.
For those of you wondering about those other two reasons Lee wanted to direct Gemini Man, they were very complimentary to his work on making a unique brand of action: he wanted to make Junior a believable character, as well as push the boundaries of digital cinema aesthetic. In those respects, above all else, Gemini Man is a success story, as Lee’s off-kilter and gritty approach to a sci-fi action film helps ground the film in our reality; and will hopefully attract some butts in seats to see the results.
We'll see soon enough, as Gemini Man is in theaters tonight, with an early round of showings. Though if you’re interested in seeing the film in 60 or 120 frames-per-second 3D, you really should check your local listings. The technical specs of your local showings will vary, and you don't want to go in with the wrong expectations.