When I first saw the trailers for “Gemini Man,” I was mildly interested because, hey, Will Smith times two and Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee! But the whole premise of Junior (the younger, faster version of Will Smith’s character, Henry Brogan) attempting to assassinate his older self seemed a little derivative — particularly since the plot seemed to include the requisite covert government agencies and their dirty, secret doings. I had no interest at all in watching it.
But I was wrong. I really enjoyed “Gemini Man” — especially as an older person. In fact, I cried.
The obvious theme of creating a super soldier is a little difficult to take seriously (but still fun) and slightly reminiscent of a less ethical, more famous clone army. But the idea of seeing and fighting your younger self — that resonated with me as a person who had a very, very midlife crisis last year.
After all, isn’t a midlife crisis your teenage self showing up and being super pissed off that this is what you chose to do with your life? And then your current older, slower, sadder self throwing back, “Don’t you judge me! You have no idea what I went through to get here.”
Yes, “Gemini Man” clobbers us repeatedly with clunky lines about looking in the mirror, self-loathing and fighting oneself. But overall, the ideas of regretting life choices, wishing to start over, and the desire for peace were well-executed thanks to Smith’s excellent double duty acting and Lee’s beautiful pacing and images. (I’m still not over the opening shot of the movie.)
The movie’s 120 frames per second and 3D filming technology makes the fast-paced action so sharp and clear. But it really shines when the 100% digitally created Junior (not a de-aged Will Smith as everyone thinks) looked and sounded exactly like how young Will Smith looked and sounded. Though there was the occasional uncanny valley, I usually didn’t notice it. There were several scenes where I was surprised by the emotion and expression in Junior’s face — the hard work of 500+ artists.
Benedict Wong was a pleasure as Henry’s BFF, Baron (first name only — that’s how you know he was in clandestine ops). Wong’s dry delivery and demeanor was a needed respite from the speedy action and fighting. What a joy it was to see a movie with people of color — in both big and small roles. It shouldn’t be exciting to me in 2019, but here we are. Still excited.
The most unexpected moments to me were when “Gemini Man” subtly called out the white savior complex and how some white adoptive parents think adopting children of color is “saving” the kids from a life they would have had otherwise, casually dismissing any trauma or feelings of displacement and otherness. The movie also brings up the weaponizing of young, black male bodies — not overtly, but you would have to be willfully obtuse to miss it.
While the plot in “Gemini Man” is predictable, but no more or less so than your typical action and conspiracy movie, it’s still a movie that thrills, amuses and pleasantly surprises with its social and introspective commentary. It’s a solid movie that will entertain you. And while most people may focus on the looks of a young Will Smith, I agree with what he told us at the panel: “There’s a certain gorgeousness to age. Young folks can’t capture this.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
”Gemini Man” is slated for wide-release in movie theaters on Friday, October 11, 2019.
Photo credits: Paramount Pictures