Stories about twins can be powerful metaphors. They can be profound meditations on whether it’s nature or nurture that makes us who we are. They can be explorations of our darker halves made flesh. They can be mysteries about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito sharing most of their DNA. Or dramatic short films during the Super Bowl pondering why anyone would intentionally drink Coors.
Gemini Man is none of those things. It’s a shittily shot action film that uses the CGI gimmick of a de-aged Will Smith as its sole point of creativity. No thoughtfulness, no contemplation, not even leaning into the humor of the concept. It is such a catastrophic waste of an insanely talented cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong have so many better movies they could be making other than this.
The entire movie is in the trailer, so, well, spoilers follow which amount to telling you that in the movie about clones, the clones fight. And then they become friends. Sorry for ruining that for you. There’s old Will Smith and young Will Smith. Let’s just go with calling them Uncle Kill and the Fresh Prince. Uncle Kill is the world’s bestest assassin but he wants to retire. Naturally, instead of giving him a pension to enjoy on his obligatory fishing boat on the gulf coast, his old bosses start sending death squads of SAG extras to die.
The bad guy is Clive Owen, playing the evil mercenary who not only runs a giant Blackwater style private army, but has the resources to have his own cutting edge genetics lab that does human cloning. When Uncle Kill turns down a job offer twenty years before this masterpiece of cinema is set, Clive clones him and secretly raises the Fresh Prince as his own adopted son. As one does.
As an aside, it’s more like the Fresh Prince of the Uncanny Valley, because this CGI is baaaaaaaaad. Most of the movie is dark enough that you can’t tell, but sweet Jesus the mandatory epilogue set six months later in happy sunny days is painful to watch. It’s like someone downloaded an animated GIF of Will Smith in 1995 on a spotty modem: noisy, spastic, and just disturbing. Also, they turned the dial up a bit too high on the de-aging algorithm, because the Fresh Prince looks at most fourteen despite them telling us he’s 23. Like, he looks creepy young throughout.
So it’s basically The Bourne Identity with cloning instead of amnesia, and bad action. You see Ang Lee in the opening credits as director, and you at least expect the action to be decent. But no. The action is shot to make Fresh Prince and Uncle Kill move with superhuman speed and take blows that would sit Captain America down, which just adds to the cognitive dissonance of the bad CGI since this isn’t a superhero movie. At one point the Fresh Prince beats Uncle Kill up with a motorcycle. On screen it makes even less sense than that sentence does on screen.
It’s humorless except occasionally by accident when the stupidity of the script pushes an involuntary snort out of your bored catatonia. The movie is so absurdly and idiotically conceived that its only hope was to wink at the camera for the whole thing. One clone? Fuck it, make it fifty. I completely fail to understand why people keep casting Will Smith in movies and tell him to not have any fun. How do you take a men with more raw charm and humor than should be legal, stick him face to face with a CGI young version of himself, and have him mutter shit like “it’s like looking in a mirror” instead of a half dozen ad-libbed versions of “damn son, I knew I was a good looking man”?
A fantastically fun and surprisingly deep movie could have been made out of this premise. Take the old killer and see if the parts of what makes him a killer are built-in or were developed through experience. There’s a point at which Uncle Kill rattles off a whole laundry list of things he knows about the Fresh Prince because they’re the same person. It involves insights like having nightmares, being scared of opening up to anyone, still being a virgin at 23, and only being happy when shooting a gun. This just in, none of those things are genetic.
In fact, they use the fact that they’re both allergic to bee stings as a major plot point. The only problem is that like all of those other things, allergies to bee stings aren’t genetic. Ouch. Oops. But that would take a cursory google search, which is clearly beyond whatever idiot wrote this. *listens to earpiece for a moment* Yes, this just in, said idiot was David Benioff, master of such literary heights as the final season of Game of Thrones. Everything is making sense now. More like Castor and Pollsux, am I right?
Just go rewatch the Coors Light twins commercial if you need a clone fix. It has more depth and pathos than this mess.
Dr. Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.
Header Image Source: Skydance