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Gemini Man is an impressive digital feat, but little else


directed by Ang Lee

Modern visual effects have long struggled with the human form, until now.

Entire worlds can be decimated, cities fold in on themselves, a raccoon can tell a joke and a lion can sing – such are the accomplishments of modern visual effects. But even the most talented technician has still not mastered the art of the human mouth. Teeth, lips, cheeks: the interaction between these bits of anatomy have defied convincing reproduction for years, languishing in the uncanny valley. Until now.

Gemini Man, from pioneer Ang Lee (Life of Pi; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), demonstrates just how far technology has come: present-day (real) Will Smith, replete with greyed hair and creased face, interacts with and even does battle with his digital double, a younger clone of his own grizzled special forces veteran de-aged to about the time he was crowned the fresh prince of Bel-Air.

The Weta Digital-created result is convincing. Smith Jr’s gob moves organically. Sweat and tears tumble down smoothed skin. Even his flattop looks pretty good. It’s so much a marvel, in fact, that it leaves us with one question: why is it so boring?

For all its smarts, Gemini Man is still an 80s era B-movie leaning on some tired stuff about rogue spooks and hired assassins. The film comes alive only in two action sequences that stand out for their in-camera choreography rather than orchestrated trickery.

It’s more of an industry showcase than a decent thriller, proving that all of these leaps in technology, these skilfully created masks, are pointless unless they hang on the skeleton and muscle of a good story.



Video: Paramount Pictures New Zealand

This article was first published in the October 26, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.