Monday, November 18, 2019

Gemini Man: The Tragic Tale of Development Hell

Reel Reviews

Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is a top-tier soldier and deadly hitman. After completing his last job, he’s ready to retire and live out the rest of his days in peace. Unfortunately, his retirement ends immediately when he’s targeted by his own government. After dispatching thug after thug, he’s soon targeted by a single assassin who proves to be a challenge for him. Now on the run, Brogan will have to decipher why his own government is out to get him while avoiding his unknown assailant. However, things only get worse when Brogan discovers the one he’s been fighting this entire time, has been himself. His unknown killer this whole time has been a young clone of himself, known only as Junior (Will Smith). The film also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clive Owen.

I’m going to just rip off the band-aid and say it plainly. “Gemini Man” is a bad movie. The story and dialogue is so by the book it kind of hurts. There’s nothing different or unique about it. There were multiple occasions where I was sitting in the theater, my mind wandering as I thought of ideas that could’ve made certain scenes better. The worst part is I can’t even talk about what the audience thought of it, because there was no audience! I’ve reviewed over 70 movies for this paper, and I was never the only occupant in the theater. Want to know what’s worse than watching a bland action film? Watching it in a deserted theater!

There’s no threat or tension, Will Smith’s character just goes from place to place, succeeding in every challenge he faces with barely an issue. Even the action scenes are dull; it’s all just bland shooting and dodging with no challenge. The only time there was anything close to tension is when Will Smith’s character is fighting his clone, and even then, they’re not enough to carry the film, let alone save it. You know the action is bad when the only occupant in the theater is standing by the doorway during the final battle.

To be fair, the acting is passable. Although, I swear there are too many moments where Clive Owen is just mumbling his lines. Will Smith is decent for the most part, and I’ll admit it’s cool seeing him interact with his younger clone. Plus, the special effects in making him younger were pretty great as well. In all honesty, I feel like there were some good ideas in “Gemini Man.” However, I’ve seen these ideas used in better stories. The film is just a bland, lackluster version of “Mission Impossible,” “The 6th Day,” and “Metal Gear Solid,” because those stories used the same ideas seen in “Gemini Man,” but with better execution and greater detail.

Now, here’s where it starts to get really tragic. Usually, in a bad film you can see where the blame shifts. Even if you have the world’s best actors, they’re still at the mercy of the one who directs them and the script they’re tethered too. So, you may be thinking the fault lies in the poor talent of the director and the lackluster creativity of the writer. That’s what I thought as well, until I discovered who it was in the directing chair.

“Gemini Man” was directed by Ang Lee, an Oscar-winning director who gave us “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi.” I’ll give you a moment to pick up your jaw off the floor. Okay, so maybe the blame falls on the writer, or writers in this case considering the movie has more than one. Yes, despite the lackluster and by-the-book story we were given, “Gemini Man” is credited with over three screenwriters. There’s Billy Ray, the man who wrote “Captain Phillips” and “The Hunger Games” movie. Darren Lemke, the writer behind the recent smash-hit superhero film “Shazam!” And finally David Benioff, who was one of the main writers on the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones.”

Everyone attached to this project clearly had talent and credentials. So what went wrong, did they all just show up on a bad day? Well, I have a theory regarding what may have ruined this film, but in order to comprehend it, we need to discuss the industry-expression known in the media as “Development Hell.”

Development Hell is when a movie, television show, video game, soundtrack, or some form of media is trapped in development for a considerable amount of time before it even enters production. You see not every film is made right off the bat. Some projects don’t see release for years; the reasons why they’re put on hold can vary. It could be because of budget constraints, lack of time, trying to get past censorship, and that’s only to name a few. They can be postponed, they can be abandoned, but so long as the word cancelled is never used, the project is still considered stuck in Development Hell. The problem is that the longer it takes to complete a project, the harder it is to maintain the original vision.

Now just because a project is stuck in Development Hell doesn’t mean it’s doomed to fail. There have been numerous projects that have escaped and succeeded. For example, James Cameron’s box office smash film “Avatar” was trapped in Development Hell for 15 years. Having begun production in 1994, the film didn’t see the light of day until 2009 after the technology had developed to help bring his vision into reality. Of course, not every story has a happy ending. There have been numerous projects that departed Development Hell, only to crash and end in failure. And unfortunately, “Gemini Man” is one of those projects.

The film started back in 1997 and was originally written with Clint Eastwood in mind for the role. It gets even weirder when you find out that Disney was the original studio producing the film. I can only imagine the script went through numerous changes because PG-13 or not, I can’t see Disney wanting their name attached to a plot that involves hitman and killing soldiers—unless it’s Marvel making it. Getting back on topic, the project went through various hands and numerous stars over the years. During a period, Nicholas Cage was even attached to the project back in 2003, but left in 2010 to do “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Ironically, another film that was doomed to bomb.

So, after almost two decades, a company called Skydance Media purchased the rights from Disney. Somehow, Skydance Media was able to get Ang Lee and Will Smith on the project as the film finally got into production. The film had at last escaped Development Hell and into theaters. Unfortunately, it may have been better if it stayed there, because “Gemini Man” is just terrible. My best guess is that whatever “Gemini Man” was intended to be, probably never happened due to rotting in Development Hell for so long. Maybe if it had come out in the 90s when it was first conceived it would’ve had a better chance, because the years have certainly not been kind to this project 22 years in the making.

“Gemini Man” is rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, along with brief strong language. This movie is like drinking a hot glass of water. It’s not horrible, and there’s nothing in it that’s going to hurt you. But it’s not refreshing or enjoyable and you just wish you were drinking something better. You know it’s a bad film when the backstory is more interesting than the actual movie. It’s the sad tale of a film that was cast into Development Hell, and will probably be cast into the $2 bin of obscurity. In the end, the best score I can give “Gemini Man” is a 5.5 out of 10.

Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.

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