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What The Critics Are Saying About Gemini Man

Will Smith? Awesome. Two Will Smiths? Even better. 

Director Ang Lee's Gemini Man has been screened for critics, and put simply, the flick — in which an older, seasoned hired killer is stalked by a younger clone of himself — blew their faces right off. At a time when it seems like anything we can possibly imagine can be capably rendered onscreen, it's crazy to think that any current film could still be hailed as a visual effects landmark... and yet, here we are.

Based on the movie's plot, observers have been quick to draw comparisons between Gemini Man and another recent flick, the name of which escapes us. (We're being cheeky; it's Rian Johnson's 2012 film Looper, which sports a similar premise.) But it's worth mentioning that Gemini Man has been in development for over 20 years, and that the only reason it took this long to get made was because technology needed to catch up.

The first script for the film was completed in 1997, and at that time, it was to be directed by the late Tony Scott (director of Top Gun, and the brother of Sir Ridley). In its earliest stages, the idea was to have different actors play the older and younger versions of the main character, with Harrison Ford and Chris O'Donnell being considered. (Yep, this was a long time ago.)

However, the idea of one actor playing both parts came to stick in the craw of the various filmmakers which have been involved with the project over the years, which — in addition to Scott — have included Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) and Joe Carnahan (The Grey), who even completed a proof-of concept short with the intent of casting Clint Eastwood in the flick.

Other stars to have been considered for the project have included Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, and Sean Connery; writers such as Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff, L.A. Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland, and Gattaca screenwriter Andrew Niccol have all taken cracks at revising the script. Throughout, everybody involved kept butting up against the same stumbling block: the technology to execute the vision simply didn't exist.

This is finally no longer the case, and the flick's producers placed it into the hands of a master filmmaker in Lee. The director used cutting edge motion capture technology (as opposed to digital "de-aging" a la Marvel Studios) to render the younger version of Smith, and shot the film at 120 frames per second in order to give it a sense of visceral realism. The result, according to virtually every critic who has been lucky enough to feast their eyes on the movie, is nothing short of mind-blowing. A common thread among their remarks: this is the first film in years that you will definitely, absolutely, want to see in 3-D. 

Let's hear from Engadget editor Devindra Hardawar, who positively gushed over the film in a series of tweets. "Vibrating from excitement after seeing Gemini Man," he wrote. "It uses 120FPS and 3D to create some of the most exciting action sequences I've seen in years. Happy to see Ang Lee return to action, the choreography feels intense because it looks so realistic."

In a followup tweet, Hardawar clarified that while it was evident that the script had been labored over for many years by many writers, the film's astonishing visual achievements (and, of course, the presence of Smith) helped to make up for any narrative shortcomings. "The script is a bit generic, but I think the visuals and Smith's performance overcomes it," he wrote. "In terms of groundbreaking visual experiments, this feels as important as Avatar. The HFR is vastly improved from [Lee's little-seen 2016 film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk], and the young Smith CG looks surprisingly accurate."

Indeed, many observers drove home that eyebrow-raising comparison without even mentioning James Cameron's 2009 visual feast, by way of insisting that Gemini Man needs to be seen in 3-D — and honestly, other than Avatar, we can't remember the last movie about which this could be said. Said Syfywire feature editor Jordan Zakarin, "Just saw the final cut of Ang Lee's #GeminiMan and it's probably the only movie I'd ever say absolutely must be seen in 3D (and 4K, if possible). I've never seen anything like it — it felt like I was inside the movie."

The sentiment was echoed by Refinery29 senior editor Anne Cohen, who wrote, "Just saw #GeminiMan and it's wiiiiiiild. The young version of Will Smith is incredible, plus some truly beautiful action sequences and a really great performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The only 3D movie I'll ever endorse."

Fandango managing editor Erik Davis agreed with all of the above, calling the flick a "visually visceral experience" which benefits mightily from the 3-D format. He then followed up with a tweet in which he shared a tidbit on the movie's painstakingly constructed visuals, courtesy of Lee himself: "There's one scene in #GeminiMan where old Smith and young Smith have an all-out brawl with one another," he wrote. "It's pretty amazing to watch. I asked Ang Lee how they executed that sequence, and he said it was so involved it took 9 months to complete. 9 months for a fight scene!"

Yahoo! Entertainment senior writer Ethan Alter went a little more in-depth with his praise of Lee's chosen method of shooting the flick (no pun intended). "Even high-frame rate skeptics may be converted by what Ang Lee pulls off in #GeminiMan," he wrote. "While not seamless, it's probably the strongest argument for HFR photography I've seen, and the illusion actually gets better as the movie goes along."

In a followup tweet, Alter dropped a bit of relevant trivia, writing, "What really sold me was the day-for-night photography; the stars practically pop out of the sky. It's up there with Collateral and Miami Vice in terms of evoking nightscapes. And, not coincidentally, [cinematographer] Dion Beebe shot all three."

Lest you think that Gemini Man is solely concerned with its visuals at the expense of having anything on its mind, though, Alter was quick to point out that the presence of the producer behind some of the biggest, loudest, most brainless films of all time should not deter moviegoers in search of a little substance with their action. "Gemini Man may be a Jerry Bruckheimer production," he wrote, "but it's absolutely an Ang Lee movie. Adjust your expectations accordingly."

The lovefest was perhaps summed up best by ComingSoon.net senior editor Max Evry: "Ang Lee's #GeminiMan is a huge breakthrough for 120FPS presentation," he wrote. "Action sequences are breathtaking in the format. Will Smith's winning performance shows the level of scrutiny a real movie star can stand up to. If you don't see it in theaters you're missing a true experience."

This is all fantastic, but we've seen the trailers for this film, and we feel like there's a certain aspect of the picture that is being given short shrift in these initial reactions. Let us just dig a little deeper... ah! Here it is, courtesy of Collider's Vinnie Mancuso: "In Gemini Man, the young Will Smith throws not one, but two (2) motorcycles at the old Will Smith and that, to me, is very good. Highly recommend."

Yep, that's what we were looking for. We're sold; we will be first in line when Gemini Man hits the big screen on October 11.