When Gemini Man opens next month, it’ll be more than just another Will Smith action movie. Sure, he’ll be playing a man hunted by a younger version of himself, a little bit like Rian Johnson’s Looper, but it’s more than that. Directed by Ang Lee, the film continues his passion for technological advancement, seen previously in Life of Pi and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. In the case of Gemini Man’s youthful protagonist, you can’t simply chalk it up to the de-aging tech that’s become so popular around Hollywood studios lately.
To look at trailers are still images of the film, you might come away thinking it’s just another case of de-aging technology, which is becoming more common in big studio movies and will be seen later this year in The Irishman. But that’s not the case for Gemini Man, as Will Smith and Ang Lee reveal the extent to which Weta went in creating a fully CG character, something that literally wasn’t possible until now…
“That’s not my skin that they just stretched,” says Smith. “The level of the work is so spectacular. It’s like… look, y’all aren’t understanding how good we are! The team at Weta has done something that’s really never been done before.”
The Gemini Man story has been floating around Hollywood for two decades, but was always seen as too difficult to make because nobody wanted to cast different actors to play the same role. Many attempts were made in the past with names attached including Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Billy Ray, David Benioff, Tony Scott, Nicolas Cage, and many more, but the technology wasn’t up to par until Lee came along.
The story finds Smith as 50-year-old Henry Bogan, who finds himself hunted by a 23-year-old version of himself referred to as Junior. For both Lee and Smith, they hope audiences can look at Junior as human and not just a piece of technical wizardry…
“We think of [Junior] as a person,” says Lee. “He’s not a robot, he’s a soulful human being. There’s an innocence. There’s a character. There’s specificity. If you could live twice, and you see yourself, what would you tell him? And when you see your future, your trajectory, how do you cope with that? Does a clone have a soul? Does it have emotion? What does that make us? So the human existential question is hidden underneath an entertaining action-thriller.”
The other potentially groundbreaking aspect Lee brought to the table was the use of 120 frames per second. The standard moviegoers are accustomed to is 24fps, which gives you an idea of what Lee is trying to pull off here. He’s attempted it before, with very unsuccessful results, with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, but Lee admits to Total Film that he simply wasn’t ready then…
“[’Billy Lynn’] was the first time I tried this media. I was really overwhelmed,” Lee admitted. “It was like, all of a sudden, I had to swap to a new religion. For this, I started to feel like I kind of know what I’m doing now.”
Lee added that he hopes the higher fps will create a more “immersive” experience for the audience. The response to Peter Jackson’s use of 48fps in The Hobbit didn’t win anybody over, so Lee may have an uphill climb on his hands.
We’ll find out when Gemini Man opens on October 11th.