The Will Smith-led Gemini Man arrives in theaters next week, but the forecast for director Ang Lee's action thriller appears to be dim. Early reviews for the film have begun to surface, Gemini Man looks to be a baffling mess -- one that even Smith is unable to save. Thus far, the film is currently sitting at a dismal 33 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 12 reviews.
The premise of Gemini Man is certainly intriguing: An assassin suddenly finds himself the target of a mysterious young operative who can predict his every move ... because they are on in the same. It's something that looks great on paper, and with a visual filmmaker like Lee and the ever-charismatic Smith, Gemini Man should've been a hit. However, critics are already dubbing it as baffling, disappointing and lazy.
Gemini Man has had a rather long -- and bumpy -- road to the big screen. The screenplay, from Darren Lemke (Shazam!), was sold in 1997, and was originally in development at Disney. That project, of course, never came to fruition, as the visual effects at the time were not where they needed to be to use the same actor for both roles. It moved to Paramount Pictures after Skydance acquired the project in 2016. And while the visual effects are now up to par, the film appears to fail to do much beyond be visually stunning.
Unfortunately for Gemini Man, the film comes at a time when assassin tales are more popular than ever thanks to the John Wick franchise and the series Killing Eve. That's partly where the film fails -- it struggles to stand out among the other titles whether it be due to the "wooden" character or "formulaic screenplay."
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter: "Was it worth dusting off this clunky pre-millennial screenplay? Frankly, not really. Gemini Man is arguably a significant leap forward for visual effects but a backward step for gripping, sophisticated thrillers. Despite a few deftly handled set-piece action sequences, the formulaic screenplay, stock characters, leaden dialogue and wobbly accents feel gratingly amateurish in places. The thin premise, about a secret program of rogue government assassins, also feels thuddingly familiar in a world where Jason Bourne, John Wick and Villanelle on Killing Eve are all mainstream anti-heroes."
Nicholas Barber, TheWrap: "Darren Lemke sold his screenplay for Gemini Man back in 1997, and it has been cropping up in articles about great unmade films ever since. Unfortunately, the Gemini Man that Ang Lee has finally made has such risible dialogue, such perfunctory characterization, and such rudimentary international-espionage plotting that viewers will soon stop asking why it took so long to go into production, and start asking why it went into production at all."
Ella Kemp, IndieWire: "From the very beginning of Gemini Man, Lee’s passion for visual minutiae is impressive to the point of distraction. Being able to count the individual hairs on Will Smith’s arm, noticing the dancing specks of light from a fire, following the specific trajectory of a fly before it’s swatted – these are integral parts of the film’s agenda, just as the panoramic beauty of an orange sunset over Buttermilk Sound feels fitting for the man who won four Oscars for the marvelous visual tapestries of Life of Pi. But once Lee establishes what he can do with technology in Gemini Man – and it’s a lot – it becomes difficult to refocus emotion onto anything more human. By multiplying life, Gemini Man too often merely dilutes it."
Peter Debruge, Variety: "After a 22-year incubation period — enough time that, had the filmmakers known how long it would take, they could have shot the clone scenes in 1997 and then cast the same actor to play the older character two decades later — Gemini Man is a case in which an awful lot of effort has gone into making an awfully lazy action movie. Once considered one of his generation’s great humanists, director Ang Lee has grown distracted of late by the nuts and bolts, focusing much of his attention on higher frame rates (as seen in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), stereoscopic 3D (Life of Pi) and entirely CG characters."
Of course, reviews may not matter when it comes to Gemini Man. While word of mouth could always harm a film, Gemini Man's true box office test will come when it opens against Joker, which is tracking for an impressive $80 million debut. If those numbers prove to be true, Gemini Man will be lucky to reach $30 million in its opening weekend. As for the film's box office potential going forward, Smith's pull internationally is what may help to save this one in the long run, as his name is thought to be part of the reason as to why both Aladdin and Suicide Squad performed well overseas.
Opening Oct. 11, Gemini Man is directed by Ang Lee from a script written by David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke. The film stars Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong.