- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2020

Director Ang Lee’s visually advanced sci-fi thriller failed to impress critics or audiences but looks to sparkle in the ultra-high definition format in Gemini Man (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 117 minutes, $34.99).

After reportedly being stuck in two decades of development hell, the movie stars Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an older, retired sniper and assassin for the U.S. government who is being hunted by a younger, cloned version of himself.

Of course, it’s a bit more complex than that as the plot comes layered with a government conspiracy tied to the mysterious Gemini project led by a ruthless director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Clive Owen) and a rogue female DIA agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) willing to help Henry.

Despite a few enticing action scenes such as a motorcycle chase and assorted firefights, the film often suffers from too much talk and not enough blockbusting.

The way too-airy happy ending offers a perfect example with Henry and his clone making nice at a college university, yapping small talk to the point of ad nauseum.

If Mr. Lee was willing to invest in the technology to deliver the highest definition of visuals, the script should have demanded “Mission Impossible”-style, mind-bending action scenes at every plot twist. 

Instead, “Gemini Man” is simply a bland movie not worthy of Mr. Smith’s or Mr. Lee’s talents.

4K in action: Much like George Lucas’ obsession with technology over plot and character development, Mr. Lee fell down the same rabbit hole with “Gemini Man.”

The director’s digital filmmaking offered the absolute purest form of picture clarity and color in select theaters actually available in 120 frames per second and 3D formats.

Home theater owners are reminded as the film starts that they are viewing it in 60 frames per second (normal for home theaters is 24 frames per second). That’s a stunning upgrade and, with the addition of a screen-filling presentation and lack of motion blur, shows off some spectacular-looking, hyper-realistic visuals.

The good news is that the clarity is so overwhelming that when watching scenes on a super large television, one can almost feel like they could walk into the scene.

The bad news is the image is as sometimes jarring and oddly artificial looking especially due to the overwhelming use of de-aging special effects to show a younger version of Mr. Smith.

Specifically, an odd, two-dimensional quality to the Smith clone’s face makes the digital magic look fake at that resolution quality, with a lack of facial aberrations being noticeable.

However, one can still admire the clarity of the overall presentation, especially while watching the fine hairs on the side of Mr. Smith’s hand, the ability to almost see a bee’s wings before he swats it and the reflection of a sniper in a puddle of water.

The colors also bedazzle the peepers while viewing a fishing boat on water, a sandy beach on the Georgia coast, the stars and nightscape off the rear of a yacht and a private jet flying above the clouds at night that looks like an art poster.

Best extras: The 4K disc offers a 3-minute look at the incredible amount of digital magic used on the film focused on adding stuff to scenes such as moving cars and replacing the heads of stuntmen with Mr. Smith’s noggin.

Move to the Blu-ray to find an alternate opening to the movie and three featurettes (roughly 22 minutes in total) about its origin and production design.

Additionally, more informative segments conquer the technology and themes of the film and include 6 minutes on Mr. Lee’s thoughts about digital filmmaking and 6 minutes on philosophical dilemmas posed by cloning as relayed by Mr. Smith.

Best of the bunch is a 19-minute look at special-effects shop WETA Digital’s technology that is behind de-aging actors and using deconstructed examples such as Mr. Smith fighting a younger version of himself in the catacombs in a complex, close-quarters combat scene.

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