Director Ang Lee challenges audiences with a digital character, 4K, and HFR. It’s not going well. A look at the early response to Gemini Man.
Gemini Man will go down in movie history as a breakthrough film, it’s just too bad it’s not a better movie.
Gemini Man has come up against another not-great movie Joker, and it’s losing at the box office. The complaints about the movie target the dialog, story, and even acting. Some audiences aren’t up for too much Will Smith, apparently.
Ang Lee, however, is convinced his use of 4K, high frame rates (HFR; up to 120 fps at some theaters), is an enabling capability for 3D. The audience’s response to the use of HFR is mixed, which is not surprising. Audiences have hated 48 fps when they first saw it used in The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey; it makes sense many people will balk at 120 fps, but we’re thinking that there’s some accommodation that’s going to have to happen on both sides. Audiences will get used to the higher frame rates, and directors and cinematographers will get used to working in new mediums. For instance, the response to 48 fps has softened considerably.
Ang Lee’s use of 4K, HFR, 3D, and 3D audio is a different approach to immersion, instead of VR in which the viewer is wrapped in a 3D world, 4K and stunningly sharp HFR images confront the audience with a shock and awe approach. That may take a little getting used to as well.
What’s also not getting a lot of attention is Ang Lee’s use of digital human technology. Ang Lee has talked quite a bit about his interest in creating digital humans. He rejected de-aging techniques and said he wanted to create a full digital human. The filmmakers worked from old footage from Will Smith movies and they had motion-capture performances, but they set out to create a unique, distinct character. The result is Junior, a character that is both Will Smith and not at all Will Smith, and that’s one more challenge for audiences to deal with.
What do we think?
Ang Lee is having a hard time proving his case for 4K, HFR, and 3D. This is a movie that just didn’t need to be made. Some of the criticism is that Gemini Man just isn’t a very good example of the macho superhero genre. The biggest problem with the format is that it might not be suited to big action. The huge screen and bright super-sharp images make one want to take it all in, but the fast action works against that. Lee also used the technique for Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk, a look at the traumatizing effects of wartime experiences. Audiences found it heavy-handed and painful. However, many reviewers also called out the movies for their ability to deliver a window-like view on the action and even into the characters. There will be more movies that deliver many more pixels to the screens—the theaters have already been built. These early examples highlight the work that has to be done, to make the investments pay off.