Ang Lee's "Gemini Man" at 120 fps. Seen it?

Ang Lee’s action thriller Gemini Man, starring Will Smith, opened last Friday. Lee shot it in 4K 3D at 120 frames per second, five times the standard 24 fps.

Unfortunately, no theaters in the US are capable of showing it in that format, and only 14 US theaters can show it in 2K 3D 120 fps. (Apparently, a much larger number of theaters are showing it at 60 fps. Listings designate them as “30+ HFR.”)

Fortunately for me, one of the fourteen 120 fps screens is only 30 minutes away, and I saw it tonight.

Let me start off by saying that, IMHO, as a movie, Gemini Man is a fair-to-middling action flick. I found the story formulaic, predictable, and almost entirely unremarkable. For that reason, I’m not interested in discussing the story in this thread.

The film’s only notable achievements are technical. The first of those achievements is the computer-generated young version of Will Smith. I’m no expert, and haven’t bothered to read up on how it was done, but apparently they used different tech than some of the previous films that “de-aged” their stars. IMO, it was very well done, with virtually no trace of the “uncanny valley” effect. But as with the story, I’m not terribly interested in discussing that aspect.

I am interested in the film’s use of HFR, and in the reactions of my fellow Dopers and the general public to the HFR experience. As many of you undoubtedly know, the first mainstream experiment with HFR was Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), which was shot at 48 fps, and projected at that rate in a fairly large number of theaters. There was a substantial negative reaction on the part of critics, and, to a lesser extent, the public. People complained that it had a “video” look that was distracting and uncinematic. Many theories were put forward as to why this was so, but the takeaway for many filmmakers and filmgoers was that HFR doesn’t work for drama.

In 2016, Ang Lee released Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 4K 3D at 120 fps, but it was only screened in that format in a couple of theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Almost no one saw it as it was meant to be seen. It didn’t have much of an impact.

So here comes the next attempt, with a slightly wider 120 fps release and a fairly substantial 60 fps release. What will the critical and popular reaction be?

Having just gotten back from the theater, I haven’t started reading reviews, but my impression was very positive. I found the images very compelling and realistic, and vastly superior to the 48 fps of The Hobbit. The look is more “video” than old-school “film-like,” but in a good way, IMO. 120 fps is “hyper-video,” and when done right is much more immediate and realistic than conventional movies. The experience is also enhanced by being in high dynamic range (HDR) as well. (All 14 of the theaters showing it at 120 fps are Dolby Cinema screens, which have twice the light output, and a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, compared to 2,000:1 of conventional projectors.)

It may also be the case that Gemini Man’s setting in the real world is better suited to the ultra-realism of HFR than the fantasy world of Middle Earth.

The downside is that this additional realism calls for much better acting. Will Smith was up to the challenge, as was his CG doppelganger, but most of the rest of the cast, except perhaps for Clive Owen, was not. (Unfortunately, part of this was also the fault of the script, which didn’t give the supporting characters any depth.)

Probably the most telling testimonial to the power of 120 fps HFR was the reaction of my wife, who loves movies, but is not a tech geek or fan of action films. After seeing it, she said, “Well, IMAX is fucked!” She also opined that this is how all movies will be made in the future, because it is such a superior experience (even with a mediocre movie).

I am going to try to see it in one of the 60 fps theaters and, time permitting, may also go to a 24 fps version as well, to see how the experiences differ. (I only wish it was good enough to deserve being seen three times.)

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Anybody remember Showscan?

Utterly uneconomic, but boy did it look good. Think 3D without glasses good.

Now that film is not involved, the various HFR formats can be implemented cheaply.

I saw it at one of the 14 theatres you mentioned above the other day. It did look fantastic. They busted out the 3D Dolby glasses again (that’s a rarity, I’ve only seen them for Alita and this movie so far). I think you do the movie a little bit of a disservice because some of the action sequences were fantastic, but it wasn’t my favourite movie I’ve seen even in the past week or anything like that.

I too would like to see it at the other theatre in town to see how it compares, but I don’t think I’ll have time to do it before it leaves the Dolby screens. Oh well.

I saw Showscan back in the mid-1980s and was completely knocked out by it. Five-perf 70mm film running at 60 fps. It was magnificent! One of the great cinema experiences of all time.

Not coincidentally, the 4K 3D 120 fps system Ang Lee used for Gemini Man and Billy Lynn was developed by Douglas Trumbull, the inventor of Showscan and the SFX genius behind the slit-scan effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and effects in Close Encounters, Blade Runner, and many other classic SF films.

Although Showscan was relatively successful in special-venue settings (ride films, theme parks, world’s fairs, etc.) it suffered from the usual chicken-and-egg problem of all new formats attempting to break into a mature market: you can’t make films unless there are theaters to show them in, and you can’t build theaters unless you have films to show.

The founders of IMAX Corporation originally hoped that IMAX would be installed in regular movie theaters, but couldn’t overcome that problem. They were saved by sales to a few very influential museums (most notably the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC), and IMAX became popular as a format for short nature and science documentaries. Only two decades later did it eventually spread to the multiplex world, although not without some stumbles along the way.

I agree that many of the action sequences were amazing (although I thought the motorcycle chase was unbelievable and too clearly CGI), but when the action sequences or the special effects are the best things in a movie, that means it’s a crappy movie. Action and effects have to serve the story, not the other way around.

I’m heading out within the hour to see the 60 fps and the 24 fps versions at a nearby theater.

(BTW, I misread the designation for the other HFR screenings: I thought it was 30+HFR – which I thought meant “more than 30 fps” HFR – but it’s actually 3D+HFR. :smack:)

There are several HFR screenings of the film here in the SF Bay Area. But remembering what a horrible experience the first HOBBIT film was, it would definitely have to be a very good movie to foot the ridiculous “premium” price tag that this special-format screening usually charges. From all the reviews, it sounds like this isn’t it. There are a bushel-load of films I want to see out currently that I’m interested in out of genuine enthusiasm and not just some mild tech-based curiosity.

But thanks to the OP for the report from the trenches.

Okay, I wasn’t going to see it, but this thread got me to jump out of my chair and go to the earliest HFR showing I could find.

Annnd, I’m back. Darn you, commasense, for making me go (Naaah, it wasn’t a complete waste. But only because Will Smith is almost always likeable and entertaining).

My first thought, which I almost said out loud: “Say, moviegoers, do you wish movies were more like video games?” Later: “Why oh WHY couldn’t they have just gotten a kid that looks like Will Smith?” Then you wouldn’t have this ‘Bendy Tobey’ from the first Spider-Man. Seriously, if that web-swinging bothered you (and apparently, it still sticks in my craw), you’ll get a lot of it in this movie. Even at a distance, my brain picked out Wee Will and zeroed in on him as a fake.

We’ve made a lot of progress since Bendy Tobey and Moff CGI Tarkin, but by no means enough. And the heightened frame rate and 3D only exaggerated the CGI (which might have been appropriate in Ready Player One or a Tron remake, but not supposedly real people running through the streets of Marrakesh).

Amen. I knew going in that it’d be like Avatar: ground-breaking visuals, forgettable movie. I’m already offloading chunks of what was it called? Oh, yeah ‘Gemini Man’ to make way for new memories. Ask me about it now, because by next week, it’ll be all faded…

Bit of a hijack:

I disagree. A good action movie tells a story through * its action and effects. Mad Max: Fury Road and the John Wick* films are modern masterpieces because the action WAS the story. Cinema, after all, is first and foremost a visual medium.

Besides, you could say the same thing about singing and dancing. Is *Singin’ in the Rain *a crappy movie because the musical sequences are the best part of the movie?

Yesterday I went to a theater that was showing both the 3D HFR (60 fps) version and the standard 2D 24 fps version about one hour apart, so I could compare them to the 2K 3D 120 fps version I saw on Wednesday. (I have not seen the IMAX 3D 60 fps version.)

Obviously, 120 fps is best. By far. It felt like you were looking through a window at real life, and because it was Dolby Cinema, the brightest projection system available, it was very bright, with great dynamic range, even though it was 3D.

The RealD 60 fps version was dark and flat and didn’t have the depth or detail of the 120 fps version. It didn’t feel like the same movie.

The 2D 24 fps version was much brighter, and seemed sharper, but in scenes with motion the usual strobing/juddering effect of low frame rate was quite visible, whereas it was not apparent in either the 60 or 120 fps versions.

So it’s hard to say which of the lesser two is better. I think I’d probably pick the 2D 24 fps because the brighter image was more appealing. Over the past century, good cinematographers have learned how to minimize strobing and judder, so although it was present in the 24 version, there wasn’t a lot of it, and IMO it was less objectionable than the dimness and lack of detail of the 3D 60 fps version.

One thing I didn’t mention in earlier posts was the 3D. It wasn’t great. Ang Lee knows how to use 3D (e.g. Life of Pi), but this film didn’t really seem to benefit much from it. A few of the interior action scenes used it well, but in general there didn’t seem to be much point to the 3D.

(FYI: In this system, each projector is only displaying 60 fps, but they alternate, so the total number of frames displayed is 120. But it’s not 120 to each eye.)

As for critical and audience response, Gemini Man’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes is 25% from critics and 84% from audiences. I don’t spend a lot of time at RT, but that seems like a pretty wide gap. Of course, the critics are rightly slamming it for its weak storyline, but most also made a point of saying they disliked the HFR. I suspect a lot of critics have an anti-HFR bias that the public doesn’t necessarily share. Of course, the majority of the public didn’t see the 120 fps version, whereas the majority of critics probably did. So WRT the HFR, it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

The guys at Adam Savage’s Tested website talk about the movie’s use of HFR at length here. I don’t agree with everything they say, but I do agree that this is a technology worth exploring. I think talented filmmakers will be able to find a way to make it work, and that if HFR doesn’t become the standard, it will at least be a useful new tool.

Trumbull wanted to use Showscan in his 1983 feature Brainstorm to mark the transitions between ordinary reality and the scenes of being in someone else’s mind, like The Wizard of Oz’s use of color. HFR could be used in a similar fashion, once projectors are fully capable of switching frame rates on the fly, instantaneously. (It is my understanding that most cannot do that now.)

If Hollywood can’t or won’t use HFR for regular movies, it might also be effective for things like documentaries or presentations of live stage performances or operas.

I saw it in 3D at one of the 14 theaters listed in the OP. I liked it. It was a good action flick. I tend to look at the audience score on RT as opposed to the critics score. If the average score of several thousand viewers is 70% or higher, it tends to be a pretty decent movie in my opinion.

As far as the cinematography of Gemini Man on 3D 120 fps, it was spectacular. I’m not a big 3D fan and normally avoid seeing movies in 3D, but this was an exception. The animated version of the younger Will Smith looked like a real character.