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?