5 ideas about a movie: Gemini Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to an overview of Gemini Man! The short version of it is – Funky Title, Forgettable Movie.

IMDb summary: An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself.

  1. Gemini Man was written by Game Of Throne’s David Benioff, The Hunger Games’s and Overlord’s Billy Ray, and Shazam’s and Goosebumps’s Darren Lemke. For an action film, the script was decent. Yet, I feel like this movie tried to be more than that but was, sadly, let down by its writing. The self-righteous villain and the whole cloning plot line just really fall apart if you think twice about them. At least the cloning thing was not really attempted to be explained with some science mumbo jumbo – it was just sort of stated as a fact and not dwelt on for long. The characters themselves seemed to be somewhat well written: they had neat and quite rich backstories. The characters also get on the same page fairly quickly which made the movie more watchable.
  2. Gemini Man was directed by Ang Lee. Lee has always been a favourite of some yet I don’t think he has ever achieved mainstream acclaim (came close with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi). I don’t think that Gemini Man is gonna bring him that either. The movie was paced quite well and had some cool action set-pieces but I felt like its CGI could have been better, especially in 2019. Also, this is not really part of directing, but the film had so much obvious product placement – I guess the computer effects were expensive. Speaking of that:
  3.  The face replacement technology used on the titular character was noticeable. It was really good at times but then there were scenes where the de-aged Will Smith’s face looked like it was floating on whoever’s body they used as a stand it. While that face replacement technology definitely has rich (and scary) potential, I don’t think it works to its full effect when used on the main character (but is a cool effect for a few scenes, especially if used effectively (effectiveness depends on the choice of characters). Similarly, I felt that some of the film’s action didn’t look like it had weight to it: instead, it looked video game-like, as if the characters were rendered on top of the background rather than within it.
  4. Will Smith was great in his double (or more) roles within the film. I felt that his involvement elevated the movie from the levels of forgettable action picture to a slightly average-ish one. And yet, I’m still quite confused about how to classify Smith as an actor. A cult favourite? An action star? A serious dramatic award-worthy actor? Shades of all?
  5. The supporting cast was also okay. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (of 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Benedict Wong (of Doctor Strange) were the standouts. Clive Owen worked in the role but probably because I have already seen him be a bad guy in a suit in a movie very recently – he played the exact same role in The Informer.

In short, Gemini Man is fun but forgettable actioner. It’s elevated by the performances of the leads but let down by some questionable writing choices and dodgy CGI.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Gemini Man trailer

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Movie review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another reboot/sequel of a beloved childhood classic has hit theatres, but, this time around, it’s surprisingly good?! This is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle! (That title is awful, though.)

IMDb summary: Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.

Only last year, a 1980s classic, Which was near and dear to a lot of people during their childhood, was remade and the Internet went nuts. However, that Ghostbusters debacle did not stop Hollywood from remaking/attempting to continue another classic property, this time around, from the 1990s. And it looks like the LA suits were right to try: I haven’t seen much hate (barely any) towards the 2017’s a Jumanji. Why is this reboot more acceptable than the Ghostbusters one? Is it the Rock? The Rock and Hart proven combo? The ‘correct’ genders of the characters (mixed cast rather than an all-something reboot)? Or maybe nobody liked Jumanji in the first place as much as I thought they did? I certainly remember the film quite fondly from my childhood.

Writing

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (the duo behind Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Lego Batman), the director Jake Kasdan, and Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner (the writers of the upcoming Venom movie which is currently being filmed). In general, I enjoyed quite a lot of elements of the writing of this film.

To begin with, I thought that the idea to update Jumanji from a board game to a video game was a clever one. However, the way the script went about doing that – just sort of allowing the game to morph by itself – was a bit weird. Also, if they were giving the game an update, why not do a completely contemporary take on it? Make it into a Nintendo Switch type of a thing rather than a very 90s cassette game. What I did like about the video game concept in relation to this film was the fact that the movie overtly and unapologetically used the video game tropes, like the cutscenes, the numbered lives, the strengths/weakness idea, and the different levels. Jumanji might actually be the best video game movie without technically being one

The new characters of Jumanji weren’t bad either. The teenagers/real-life characters got some brief but neat development during the setup, which was nicely built upon during the following adventure. The relationship moments that the characters shared actually provided the picture with some opportunities to explore the ideas of friendship and teamwork. Some nice messages about bravery, self-confidence as well as one’s ability to change were also expressed. The interactions between the characters also resulted in some great humorous moments. The flirting school and the peeing scene were stupid but also hilarious. The switch-ups with the bodies (the nerds becoming athletic and cool; the popular kids being degraded to sidekicks and the comic relief) was another source of jokes for the film.

My main and the only actual critique of the movie was its plot or the set up of it. The game narrative itself was fine and it worked well as an adventure story. However, the way it just came out of nowhere seemed a bit odd. That whole explanation about the stone, the villain, and the curse seemed a bit heavy-handed and too highly fabricated. At least the format of that explanation/set-up (the cutscene) was somewhat meta (explicit in its usage of a trope) and, thus, a bit more interesting.

Lastly, while this film appeared to have been a direct continuation of the original Jumanji with the game itself being found on the beach, where it was last seen, I question whether the people behind-the-scenes are planning to make any further sequels, in case this one is successful. The last scene, which showed the characters breaking the game, suggests that we won’t see any sequels, which is, quite frankly, a shocking thing in today’s mainstream filmmaking business.

Directing

2017’s Jumanji was directed by Jake Kasdan (his last two films were both mediocre Cameron Diaz comedies) and I thought that he crafted quite an entertaining action adventure flick that was so much better constructed that I thought it’d be. The action was inventive enough and energetic. The CGI of the animals could have been a bit better. The pacing was fine for the most part, though the film did slow down a bit towards the end of the second half. Lastly, I’ve noticed (or imagined) some callbacks to other movies in this feature, which seemed like quite neat additions to me: the creepy house and the yellow raincoat reminded me of It, while the biker gang inside the game seemed Mad Max-esque.

Acting

Jumanji’s two casts were both really good. The teenagers/young adult actors – Alex Wolf (Patriot’s Day), Ser’Darius BlainMorgan Turner, and Madison Iseman – were believable and relatable. However, the majority of the film was carried by the video game versions of these characters, played by Dwayne Johnson (Baywatch, FF8, Moana, San Andreas), Kevin Hart (The Secret Life of Pets), Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, The Circle), and Jack Black, respectively. Johnson’s and Hart’s chemistry, which blossomed in Central Intelligence, was back in full force in this movie. All of the scenes with the Rock discovering his muscles were incredible and I also appreciated the fact that the film poked fun at his inherent charisma with that ‘smoldering look’ skill. Kevin Hart was amazing and funny too, while Karen Gillan was a complete badass (both as a character and as an actress). Jack Black also surprised me. I have never been much of a fan of his but I highly enjoy seeing him acting as the ‘it’ girl in this film.

A few other characters, worth the mention, were played by Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man). Jonas was okay in the picture but his character was intended to be somewhat of a replacement for Robin Williams character of the original (a person who gets stuck in the game) and, no offense to Nick Jonas, but he could never replace Williams. Cannavale played the villain and he was the worst of the cast, in my mind. I think he went a bit too cartoonish with his performance – yes, there is such a thing as too cartoonish even in a live-action cartoon.

In short, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprisingly entertaining adventure movie. It would be the perfect holiday film for the whole family if it wasn’t competing with Star Wars 8.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle trailer

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