Gemini Man, starring Will Smith, features Smith playing against himself as both Henry, a wised assassin, and Junior, the assassin that was cloned from Henry for the purpose of killing him.
The film has been in development for about 20 years. One reason is that the film needed to wait on motion-capture technology to catch up to its high-tech storyline involving clones. Another way to view the years of development is that the film was waiting on the right lead. Will Smith is that guy.
Gemini Man is the perfect vehicle for Smith, and here are three reasons why.
1. Smith inspires audiences through science fiction
If you grew up in the ’90s, when you thought of science fiction action films, you probably thought of Will Smith. Some of his most enduring films aren’t ones like Ali or Seven Pounds; they’re the ones in which he’s saving the world and broadening our imaginations, such as Independence Day, Men in Black and Wild Wild West.
Looking back on my childhood of watching Will Smith movies, it was amazing to see someone like him, a Black man, be the star of films that historically cast white men in leading roles. To see him save the planet over and over again, while having fun and looking cool, provided tons of Black kids a positive role model, as well as the courage to believe in themselves. Without realizing it, we were being taught that we did have value, that we could lead the charge and that we could see ourselves as the heroes in our own lives. We could be like Smith in his heroic roles and make a difference.
It’s fortunate that Smith’s presence in science fiction is felt again thanks to Gemini Man. The audience that grew up with Smith is now older, and as the audience ages, the lessons become more complex. But Smith still has something he can teach us. While he might have taught us that we could be seen as heroes to others, Gemini Man might teach us that we can be heroes for ourselves, overcoming our own insecurities and setbacks to become more complete people.
Within Gemini Man is an allegory about coming to terms with all parts of yourself, including your shadow self, the self that constantly wants to sabotage you. While fantastical, Henry’s struggle with Junior could remind us who grew up with Smith that growing and maturing actually never stops, no matter how old you get. There will always be some part of yourself, some part of your humanity, that you will have to make peace with. It’s a hard process, but it’s a process everyone must go through in some capacity.
2. Gemini Man is a new chapter for Smith
Because of the huge audience that Smith accumulated in his early television and film years, people have been wondering when Smith will come back to reign supreme at the box office. His current resurgence started with his immensely popular YouTube channel and his starring role as the Genie in Aladdin. While the film was not highly rated with critics or movie-goers, it secured the hearts of children and became Smith’s highest-grossing film, topping Independence Day. Gemini Man, however, could capture the hearts of his longtime fans who have been waiting on him to reclaim his action star crown.
Smith, who recently turned 51, also seems to view Gemini Man as part of his new life chapter.
“I turned 51 last week and I’m [experiencing] a transition in my life,” he told Collider. “More than ever, I’m seeing my role in the world as a role of service. In my younger days, it was ambition. I wanted to win…Now, I’m growing into a position in my life where the main question I ask myself before I do anything is, how is this of service to the human family?”
“So, with that prism, I’ll be making more and more decisions in my life,” he continued. “I love science fiction. I love filmmaking. Everything that I do is conscious and thought [out], in some justifiable service to the human family.”
What role could Gemini Man play in Smith’s new chapter of giving back? Perhaps it’s about the message of coming to terms with all sides of oneself. That’s a lesson that only a person in a more mature season of their life could convincingly teach. Smith states as much in his interview.
“I just thought [the film] was a really clever and creative way to say that we are the architects of our ultimate rise or fall, and to be able to do that in this way, it’s a big part of why I love science fiction,” he said. “You can put those things under really wild visual landscapes.”
Smith’s maturity is something Lee himself mentioned as an asset when developing the character of Henry.
“I feel like I found a new Will Smith, with sophistication and charm,” he said according to Refinery29. “Sometimes he looked kind of like Clark Gable to me.” It’s this leveling-up that showcases that Smith’s next chapter just might be his best.
3. Gemini Man is a tribute to Smith’s acting career
Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is, in its own way, a tribute to Smith’s entire film and TV resume. Smith told Collider that Lee was able to formulate the characterizations of Henry and Junior from studying Smith’s prior acting roles.
“What was really great that Ang did was that, before we even met, he had gone through all of my filmography and he grabbed things,” he said. “He grabbed scenes from Fresh Prince, Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black, and he walked me through those moments…So, we created a language of my old characters and the moments of what he was trying to capture.”
It makes sense that someone like Smith was chosen for this role. There are plenty of action stars in Hollywood, but there aren’t many who have the number of varied roles Smith has played throughout his career, starting from his early 20s. From playing a young man living with his rich aunt and uncle to playing the savior of Earth, a Wild West steampunk hero, an intergalactic agent and a tough cop on the beat, Smith has done it all. It makes sense that Smith’s well of experience could be mined to create distinct characters for Henry and Junior.
Gemini Man aims to be an exciting culmination of everything that Smith has done in his career. It’s a film that has the potential to remind audiences of why Smith became one of the biggest leading men in Hollywood, as well as one of the most beloved actors in American pop culture.
Gemini Man is in theaters now.
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures
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