So, we have a problem my friends. I’m not going to recommend a movie that is 3 solid MEH’s on the THiNC. Movie Rating Index. (Yeah, that’s not really a thing. Sorry for confusing the more literal amongst us.) But I’d still like to talk about it regardless. Talk about the problems, and more importantly a few solutions for the screenplay writers. And how it is that we got here, you know, with so many MEHs. But I also, as a general rule, don’t want to spoil movies for you guys. Therefore, I’m going to leave this one up to you. If you’d like to jump in and help restructure Will Smith’s MEH-filled film, you will definitely need to have seen the film. But if you’d like to just join in for that laughs, GREAT, read along. Alright? So now, how to solve Will Smith’s Gemini Man problem? Let’s get down to it.
From that trailer – and the preceding documentary view of the film – you know pretty much everything you need to know to follow along with this conversation if you haven’t seen the film. Everything. There isn’t anything else here. Which makes this idea Netflix material, at best. Blockbuster material, at worst. Just because you can duplicate an individual on camera as their younger self does not a script make.
Here at THiNC. we have covered a ton of films that have been rainmakers by playing within the what-if-world of clones and the possibilities within. Many have been absolutely brilliant scripts that would have done well to be assisted at the box by a Will Smith (or his younger alter ego). Movies like Elizabeth Harvest, which talks about a husband who has cloned numerous versions of an individual. Maybe you want to take the scientist’s perspective and you do it like Keanu Reeves did it in Replicas. Or, if you want to see anyone other than Jerry Bruckheimer do it, what about Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige? Or, like a little more romance in your clone warfare, try The One I Love. Want a more indie space thing this time? What about the movie Moon? What Happened to Monday also works as a fantastic demonstration of how to use clones (lots of them) in your film. But look no further than Gemini Man if you’d like to talk about how NOT to create a movie about clones.
Quick Gemini Man Walkthrough
Like I said, Gemini Man is 100% in the above trailer. All right there. You have Will Smith (who really was in other things than just The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but I can’t remember what else right now. Oh, right, I Am Legend, and I, Robot are a couple.) And you have Mary Elizabeth Winstead (whom I adore…she was fantastic in 10 Cloverfield Lane, and über in the Love, Death & Robots‘ episode Ice Age, among other things). And the concept is that Henry Brogan is the world’s best assassin. But, he grows a conscience, and after hearing that he might have (fairly impressively) killed an American Scientist from the Gemini Program and not a Russian something or other, decides he’s done doing the kill-people thing anymore.
So the government sends Mary Elizabeth Winstead to surveil him. But soon she’s in trouble too – and the two set out to try and figure out why people are trying to kill Brogan. However, before they find out, a copy of Brogan’s younger self is sent to kill him. They fight and chase each other – and because Brogan Sr. doesn’t want to kill Jr. they end up at a stalemate. As they get closer and closer to the truth of what is going on at Gemini (Uh, clonings, maybe?) Sr. ultimately flips Jr. and convinces him that Jr.’s father is actual an evil mad scientist and should be stopped.
BUT OH NO!!!
Out of nowhere, comes Brogan version 3 dot 0. And this one, Jr. squared, has zero conscience, and zero pain receptors, which allows him to basically decimate until he’s dead. And the two versions, (Sr. and Jr.) have to team up to stop this juggernaut who will stop at nothing. And after they stop him, Sr. unceremoniously kills Jr.’s father, Clay Verris (played by Clive Owen – Children of Men), to prevent Jr. from being plagued by the memory. Drop the curtain.
Gemini Man the Redux
But can you see how Ang Lee might just have gotten a little excited about the CGI that Weta was dolling out to him, and all of that at the expense of the overall filmic experience? I mean, look at the pleased with themselves looks that permeate this mini-documentary right here:
They even jokingly discuss a new episode of the Fresh Prince for heaven’s sakes! Yeah, they got way way too enamored with the tech. (Which, I can admit, I would too if I were them. I dig me some cool technology. For sure.) But when it gets in the way of a decent, non-refried experience, just toss that action out and go low tech instead!
There were a million interesting twists they could have pulled out in order to make this movie way more interesting than the trailer. Heck, they could have amped this movie up by just discussing the existential crisis of Jr’s realization of his clone-ness. There is no discussion about what it is that it means to be human. Nothing. Instead they skipped over that, and instead chose to joke about how Jr. and Sr. were just the same human. There was no real discussion about what it takes to be real, to actually be a human. That, by itself, could have amped this story two more notches on the scale by itself.
Another interesting path David Benioff and Billy Ray (the screenplay writers) could have taken the plot would have been into the heart of this facility that has been pumping out copies of Will Smith at a prodigious rate. Which would be more of a What Happened to Monday sort of tack. Or, heck, they could have walked down the Source Code path, which is sort of a rinse/repeat – rinse/repeat, until Brogan is able to sort out what is happening all around him. The trouble is that the script has zero surprises to it. And that worked in the 90’s and the aughts. But that isn’t going to work today. Heck, even the Lego Movie had a clever twist at the end that blew everyone’s mind (Super Glue?? Real World?? Brilliant.) but this had nothing. This had young Will Smith – which wouldn’t have even been enough for a video game. But this? No.
The Gemini Man Script Treatment I Would Have Written
Logline: Gemini Man is an action-thriller featuring Henry Brogan, an ultra elite assassin, on the verge of retirement, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative who can predict his every move, and that might be part of a much bigger plot.
Henry Brogan – the elite assassin who has been killing America’s foes his entire career. Able to snipe a Russian spy from 200 meters on a moving train, Brogan is the best of the best. But he is also unwittingly playing a part of the Gemini Program that will put the entire world at risk.
Clay Verris – the head of the Gemini Program who has invested his entire career into the development of the perfect elite squad of soldiers. Soldiers utilizing Brogan’s DNA, and of such stunning skill as to risk the world’s equilibrium.
Dani – the operative sent to watch Brogan in his retirement, and validate that he is truly retiring. When the Gemini Project comes for Brogan, what she learns endangers her life as well, and she finds herself on the run.
Clay Jr. – the first child of the clone program that Verris has started, and a flawed test who is swayed in the fight by Henry Brogan.
Henry Brogan Sr. – The original – non-narrator Henry Brogan – who was the original impetus for the Gemini Program. A Vietnam War veteran and expert marksman.
The Gemini Clones – The products of the Gemini Project that have been perfecting the cloning process into a fast maturation process along the way.
Opening Scene: Henry Brogan is hired to kill a Russian operative on a moving train from 200 meters out. He kills the operative, but misses his target by 6 inches, causing him to doubt his abilities anymore.
ACT ONE: Brogan informs his teams and his handlers he will now be retiring after a brilliant career helping to defend freedom. Well into his retirement, he realizes he’s being surveilled, and outs the operative. But when masked assassins come for him that he is not able to kill, he flees with Dani, the talented operative who also finds herself in danger. Running to Colombia, Henry and Dani meet up with Baron, and another teammate Yuri, as they look for options on what to do next. Meanwhile Clay dispatches his pride and joy, Clay Jr. in order to kill Brogan and finish the threat against the Gemini Program.
Brogan fights dramatically with his döppelganger, only to arrive at a stalemate, intent on not killing his younger double. Brogan then learns through a blood test that this isn’t his son, or a proximal individual, but his literal double genetically. And from there Brogan works hard to convince Jr. of his “father’s” evil intent. Jr. begrudgingly offers Brogan 48 hours to make the case and show him what he is missing.
ACT TWO: Yuri connects the group with a technologist, Taylor (come on!), who will lead the group of five to the promised land, and help them get the information that they are seeking. Taylor, a previous member of the CIA and NSA, is hired for cash to investigate what Clay is up to inside of Gemini. In order to get the information they are needing it will need to be exfiltrated physically from the Gemini sister research facility. But before Yuri’s goodbyes are made to the group, he is shot in the head by a sniper in mask at a great distance. A gunfight ensues with other storm trooper-like masked men, but Brogan and Jr., teamed up, are unstoppable, and the group makes it back to Baron’s borrowed plane, and barely off the runway, and off to England.
In England, Brogan, Baron, Jr., Dani and Taylor (he really fits here!) setup a line of sight hack on the research facility’s network. And he is able to prove that Gemini did clone Jr. from Brogan’s DNA. Additionally there are hints that something bigger is occurring at Gemini, but the files are not yielding what exactly it is. There is an encryption level too strong for our fearless Taylor to crack, and so Brogan, Jr., and Dani infiltrate the building physically. And after repelling into the center’s main warehouse building, they are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of pods of incubating Brogans. You know, a scene not too dissimilar to this view from Alien Covenant:
And before they leave the British Gemini facility Clay surprises Brogan, via a video console, that he isn’t even unit #1. The memories of his mother, and his absent father were all implanted intentionally. He is just an early prototype unit. And now Gemini is able to churn a new Jr. unit out in three months.
ACT THREE: Incensed, Brogan attempts to set fire to the plant, but is attacked by Jr.’s coming out of the pods. And the four have to fall back, beaten and bruised by the new realizations of what Gemini really is. Brogan is shattered by the realizations that he’s nothing but a manufactured military attack dog, leashed by Gemini to do their bidding. Jr., surprisingly is more on board with what they’ve learned, but still shocked by just how far the rot goes.
And after sifting through more of the information that he downloaded at the research facility, Taylor (it’s starting to fit now, isn’t it? Admit it.) tells the team that it looks like Gemini has been hired to begin a junta in Brazil, and help Gemini seize the natural resources necessary for the continued development of this Gemini Clone army.
Brogan and the group knows that they only have one option before them. And that is to kill get at Clay Varris and the Gemini facility, to find some sort of kill switch for the Gemini army that is spinning up against Brazil. Through some cunning, and cool Mission Impossible craft lead by Taylor and Brogan, the team breaks into Gemini’s main facility in America where Clay is initiating the attack sequences remotely on the ground in Brazil. He’s watching CNN and Fox News as the junta is gaining steam on the ground.
As the group reaches Clay, the Jr. sentinels begin to attack. Knowing they only have moments to act, Brogan realizes he has to kill Clay and also throw the kill switch, which, will also inevitably kill himself as well.
Final Scene: Brogan saves the life of Jr., kills Clay, and invokes the kill switch, which destroys all the units but for Brogan and Jr. Brogan and Jr. are shocked they are still are alive, or powered on. But Taylor tells them that they are actually father and son, not cyborg clone creations, but humans. That Clay had lied to Brogan and Jr. about their genesis. And that Brogan was in fact just the prototype from which this cyborg originated from.
Or something like that.
You do realize that the Gemini Man script was originally conceived in 1997? That it went through Dante’s 7 layers of hell before it was eventually picked up again by Benioff and Ray to take one last shot at the script. Tony Scott, Curtis Hanson, and Joe Carnahan were all attached at one point or another to craft this story for the big screen. And the list of actors that were attached were even more prestigious, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Sean Connery were all set to star at one point or another. I kid you not. I mean, can’t you tell from the final result? And in 20 minutes of scribbling on the wall I came up with a better treatment than we were given in the final product, after 20 years of work. OK, sure, my treatment is really rough. But it’s way more interesting than the cocksure Will Smith sparring with CG of his younger self.
I don’t know – did you dig Gemini Man? To be clear, I was so wanting this film to succeed. To hit it out of the park. And for all these negative reviews to be wrong. But they weren’t this time. Unfortunately.
Edited by: CY