28 years ago James Cameron‘s T2: Judgment Day delivered a classic high-velocity action sequence, set in a Los Angeles riverbed of concrete and chain-link fences, punctuated by shotgun blasts and physics-defying vehicle leaps. Robert Patrick‘s T-1000 in a sheared-off truck cab vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Terminator-on-a-Harley with Eddie Furlong hanging on for dear life. The action pushed the limits of natural law but audiences bought it because it was cyborg vs. cyborg.
In a just-posted trailer for Ang Lee‘s Gemini Man (and specifically between the :04 and :10 mark), there’s a vaguely similar high-speed sequence involving Will Smith‘s Henry Brogen vs. Smith’s “Junior” (i.e., himself as a young man), both on motorcycles and firing weapons at each other. What happens to Junior defies any standard of half-assed credulity, of course — action films have become increasingly hostile to the laws of physics over the last 20-plus years — and this time there’s no cyborg exception. The two Brogens might as well be in a Road Runner vs. Coyote cartoon.
The fact is that CG bullshit is detectable in every standout action moment in the Gemini Man trailer. It goes without saying that Ang Lee is no second-tier genre hack. He’s a serious, grade-A filmmaker, and it follows that I’d like very much to believe in each and every aspect of this visually ambitious thriller. But the trailer is telling me that’s not in the cards.
“I would love to enjoy a gripping, well-made actioner in the vein of Steven Spielberg‘s Raiders of the Lost Ark (which didn’t defy physics as much as the next three films in the series), but of course the big-budget, whoo-hoo action film aesthetic went over the CG cliff years ago. Nobody except for a relative handful of directors (Kathryn Bigelow, George Miller, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Mann, J.C, Chandor, Doug Liman and a few others) care about real thrills. The fantasy-superhero-bullshit aesthetic has murdered the concept of great reality-based physical action. Killed it dead.”
“Big-budget acton movies have defied the reality of what happens when you jump or fall from any kind of height for so long that nobody cares any more. You can do any stupid thing you want — jump off any building or bridge or moving airplane — and you can land safely, and audiences will still buy their tickets and eat their popcorn. Nothing matters.
“Makers of idiotic steroid action films have been ignoring the basic laws of physics for a good 20 years or so, but particularly since Asian action films became popular in the early ’90s. It mainly started with the popularity of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the use of ‘wire guys’ to allow heroes to leap anywhere from anything and land in a cool way like Superman.
“In the HE book there is only one way to go with action films, and that is the path of mostly believable, bare-bones, ‘this could actually happen in the real world’ physicality adhered to in Nicholas Winding Refn‘s Drive and Steven Soderbergh‘s Haywire. All the rest is bullshit and you know it.”
Gemini Man opens on 10.11.19.