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Gemini Man flopped for more than one reason

Ian Sandwell
Photo credit: Paramount

From Digital Spy

Not even two Will Smiths was enough to convince audiences that Gemini Man was worth going to see.

Ang Lee's ambitious sci-fi is projected to have a loss of $75 million or more after struggling at the box office, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The latest blow to Gemini Man was its failure to land big in China, where it could only debut with $21 million and lost out to fellow new opener, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Including an estimated $36.5 million in the US, the movie has grossed $118.7 million worldwide and, according to Forbes, will struggle to go past $200 million by the end of its run as it's opened in all of the major markets bar Japan.

Photo credit: Paramount

With a reported budget of around $140 million and a marketing spend of more than $100 million, Gemini Man is facing a big loss after its theatrical run. (Although there's always a chance it could become more of a success on its home release.)

But did it flop because it's not very good? Not quite.

Sure, it doesn't help that the sci-fi isn't great. After some positive first reactions that praised the "breathtaking" special effects, the overall reviews weren't anywhere near as kind and saw Ang Lee record his worst-ever Rotten Tomatoes score with 25%.

That's only Will Smith's eighth-worst, mind.

Photo credit: Paramount

It's hard for a movie to prosper at the box office without good word of mouth, especially when it's an original concept not linked to any existing franchise.

However, quality isn't everything. Just ask Venom, which only did marginally better with the critics (29%), but grossed $856 million worldwide and will soon be getting a sequel. Something that almost definitely won't happen with Gemini Man.

What certainly hasn't helped Gemini Man is that Joker continues to be both a huge success and a constant talking point since its release on October 4.

Any movie (outside of Marvel or Disney) would struggle to make an impact in the face of Joker, let alone one that didn't have positive reviews and didn't have an existing fanbase.

But what about Will Smith, we hear you ask?

Sorry to say it, but he just isn't the draw he used to be. Aladdin might have become his biggest movie ever earlier this summer, but it's hard to say exactly how much that was down to his casting.

Arguably, the success of Aladdin was down to the fact it was a remake of a Disney classic, and the casting of Smith as the Genie – as good as he was in the tricky role – was a part of its success, but not the key one.

Photo credit: Daniel Smith - Disney

Any time that Smith has stepped outside of the franchise bubble in recent years, such as with Collateral Beauty, Focus or Winter's Tale, has been unsuccessful. That also includes his last sci-fi effort, After Earth, which didn't exactly set the box office alight either with $243.8 million worldwide.

A lot was made pre-release of Ang Lee choosing to film Gemini Man in a high frame rate of 120 fps, a technically advanced method of shooting that Lee previously used on Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and Peter Jackson used on The Hobbit (albeit at a lower frame rate of 48 fps).

The problem is that outside of the industry, it's unlikely to draw a general audience to see a movie, especially when very few cinemas worldwide are set up to screen the higher frame rate.

Really, the only thing that could have drawn people to see Gemini Man on the big screen was the de-aging technology used to 'clone' Will Smith. So it's a shame that the CGI in the movie is mixed at best, with the high frame rate only subtracting from the effects (when you can see them, that is, given most of the action takes place in dark locations).

Photo credit: Paramount

Gemini Man's failure at the box office is really just a perfect storm of indifference towards the movie itself, combined with the killer blow that it was released against the most-talked-about movie of the year in Joker.

Perhaps Ang Lee should have paid more attention to the fact that it's been in development hell since 1997...

Gemini Man is out in cinemas now.

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