Bleats

Sorry Folks, But Gemini Man Is Bad News For Films

So, here’s the problem with digital humans...

As you’re likely already aware, your best friend Will Smith’s latest film Gemini Man hit cinemas this week.

The movie follows the story of an assassin who learns that a younger clone of himself is trying to kill him. It’s all very exciting and action-packed and Hollywoodish.

Gemini Man is unlike any other film, however, because the two lead actors are Will Smith (Henry Brogan) and a digitally-created younger Will Smith (Junior). As the Hollywood Reporter shares, traditional de-ageing technology wasn’t enough in this case, because Smith and baby Smith had to be in the same shot, repeatedly.

Director Ang Lee told the outlet that for this particular project, there was no option but creating a CGI Smith:

“I believed it was time to try a digital human,” he told THR.

So, in essence, the team behind the film took images and footage of Smith in his early 20s and used the content to build the digital version of the actor. This digital face was then used to replace Smith’s current mug.

While this all sounds very cool and sci-fi, in practice it’s got a lot of issues. That’s not to say people aren’t impressed with the tech at play; they are. People generally seem sold on the *appearance* of young Junior, but the experience the film offers is being called “hollow” and “needlessly complicated”.

As Vox shared, the movie was shot in 120 frames per second as well as in 4K 3D. As a result, literally no movie theatres in the United States will be able to show the film as it was intended to be seen. Apparently, the closest we’ll get is 120 frames per second and 2K 3D, which only a few cinemas can deliver.

But then there’s the ethical dilemma. With the emergence of digital humans, a long list of potential negatives arises. Roles that may have otherwise gone to younger actors may no longer be available. The pool of jobs could very well shrink, catering (even more so) to a tiny collection of popular performers. 

At the most extreme end of this line of thinking, Vox‘s Alissa Wilkinson theorises that if studios can perfectly re-create actors, they’ll have the ability to make them do almost anything. Without the inconvenience of human limits (physical, or moral) filmmakers could theoretically put ‘actors’ in positions they wouldn’t or couldn’t normally commit to.

In a time where deepfakes are both fascinating and terrifying a whole lot of people, it makes sense that we ask these kinds of questions. How far is this really going to go? Could we start seeing films starring James Dean again? Should we?

On this, VFX supervisor for Gemini Man, Bill Westenhofe, told THR:

 “For us to do this, it took a team of several hundred artists two years to pull off. We are not close to someone going in their garage and completely fooling someone.” 

In any case, there’s no denying it’s a little creepy to see your favourite actors walking around with faces that are no longer theirs. I, for one, prefer the old-school approach.

Comic Book Films Are Losing Their Edge Because Of Their Success

“We can't afford to just make cookie-cutter comic book movies”

Unless you’ve been avoiding movie theatres for the last, I don’t know, ten plus years, chances are you’re aware that comic book movies are having a (very long) moment.

For the most part, this has been a seriously enjoyable ride for nerdy superhero fans like yours truly. The industry has brought us epic productions like Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther and Wonder Woman.

But it has also delivered some duds. Not naming any names (cough, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, cough).

Back in 2016, SYFY theorised that perhaps the colossal success of many comic films (even the not so great ones) was allowing for production houses to push out movie after movie, a little too fast and a little undercooked.

And at this year’s New York Comic-Con, this same theme appeared to pop up in a couple of panels.

During the ‘It’s the Big “Batman” 1989 Movie 30th Anniversary!’ panel, Michael Uslan – the originator and executive producer of the Batman movie franchise – pointed out that the success of the Tim Burton film was partly due to how different it was.

Bullseye, baby.
Credit: Warner Bros.

Prior to this dark representation of Gotham, Batman on-screen had only ever been a light, cheesy take on the comic. And although it took ten years to get his vision made into a film, Uslan stressed that it “was a game-changer” once it came out.

“We changed the world’s perception of comic books,” he said.

Uslan then went on to highlight that sometimes, the money-making machine that is the movie industry influences certain productions, hinting that this can take away from the authenticity of the film (though he didn’t point out specific examples).

“We can’t afford to just make cookie-cutter comic book movies,” he said.

“We need to have filmmakers with that passion and with the vision who are bold and daring and willing to push an envelope. Look what Marvel did with Deadpool. Look what they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. You’ve gotta take some chances and believe that the fans will be there to appreciate it if you’re coming from the heart, and if you really believe in all of this.”

“Hey, positive reviews.”
Credit: Disney

This sentiment was echoed during the Rotten Tomatoes panel, ‘Rotten Movies We Love’. Critic Monica Castillo highlighted that a lot of superhero films receive bad reviews on the website because, well… they’re unoriginal.

“I think when critics approach these kinds of movies they might be looking for something that’s a little bit more out of the box and sometimes these movies because they are, there’s such big-budget stuff now that studios tend to keep them like, kind of formula. They’re safe. They don’t usually colour outside the lines, or really include something that would break the norm. Like, I would love to see a Marvel movie that featured a queer character that was on screen for longer than two seconds.

“…it is very risk-averse. So then we as critics, we see you know 20, 30 of these and then we’re like, ‘Okay, so this is another origin story. We’ve seen this movie already”. So that’s why it’s really fun to see something like Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is exciting, this is something we haven’t seen before’.”

Taika’s take of Thor was electric, kids.
Credit: Disney

So, long story, short: The Comic film universe is responsible for some pretty incredible movies. They just need to be a little more careful about pushing out the same safe story and prioritize fresh takes (preferably involving Taika Waititi) instead.

Sweet Trash: The Very Best Worst Films As Critiqued By Rotten Tomatoes

Be prepared to get angry.

There are few topics of conversation that rouse passionate reactions like film talk can.

Don’t even TRY and criticise Batman 1989 in front of me
Credit: Disney

A beloved movie – especially the ones we share nostalgic connections with – is something most folks are willing to fight ’til the death for. So, when you learn one of your favourite movies has been poorly received by industry critics, it hurts.

The team at Rotten Tomatoes know this – they’ve written an entire book about it. ‘Rotten Movies We Love’ is made up of a collection of essays about well-loved films that got a bad rap on the Tomatometer (i.e. less than 60 per cent). For the book, Rotten Tomatoes editors and film critics banded together in defence of a collection of ‘rotten’ films to dissect why they received poor reviews and to highlight how brilliant they really are.

While at New York Comic-Con this week, Rotten Tomatoes staff Joel Meares (Editor-in-Chief) and Jacqueline Coley (Editor) spoke with critics Monica Castillo, Eric Kohn and Mark Ellis about the ‘bad’ films they love so dearly.

“Can any of you believe that Step Brothers is a rotten movie on the Tomatometer?” Meares said when asked what inspired the book.  

“… We’re often as surprised as you are to learn that certain films are rotten,” he continued.

“So, we decided to run with the idea. We put together this book of 101 movies that are rotten on the Tomatometer but very, very fresh in our hearts and it ranges from everything from Step Brothers to Space Jam – which I think is somewhere in the 20 per cent – to I Know What You Did Last Summer…”

On hearing that some of my very favourite movies tanked according to critics, I quickly decided I needed to check out this book and the reasoning behind the *offensively* low ratings for these films.

Here’s what I learnt:

Critics hated some of the best-ever Christmas films: 

Do you spend every Christmas afternoon slumped on the couch watching Home Alone 2 and The Holiday with a glass of wine in hand? You should. They’re two of the most delightful holiday films of all time.

It seems certain critics would like to crush our Christmas spirit, however, as they rated the movies 32 and 48 per cent on the Tomatometer, respectively.

On Home Alone 2, critics said it was “a less inspired facsimile of its predecessor”. According to Rotten Tomatoes, though, the film “absolutely nails the elements that it carbon-copies from the original”, calling it “sweetly moving” and funny.

Critics thought The Holiday was “so thoroughly predictable that audiences may end up opting for an early check-out time”. However, Rotten Tomatoes rightly argues there’s genuine heart behind the relationship Iris (Kate Winslet) shares with her screenwriter neighbour Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach).   

My face after seeing Home Alone 2 in this list
Credit: 20th Century Fox

If you’re a nineties kid, critics did not enjoy your childhood faves: 

Hocus Pocus was given 33 per cent by critics who thought it was “harmlessly hokey, yet never much more than mediocre”.

Bad Boys scored 42 per cent and was attacked for its lack of story, despite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s “enjoyable chemistry”.

Didn’t rate Bad Boys? Get outta here.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Space Jam came in at just 43 per cent with critics stating adult audiences “may be more annoyed than entertained”.

The Craft is very nearly considered a “fresh” film at 57 per cent, but alas, it’s yet to tick over to side we all know it deserves to sit on. In her Rotten Tomatoes essay, Terri White writes that this cult classic “upended cinematic teen tropes” of the ’90s. Whereas critics initially complained the film’s “campy magic often overrides the feminist message”.

Another witchy classic, Practical Magic (21%), was slammed for “jarring tonal shifts” and an “offbeat story”. Rotten Tomatoes instead points to “young women’s need for depictions of more positive relationships between sisters, aunts, and daughters” – specifically in the form of midnight margaritas.

Some arguably ‘cool’ films made the rotten list:

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou scored 56 per cent. Blade came in at only 54 per cent, and Die Hard: With a Vengeance landed 52 per cent.

Feeling frustrated? Don’t worry, so do I. You can find solace in the fact that there’s an entire book dedicated to this very emotion you’re experiencing. Until then, though, #JusticeForTheCraft.

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