It used to be that whatever Will Smith touches turns to box office gold but with Gemini Man shaping up to be one of the biggest flops of this year (and the biggest of Smith’s career), has the actor lost his touch?
With Ang Lee helming the sci-fi flick, groundbreaking special effects, and a whopping $138 million budget + $100 million-plus in marketing, Gemini Man has the making of a blockbuster. The technology and special effects (shooting in 120 frames-per-second/3-D format and seeing a CGI double of “young Will Smith) were some of the movie’s main draws along with the original writing.
But alas, the movie bombed at the box office. Just like the much-maligned After Earth, Gemini Man has little to offer other than the cool CGI. According to reviews, the story was run-off-the-mill and the plot, not compelling enough to attract moviegoers. The movie was widely praised for the special effects and the digital de-aging of Will Smith but the story was awkwardly written, according to critics.
Unsurprisingly, Gemini Man was panned by critics, which slowed the film’s start domestically. It only earned $43.8 million in the United States and Canada. The earnings are particularly low according to Deadline as the movie was released at IMAX cinemas and in 3D, both of which require pricier tickets.
Overseas, Gemini Man didn’t perform as expected, grossing a dismal $104.9 million for a total of $148.7 million, worldwide. Gemini Man was expected to perform better in China, which is the second-largest movie-going market, but the sci-fi flick remained behind local productions. Foreign productions, even Hollywood ones, continuously fail to draw Chinese viewers. The Chinese government recently pushed for internal cinematic development, leading to a string of homegrown hits that swayed local viewers to watch local productions.
Gemini Man had to earn around $275 million worldwide to break even and lost $75 million or more in theaters both in the US and overseas. The movie is the lowest opening weekend for a Will Smith starrer. The actor’s infamous flops, After Earth and Wild Wild West, both opened to higher earnings in their respective opening weekends than Gemini Man.
In the action-packed sci-fi thriller, Will Smith plays an assassin who is being hunted by his younger clone. Before it was released, the movie was much hyped because 1) it’s directed by Ang Lee and 2) it boasts a high-frame-rate technology. Ang Lee previously used the technology for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Peter Jackson used on The Hobbit.
With the success of mega-franchises like Marvel, Disney, and DC movies, it’s hard for standalone films with original concepts to perform well at the box office without a good word of mouth.
Unfortunately for Will Smith, the movie earned a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes ahead of the release. In addition, only a few cinemas worldwide are set up to show higher frame rates. It doesn’t help that the movie is up against the mistress of evil herself, Maleficent and the critically acclaimed DC movie, Joker.
Gemini Man was first pitched in 1997 at Disney but it was considered as “un-filmable” then. Also, the plot required deep pockets to fund the special effects. Judging by its lackluster performance, the concept remains unpopular even now. The losses will be spread to different companies that financed the project: Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, Fosun, and Alibaba. Skydance Media and Paramount funded 35% each.