A Massive Will Smith Flop Is Now a Hit on Netflix
Every week, Netflix releases a list of the most popular films and TV shows available on its service. And this week, at #3 on the most-watched movie list, just below Netflix’s two big new releases — the Bill Burr comedy Old Dads and the religious-themed documentary The Devil on Trial — is Gemini Man, the 2019 Will Smith adventure that was one of the biggest flops in recent memory. (According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, the film cost its distributor, Paramount Pictures, more than $110 million. That’s bad!)
According to Netflix’s data site, its users watched 14.3 million hours of Gemini Man in the last week; the equivalent of 7.3 million views. That’s more than Netflix’s recent crime thriller Reptile (which had 7 million views), and even the new Jennifer Lawrence comedy No Hard Feelings, which just premiered on Netflix (6.6 million views). These numbers are all the more impressive for this reason: Gemini Man is not even available to stream in the United States on Netflix! These numbers are entirely driven by overseas Netflix subscribers.
As to why it’s suddenly a hit on Netflix? I do not know. Smith and particularly his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith have been in the news a lot lately, and that likely doesn’t hurt. Certainly movies with big stars that wind up on Netflix have a tendency to find an audience there, even if they hadn’t in theaters. (I have documented this phenomenon before.)
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I will say, I have always thought Gemini Man, directed by Ang Lee, was one of the more interesting box-office bombs of recent years. I was one of the few critics, in fact, to give it a positive review when it opened in theaters. (Its current Rotten Tomatoes score is a lowly 26 percent.) I’ve always felt it was an impressive execution of a fascinating idea: Namely that of an actor (Smith) encountering a younger version of himself (also Smith). In this case, that is in the story of a super sniper who winds up locked in a duel with a younger clone.
As i wrote in my review...
Smith is still a strikingly handsome man, but seeing him stand next to his younger self (or the best approximation visual effects can buy) reminds us how long he’s been a part of our moviegoing lives. (In almost any other movie Winstead and Smith’s characters would have a more romantic relationship, but acknowledging Smiths age onscreen seems to take that option off the table.) Early in Gemini Man, Henry says he has trouble looking in mirrors lately, and throughout the movie not only are mirrors a frequent motif, but they’re often shown getting shot at or blown up or bounced around by grenades. The notion of a dangerous mirror image is an obvious one in a film like Gemini Man, but a welcome one nonetheless. None of us know what it’s like to get kicked in the head by a motorcycle-riding clone, but we all know what it’s like to look in the mirror and be displeased with what we see looking back at us.
Anyway, it’s nice to see people finally taking a look at this movie, even if it’s only happening now. If you do want to watch it, and it’s not available on Netflix where you live, you can rent the film on a variety of on demand and online platforms.