Book review– Gemini Man, the novelization of Will Smith’s clone movie

Review by C.J. Bunce

If a movie project languishes for twenty years, thee might be several reasons to explain why.  Gemini Man, in theaters now, has had both Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer involved in the idea behind the film, but the timing didn’t seem right for them–digital technology had not yet evolved where an actor portraying a 51-year-old could fight himself at age 23, in a believable way.  Now here we are in a Hollywood (New York City, Atlanta, Toronto, etc.) where motion capture performances are the norm.  It’s not a spoiler if it’s in the movie poster, and that’s the case with Gemini Man.  The movie is Will Smith, a retiring government assassin, who must face off against a younger version of himself, raised and trained for combat.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that Gemini Man: The Official Movie Novelization, is a character study of what might happen when an assassin meets himself.

If you’re a fan of science fiction, a rush of prior stories and films should come to mind.  First of all the novelization, which does not give an author credit, instead listing the screenplay writers, Darren Lemke, David Benioff, and Billy Ray, reads very much like an early Philip K. Dick short story expanded to be novel (or movie) length.  The spoiler (if you can call it that) is that there aren’t many surprises.  How would a trained assassin react when confronting a younger clone of himself?  This is a single sitting read, filled with some interesting characters (the kind you’d find in supporting roles in any film, like Mission: Impossible, the Bourne Legacy films, Tomb Raider, or even Dick adaptations like Paycheck.  It’s also heavy on the action, something that would be spotlighted with CGI in the film, leaving the characters in the novel to internalize what is happening on the big screen.  The story feels like it was written for Will Smith.  His character Henry Brogan is the same guy we’ve seen Smith play in Bright, Suicide Squad, I am Legend, Hitch, I, Robot, Enemy of the State, and Independence Day.  Which fortunately means we have a likable protagonist.

The novelization brings in bits and pieces from across decades of science fiction, from addressing the question of how you select who you clone (from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), to how you control your newly minted human military weapon (from The Manchurian Candidate), to how you survive when the world is crashing in on you (from the Jason Bourne, Shooter, and Mission: Impossible movies), to how you react when you learn you are not really you (from RoboCop, Moon, and the new series Living with Yourself).

Of course the biggest, most obvious science fiction story Gemini Man attempts to replicate is Looper, where Bruce Willis faced off against a younger self played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and another Willis flick, Twelve Monkeys, where Willis’s character witnesses his own actions at very points in time.  Gemini Man’s story is not so twisty.  But if you like the idea of cloning and are intrigued by the real-world implications of manipulating biology, Gemini Man, the novelization, is a good bet for quick read.

Despite nearly a dozen male characters, the story dates itself in one major respect, reflecting something written twenty years ago instead of today by including only one female leading character in the story.  Any two characters in the story could have been swapped out for a woman, and yet only one supporting character gets wedged into this story.  The leading woman role in the film is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Returned, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), and the minor character by Lodge 49’s Linda Emond).

As tie-in novels and adaptations go, Gemini Man is a clean, tightly-written tale, with half espionage-spy story and half sci-fi technology exploration.  Gemini Man: The Official Movie Novelization is available now here at Amazon.  The movie is in theaters now.

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