Friday, June 18, 2010

Official Jonah Hex film review

Caught the early show with my Lovely Wife and I was gritting my teeth (in fear) as we went in. We sat down, watched a ton of commercials aimed at kids (my wife kept asking "What the Heck? Are we in Toy Story?") and the film finally started. We watched it. I neither screamed at the screen nor threw things in disgust.

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The short and sweet? Lovely Wife enjoyed it and wants to see it again. Me? I give it a 6 out of 10 and will probably see it twice more. If you want more details and spoilers, you can check below my favorite picture of Jonah Hex below. It will be safe to read again after the second picture.

* The opening of the film had a nice style with the animation. Wife noted that it was the only way they could present the branding of Hex's face in a PG-13 film.

* The scene with the Gatling guns on the horse actually worked for me. That entire scene and the train explosion scene (as seen in the pre-released clips) were a cinematically beautiful. As a matter of fact the bulk of the film looked really really good. The colors were outstanding and we were treated to some nice vistas and mood pieces.

* The character of Burke was an enjoyable one. Wife asked if the actor was actually Irish. Accent FTW!

* The whole speaking to the dead? To me it seemed as if it were thrown in to save time. Being able to talk to the dead who see everything is a lot quicker that doing actual tracking or searching down facts. There was another twist or two thrown in along with it that made it interesting, but not enough to convince me that it had to be in there. Wife enjoyed it and thought it gave the film a nice quirkiness.

* Megan Fox as Lilah? Was she in the film? I didn't notice. (I'm being sarcastic.) Her performance was standard.

* I think the film suffered from the short running time. It had interesting characters that we didn't get to know very well and I wanted to see more of Lt. Grass, more of Burke. During my interview with the cast, there was some interesting aspects to the characters that we were not even allowed to get a hint of and I think the film was less for the exclusion. I wonder if the cuts were to get it down to a PG-13? Jonah Hex is definitely an R rating character.

* There were some rather abrupt cuts. The love scene between Hex and Lilah, Hex leaving the fort with the aid of his horse, Hex recovering with the aid of the Indians to the scene of him riding his horse. All of these left me thinking "Wow, they cut something there."

* The dog, the crows, the horse. All of these were nice touches that I think did add to the film.

* At times it was difficult to understand Brolin but I don't fault him for that. It must have been hell working with that makeup.

* The weird freak in the fighting ring seemed to be something leftover from a prior shoot to the film. It wasn't explained very well and left Wife scratching her head.

* Now some detail stuff, the relationship between Hex and Turnbull was pretty much turned on its head from the comics. I asked Wife to explain it and she got the movie version 99% correct. Now for a little bit of a rant, I have read more than one review where the reviewer got facts of the movie wrong such as saying that Hex killed Turnbull's brother among other things. That makes me wonder if reviewers are actually watching the damn film? I believe that this film is getting a short end of the stick. Way too often, reviewers want to be 'hip' and 'current' and rather than actually talking about the film, they toss in quick insults about the actors or flippant political remarks (I have seen more than one review making negative comments about the Tea Party movement (Jonah Hex and Prince of Persia come to mind)) So rather than giving an actual review, they pile on Megan Fox, the short run time, and on and on.

* "This country could use a sheriff." Someone actually thought that was a good line? Sheesh.

* Having read the original script and knowing the ending (a fistfight on a field of red clay), I recognized it when it was intermingled throughout the film. It made me think that they shot a lot of the original script and went back for a rewrite and a new ending but realized how well staged and photographed the original ending was and decided to keep it. They did weave it into the film and Wife, not knowing of the original script, thought the whole effect was unique and enjoyed it.

* Watching it at a 10:30 am showing there were about a dozen people in the theater and I noticed four folks leave and not come back. Hmmm, that doesn't bode well. You can't even suffer through a 80 minute film?

* There was actually more sex in the trailer than in the film. Again, hmmmmm.

* When will folks realize that when we see a reflection of someone with a scar on their face, the scar should be on the opposite side of their face?

As I said above, I would give it 6 of 10 stars. I would put it in the middle of the pack regarding comic book movies, better than either Hulk or Men in Black and I might even place it above all of the first boot of Batman movies. Just wish it had been longer. The more I think of it, the more likely that I will be talking more about this film. Please bear with me.

Lovely Wife places it slightly above X-Men, way above Daredevil, a whole heck of a lot better than the first Hulk, much better than Batman Returns and Batman and Robin. She actually said if Jonah Hex had been given more time it would have been just below Spider-Man


Jim-in-Seattle said...

Jonah Hex is a better idea for a comic book than it is in it’s execution. That was my feeling around the time he was catapulted in time into DC’s vision of tomorrowland- “Hex”. That was my feeling when the second and third Vertigo mini series came out in the 90’s.. Periodically it has been my thought with the Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray incarnation. Now I can add the silver screen to my list of unfulfilled expectations, except with the script that was shot, I’m not even sure it contained a good idea for a film.

I felt that I was the hybrid target audience for the “Jonah Hex” movie; I have a film degree, I love much of the source material from the late 60s that lead to the character’s creation (Leone, Eastwood, western anti-heros in general) and I have a affinity for this comic book based in my childhood when I first pulled Weird Western #25 off the creaking, spinning metal rack at the drug store. For better or worse, much of my adult life has been spent thinking Jonah Hex was cool. In 1984, while in film school I naively wrote DC and asked if I could write a Jonah Hex screenplay. I remember the rejection letter had really cool stationary- Sour grapes? Maybe, my fabulous film career trainwrecked long before Turnbull’s suicide bombers.

I can’t sugar coat it or give it a pass because I have a long relationship to JH: it’s a bad film. Even if I could fully disassociate myself from the only comic I have ever collected, and judge it totally objectively I would have to assume that Jimmy Hayward had never directed an actor before. The pacing was disjointed and muddled, there was no tension or fully thought out drive to anything the characters did. Jonah Hex seeks information from people in picturesque places for no reason, awakens the dead for friendly chats and hacks up a crow without motivation or introspection. It might have been helpful if a “Western” had something to do with the “West”- most everything takes place in the South and East. Did the writers consult an atlas or google maps when writing this? The film exhibits a James Bond sort of instant travel geography, one minute in Georgia, the next in Virginia, South Carolina and Washington DC. It’s 1876, the man is on horseback, these trips can take days or weeks- yet Turnbull and Hex have no problems teleporting around the U.S.- One minute our tattooed Irishman is in the obviously named “Fort Resurrection,” SC- the next he is in some sort of Southwestern EPCOT version of a Pueblo whorehouse to kidnap Leilah- Wow it’s easy to find people in 1876- Eli Whitney must have also invented Zabasearch.

Jim-in-Seattle said...

Part 2

I could have lived with many of the plot holes. Most of the movies I have loved in my life have huge holes and really stretch the suspension of disbelief but the disjointed and choppy editing made it less fun to try and fill in the blanks. I even could have lived with the whole “talkin’-to-the-dead” thing if it had been handled differently, but it felt tacked on like a script by committee decision. The defensive editing is evident everywhere, including the animated intro and the lame voice over narration. When Brolin as Jonah intones: “And this here’s my story…” was a tip off that there was trouble deciding what this film wanted to be. The glowing balls and the imminent destruction of the capital isn’t Jonah Hex’s world- that’s Dean Martin in Matt Helm territory. Almost any script arc of Micheal Fleisher or Palmiotti / Gray would have rendered a more true, more compact and most importantly, more entertaining outcome. Aidan Quinn as Grant offering JH a frisbee sized star that says “sheriff” must have been the contribution of someone’s 6 year old son to the script.

Brolin does an admirable job in a thankless position; uncomfortable looking makeup, too much cape and costume and the sum of the hopes of the Jonah Hex fan base riding on him. There are moments where he is Jonah Hex. He has moments where he looks like he is looking grimly for the exit or for some sort of explanation of the mysterious plot points.

Megan Fox was slammed for her performance before anyone ever saw the film. I really didn’t have that much problem with it. She is a pretty girl who looked like she was acting it out in front of mirror in her bathroom.What she lacked was anything for her character to do, that’s the writers fault. What she needed was a director who was comfortable with flesh and blood rather than manipulating Dr Seuss shaped pixels.

Malkovich seemed to be sleep walking his way through the part, however Turnbull was always my least favorite JH villain so my bias may be working against him.

I really wanted to like this film. I really did. I was willing to cut it slack and overlook the obvious changes to the Jonah Hex legend and enjoy it as a popcorn chomping fun ride. I’m sorry fellow Jonah Hex fans, for me the roller coaster never left the parking lot.

Thanks for all your work Dwayne, this is a great blog and you are a gentleman.