Friday, July 2, 2010

Jonah Sux

Every now and then a movie comes along that just makes everyone go "WTF, mate?" Plenty of people get mad at crappy movies infesting the multiplex, especially during the summer when the studios bring out their best and brightest big guns for the Joe Popcorn's entertainment. But sometimes there's a movie...sometimes...there's a movie, that is so bizarrely and mind-bogglingly awful that it transcends our primate minds' ability to comprehend it. It seemingly phases into another reality, beyond space-time, where madness reigns and surreality is the norm.

Jonah Hex is one such movie.

If and when one was told a little over a year ago that DC's pulp western antihero was receiving his own big screen adaptation, the first response would probably be "Jonah who?" I can't confess a staggering degree of familiarity with Jonah Hex ("Make mine Marvel!").

Regardless of how well known Jonah Hex may be, the Studio Powers That Be are clearly running out of licensed comic book properties to run into the ground because now the Jonah Hex movie is out there and we all have to deal with it.

Jonah Hex is your standard revisionist western badass bounty hunter. He's a violent man with a violent past. A veteran of the losing side of the American Civil War, Hex was horribly scarred and left for dead, only to be revived by Native Americans and imbued with the ability to speak to the dead. Sounds like it would make a good movie, right?

Wrong. What could have been a pretty cool movie ends up as a nigh-unintelligible mess. Where does this movie go wrong? I don't known where to start or where to begin. I suppose the earliest blame can be laid at the choice of director. Originally, the project was going to be helmed by Neveldine/Taylor, the geniuses (I'm serious) behind the Crank Duology. But unfortunately they left early on because of Creative Differences. Who did the studio bring in to replace these gonzo action specialists? The guy who directed Horton Hears a Who! Yup. That's probably when you could pretty much declare that this thing was off the rails and destined to be shitty.

The problems are apparent from the start. Jonah's entire backstory, which is important because it directly feeds into the vengeance-is-mine plot of the movie, is told via voiceover. Note to directors,a voiceover is generally the first sign of a ruined movie. Not only that, but instead of, you know, devoting some time to show us what happened with actors and stuff, the story of the murder of Jonah Hex's family and his quest for revenge is shown to us with (bad) comic book-style illustrations flashing across the screen. Further note to directors: comic books work because they're comic books, movies work because they're movies (Sin City is an exception).

Okay, so here we have our protagonist and we don't give a shit about him or his story because you, the director of Horton Hears a Who!, bungled the origin story by doing it as a comic book voiceover for no reason. It's not like you had to cut stuff to save running time, the movie isn't even eighty minutes long!

It's pretty clear that the shock of losing the original directors (and the obvious subsequent revisions to their still-credited screenplay) pretty much scuttled this picture. The cast does their best to keep the thing afloat. You have Josh Brolin doing his best Tough Guy, John Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich as the villain, God's Gift to Teenage Boys Megan Fox in a corset (allow me to go on the record and say that I liked Jennifer's Body), and Michael Fassbender as a henchman. That's a halfway decent ensemble! Hell, Will Arnett even shows up for some reason. Apparently Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon was in this movie but I don't even remember seeing him.

But there are some things in here that are just unforgivably bad. There are too many to fit in a single review but two are especially glaring. First of all, the guy who makes Hex's weapons, his Q if you will, is black. This would be all well and good, but the character goes out of the way to essentially forgive ex-Confederate officer Hex for fighting for the South. "We both know you weren't fighting for slavery. You just don't like the government telling you what to do." he says. Gee, I wonder what the government was telling the South not to do back in the Antebellum era? There are ways to tell stories about bitter ex-Confederates; look at just about every western ever, for example. But you don't tell stories about bitter ex-Confederates by having former slaves casually forgive them. That's re-writing history and it's wrong.

Secondly, there's a scene where Hex talks about a dream he had where he killed General Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich), the man who murdered his family. The dream depicts the two men fighting in a dry riverbed with a bizarre red filter thrown over the camera so you know it's a dream. This dream plays out while Hex and Turnbull are fighting for real in the movie's finale. Every time one character punches the other, he punches him in the dream too! It's two fight scenes for the price of one! Clearly the "dream" sequence was shot and scrapped, but Horton Hears a Who! still wanted to use it. "Make it a dream sequence!"

Also, there's a plot about Eli Whitney inventing a Gilded Age super-weapon which ends up being something like what Ron Burgundy would refer to as a "diversity." Basically it's Wild Wild West, but without Josh Brolin doing a rap song describing the plot.

Now that I mention it, I would love to see that.

Jonah Hex is one of those brazenly terrible films that goes the distance and is so bad you can't even be mad at it. But hey, at least it's better than Toy Story 3!

Final Verdict: 3 Congos