Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jonah Hex (2010)

The fact that we have a Jonah Hex film proves that DC wasn’t just talking out its ass when they said that they were focused on bringing some of its lesser known comic franchises to the big screen, although after one Superman film and two Batman flicks, the other in-production releases Aquaman and The Green Arrow are M.I.A. I figure that, aside from the comic’s cult audiences, most filmgoers will be like me; familiar with the character of Jonah Hex only through the plethora of knockoffs and parodies that came through popular culture during the 90’s. There’s something timeless about a cowboy with only half of his face on a quest for revenge, and I guess others were quick to jump on that idea.

The film takes place in the last few days of or immediately following the Civil War. After fighting in the war itself for an indeterminate amount of time, the man we come to know as Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) deserts to settle down with an Indian woman he fell in love with. Together with their young son, they live in a quiet cabin in the wilderness for many years, though in the end it was not meant to be. The Hex homestead is attacked one night by a brigand of Confederate war criminals, and burned to the ground with Jonah’s wife and child trapped inside. After undergoing torture at the hands of the ruthless war criminals that leaves him permanently scarred, he is left for dead, only to be found by a party of Indians who were drawn by the blaze.magic to heal him and power his thirst for vengeance. Recharged, he returns with a mean streak a mile wide and the ability to talk to the dead. He enjoys some success as a bounty hunter before the government finally catches up to him and makes him an offer he can’t refuse: It seems the very same war criminals that destroyed his family have their sights set on a superweapon, and it’s up to Jonah to prevent them from using it to tear the fragile Union apart again.

While in production, the film billed itself as a supernatural romp. The bad guy (John Malkovich) was supposed to be some sort of big bad voodoo daddy who wanted to raise an army of the dead to bolster confederate forces. As you can see, the story in the final product is totally different, which probably explains the 11th hour re-shootings the filmmaker demanded before giving any copies to the theaters. Personally, I feel the original tale would have been better suited to a character like Jonah Hex, because the rest of this movie feels pretty forced. He’s a clever gunslinger and a skilled fighter, but the film hardly gives him a chance to explore his supernatural abilities, which he seems to use only to gain information from the dead.  Other scenes in the film feature unexplained elements, such as the monster fight in the circus. You want to know more about what those creatures are doing there, but Jonah himself seems to tell you that the director says there’s not enough time; he doesn’t even fight them.

The overall pacing of the film is horrible. It starts off well, but after the rousing introductory montage and the movie’s first real gun battle, the film seems to ramble, not quite knowing what to do with itself.  I’m still not sure where Jonah’s prostitute friend (Megan Fox) comes in at. I think she’s some kind of informant. The director shot two different versions of the fight between Jonah and the big bad, and for some reason, seemed dead set on using them both, playing a simultaneous “dream sequence” fight along with the “real” one on board the superweapon, for reasons unexplained. You begin to see why reshooting a film at the last minute is not a good idea.

On the bright side, the players themselves all look pretty good.

Jonah looks great, though they could’ve made him uglier. Nice period style clothes and makeup. The acting really shines from some people (Michael Fassbender), though others are a bit lackluster, but still believable in their characters. And was it just me, or did the film credits say the music was provided by Mastodon? Those guys are a heavy-approaching-death metal melodic outfit, and I heard nothing like that throughout the course of the film.

In conclusion, this film had some good ideas. But absolutely fantastic ideas aren’t going to save your skin if you suffer from poor execution, which is exactly what happened to this film. Ultimately, Jonah Hex will go on the shelf somewhere in between “Hellboy” and “Dragonball: Evolution”, which is a shame given the effort that was put into this film.


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