I could have gone with a Batman “Dead parents” joke but we’re classier than that around here. You’re welcome.
Here’s a caveat that I feel needs to be introduced early on into the review before I really get into the meat and potatoes of the critique; I enjoy bad movies. My taste is somewhat questionable because I love stuff that ranges from high art to utter dreck. That having been said, even a bad movie has to have certain things going for it that transcend whatever it is that makes the mainstream reject it in the first place and therefore allow it to meet the criteria of ironic enjoyment. There are unending caches of horror films that are only enjoyable because of their incompetent nature. How many people watch the films of Ed Wood simply because of how shoddy they were? There’s nothing wrong with a good bad movie.
Jonah Hex was never going to be high art. We were lucky enough to get a Batman film that saw itself as a finely crafted film first and a comic adaptation second, that used up all the good will we were gonna get for a long while. The off-kilter characters that don’t have a mainstream following, ie. Jonah Hex, The Spirit, etc. are going to have trouble being taken seriously by anybody but the die-hard fans. The studios don’t understand them, the mainstream audience doesn’t understand them and more often than not, the people working on the film don’t understand them.
With Jonah Hex, we get a film that has production values that frankly seem a bit out of place when it comes to what’s put on screen. The environments and set pieces, when not underlit in times of darkness, are all vibrant and don’t look like cheap shoddily built props. The movie doesn’t look like it was shot by amateurs and so the film looks good. My contention is that it really looks too good.
The story and the broadside anti-subtlety of the actors performing their parts make me feel like they should have shot this thing and made it look like a straight-up spaghetti western in the style of Django or A Fistful of Dollars. I think if the producers of the film had tried to go for more camp they might have picked up more people coming in to see the film. Though most people won’t admit it, everybody enjoys a bad movie now and again. The problem was that everyone went into this film with their serious face on and rather than coming off as fun it tends to seem like a missed opportunity. Josh Brolin brings a lot of gritty charm to Jonah but everyone else, aside from maybe Michael Fassbender, just seem to be going through the motions. Imagine if Malkovich could have really poured on the ham. What if we could have gotten another Con-Air style performance out of him?
Even the supernatural elements wouldn’t have seemed so out of place if the tone of the film hadn’t been so serious. The best thing that could have happened to this movie would have been a direct edict to go over-the-top with no restriction and they really should have kept the previously rumoured “zombie confederate army” plotline that got mentioned so much in the early stages of development. Hex talking to the dead would have made a lot more sense if the central plot of the film revolved around the resurrection of the dead. Instead he has supernatural powers for no real reason and Turnbull wants to blow up Washington with a cannon that shoots Dragon Balls.
I actually enjoyed the movie, I thought it was a pretty middle-of-the road actioner and that Josh Brolin did a damn fine job as Hex. But it really is a silly little movie that is hampered by it’s reluctance to admit its own ridiculousness. I won’t bother mentioning the plot holes, or the choppy storytelling, or Megan Fox’s accent. Those things are self evident. I’m just saddened that we couldn’t have gotten something unique and special out of Jonah Hex. Instead we get a spiritual cousin to Will Smiths’ Wild Wild West. The tone is almost identical. The “wtf” factor of the villain’s plan is almost identical, and neither of them seemed to care much about catering to the hopes of the original fans.
I won’t say that I hated it, but I won’t admit it wasn’t a dissapointment either.