Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hex Doesn't Mark the Spot

Just when you think superhero movies are getting better and more sophisticated, Hollywood churns out something that makes you regret that thought. While there's no denying that the genre is seeing a resurgence, with special thanks to Christopher Nolan's Batman films and Jon Favreu's Iron Man, it's still one that can sink into miserable depths if not treated properly. Such is the case with Jonah Hex, a post-civil war antihero film based on the pseudo-popular character from the DC Comics line.

Malkovich proves he CAN be in bad movies
The film follows the trails of bounty hunter Hex (Josh Brolin), scarred by the branding iron of the Confederate officer who killed his family in cold blood, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). Turnbull, thought to have died years ago, resurfaces to threaten the newly-recombined United States still sitting on the ashes of Civil War with an all-new super weapon, and the President hires Hex to track down and kill Turnbull. Jonah accepts, wanting to finish the business he never had a chance to so many years ago.

A face not even his mother would love
Seemingly everything you can do wrong with a movie like this was done wrong: wrong director, wrong actors, wrong soundtrack, bad screenplay, complete lack of respect for the source material, and mediocre special effects. Considering director Jimmy Hayward had no experience in this kind of film - his career prior to this title had mainly consisted of serving as an animator on children's CGI-animated movies - this probably should have come as a surprise to no one, especially the people who green-lighted $47 million to budget this flick. The screenplay by filmmakers Neveldine/Taylor (whose 2009 film Gamer I mostly enjoyed) is a mess, completely glossing over Hex's origin as unimportant while aimlessly shuffling from scene to scene for the first half until the main plot becomes obvious to everyone involved. It also relies too heavily on supernatural elements which either didn't exist or were of much less importance in the comics. What probably hurt the film most however was it's PG-13 rating, which muzzled what would have otherwise been a much more violent film, as befitting the character. While studios may hesitate at making superhero films too bloody, some licenses simply can't be marketed with a younger audience in mind. For every Superman, Green Lantern or Thor who can have stories told about them without being too adult, there is a Punisher, Elektra, Deadpool and, yes, Jonah Hex who simply don't work on that familial level.

"No, really... people aren't going to SEE this, are they?"
Where the actors are not all untalented, they are still largely miscast for this film. Brolin is probably the closest to a believable character in this cast, but one thinks he was chosen more for his rising star and recognizable name than for being right for the part. His role mainly consists of grunting and maintaining the same facial expression throughout the film, with nary an expressed emotion the entire time. I'm looking forward more to his role in the upcoming True Grit remake as a mark of his talent than this film, which simply doesn't let him do much. Malkovich is similarly wasted. Much better in this year's RED, the veteran doesn't get an opportunity to display his disarming charm or wit here, instead forced in an "evil for evil's sake" character as a Confederate officer trying to disable the United States by any means necessary. He's side-kicked by Michael Fassbender as a somewhat psychotic Irish brawler who took part in killing Hex's family. Fassbender, who I liked in Centurion, has an interesting part and does well, but is ultimately more talented than he is allowed to show. Still, his Riddler/Alex DeLarge-inspired role was one of the film's better ones. Revolutionary Road's Michael Shannon, Benny & Joon's Aiden Quinn and The Wire's Lance Reddick are talented performers who have little to do in this film. And Will Arnett should never be cast as anything other than a comedic role. You can tell how bad a film is going to be by how serious Arnett's role is, as it does in casting him as US soldier and useless character Lieutenant Grass. Finally, we have Megan Fox, who plays a whore who can't act... oh wait, that's just Fox being herself. While I don't think anyone can deny her obvious wiles, Fox is no new Jolie, and has no business acting in any capacity. It's only a matter of time before studios realize this and stop offering her roles, most likely at the earliest moment her exotic looks begin to wither and fade.

Who cares if she doesn't have any talent?
The soundtrack for Jonah Hex was scored by the metal band Mastadon. While the music was certainly entertaining on it's own, it completely mismatched the film's attempted atmosphere, which would have benefited from a more traditional western soundtrack, instead of the merely western-tinged metal that littered the film's scenes. It's merely another obvious mistake the filmmakers made putting this movie together, and detracts from what already feels like a rushed, aimless project.

Hex gets set to burn the script. They never needed one anyway!
It's obvious Jonah Hex is nowhere near the top of the list for best movie of the year. What should have been carefully cultivated to an adult audience since it was based on a mid-card comic book character was rushed and hacked out the door and marketed to a younger audience for no good reason except perhaps to try to get more people to see a crap movie. That much is easy to see. What is a more interesting question is whether the film is worse than the one I've been touting nearly all year as 2010's worst, Legion. As we get towards the end of the year, I'll be looking into what I think are the worst feature films of 2010, and putting it into a comprehensive top 10 list might get messy. If anyone wants to name a film for the list, I'll be accepting all recommendations. We're getting down to the wire, the final month of 2010, and lots of films that haven't been gotten to yet. I'm looking forward to finishing this year on a high note, sharing my every movie and game-related notes with you all.


elmo said...

Having never read the comic, I'm still morbidly curious (hell, I loved The Last Airbender).

Gianni said...

I'll be the first to admit that there are a lot of bad films I've seen this year that I still enjoyed to SOME degree. Machete, for instance, I liked even though it's not a good film. However, there are some I would never recommend for any reason, including Legion, Repo Men, and this.

As for Last Airbender, haven't seen it, no interest in seeing it, heard it was atrocious, shudder at the thought of it.