Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jonah on film

So, the trailer for Jonah Hex by Jimmy Hayward, eh?

I'd already heard a bunch of comparisons to Barry Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West before watching it, so maybe I was braced.

Having never seen the Sonnenfeld movie in its entirety, I can't help think of Stephen Norrington's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...

Ok, before I go further, let me say, from what I can see here, Josh Brolin is awesome. Exactly the way I'd hope the comic book character Jonah Hex would be in a movie. A little Eastwood, a little Franco Nero, and a lot the way John Albano and Michael Fleisher established his dialogue to sound.

Maybe he just had a natural sense, but I suspect the man did his homework and read some serious comics. It sure looks that way to me, and I appreciate it.

Everything else?

Barring, or simply leaving out, anything too over the top here, it looks less to me like Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West and more like the original Wild Wild West series. To be generous, I could compare the Gatling guns to Django, in keeping with the Spaghetti Western tradition that Hex was born out of.

Unfortunately, there's a cheesiness here that doesn't seem consistent even with the Corbucci movie, even less with the original comics.

Now, there's an argument somewhere that this is based more on the feel of the Vertigo run by Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman than any of the earlier (or later) more down-to-earth runs on the book. On that, I'll say, as much as I love both Lansdale and Truman, that's not my favorite Hex run, by any stretch. In fact, I probably prefer the much maligned (or neglected) Hex run.

But frankly, that's where I come back to Norrington's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It looks to the Lansdale/Truman run as the Norrington movie does to the Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill comic.

Ok, in fairness, not really that bad or embarrassing. And probably not that goddamn insulting.

But essentially bad and kind of embarrassing.

And pretty insulting.

I love Batman, the series with Adam West and Burt Ward, all of that. It remains fantastic fun!

However, it's done a lot of harm to the way comics are seen. Comic articles, even articles specifically highlighting more mature works, still manage to work in references to "Pow!" and "Whammo!"

And it's still the way a lot of Hollywood sees as the way to interpret comics in live action form. Witness again Norrington's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

It was, mind you, a terrific way to interpret those Dick Sprang era comics, and I think it's magnificent for it.

But it's not the right attitude for Jonah Hex.

Now, perhaps it's not the attitude that the movie is going for. Looking at the trailer, which is bad, but not as bad as I was perhaps led to expect, I can imagine the movie to be something more like a bizarre mash-up of Django with Richard Donner's Maverick. That could be interesting and entertaining on its own.

But it wouldn't really so much be Jonah Hex.

And that's too bad, because Jonah Hex could make a really terrific movie.

It's especially too bad because, as I said, it looks like Josh Brolin makes a terrific and very accurate Jonah Hex.

I'm not sure I understand why in a time when the top-grossing comic book movie, even adjusted for inflation, is The Dark Knight, which I'd fault for taking itself way too seriously, we're still faced with things like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and this trailer, if not necessarily the movie itself, which seem embarrassed to be based on comic books.

I see a future of Hayward being the brunt of Joel Schumacher type jokes for a while. But who knows? Tim Story escaped that fate somehow, and at least Batman Forever is better than Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Maybe only Batman brings out that kind of passion in the geek world.

Look, there's very little chance I'm not going to be an idiot and lay down my $10 to see this thing, and I hope all of us are wrong about what the end result will be. I'm dying to love this thing.

But if it's not what it looks like it is, then I'm pretty confused why they would try to make it look like that.


Tony Dayoub said...

I echo your sentiments. And I'm only a casual fan of Hex. I was really hoping the reports were wrong, and this would be a grimmer western.

Someone like John Hillcoat (THE ROAD, THE PROPOSITION) would have been an ideal choice.

Neil Sarver said...

I suppose since writing Jonah Hex four years ago, I have become something of an official Hex fan, having, by hook or by crook, read my way through most of his history, including the very good current series.

I agree that Hillcoat would have been a fine choice, and it'd take him a few missteps before I'd stop watching whatever he did.

It doesn't have the same name recognition - although how high is Jonah Hex's name recognition among the general public anyway? - but if they wanted a light-hearted romp, perhaps they should have looked at Bat Lash.

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