Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wild Wild West

  I don't know why I'm watching this, or reviewing it. I suppose I should reach for answers to both of those things in order to continue with a proper review of the movie. I suppose I'm watching this becaaaause... I get curious about movies I've seen in the past and I often wonder if they're how I remember them. I got the movie for free the other night to complete my 90's nostalgia shelf (along with Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros. The Movie, and others...) and my curiosity gets the best of me in the middle of the night when I'm super friggin bored. As for why I'm reviewing it, I'd have to say because I disagree to a certain extent with the general consensus that it's a godawful movie...
Though not entirely.

  The movie's detractors for the most part seem to be divided into two groups. People who have seen and loved the original TV from the 60's, and ones who seem to have just jumped on a hateful bandwagon. The former actually have every right to be angry with this movie. I did my research in the past and I actually watched some of the show. It's a great show. Inventive, unique, adventurous and funny. The movie might be creative, but it's far from unique and it's humor is wildly subjective. There's plenty of issues to tackle with Wild Wild West, but I suppose it's easy enough to start with the writing. The two leads West and Gordon (Smith and Kline, respectively) in the movie seem to be at odds. They're in constant competition. Their arc is having to learn to work together. Yet by comparison to the original characters, this backfires sorely.

  The original West and Gordon were buddies. Best of friends and a hell of a duo. This movie however decides to generate conflict between them. It's not funny, and the movie drags because of it. I think the casting was fine. Will Smith would have made a great Jim West, and Kevin Kline as Artemis Gordon would have made a great sidekick for him. If their characters were friends. The show never had to explain how they met, or anything. They were already friends. It just clicked. The "learning to work together" arc is not only cliche, but it takes up so much of the story and the runtime. It's just... annoying. To think how much better this movie would have been if West and Gordon were buddies... almost gives one a warm and fuzzy idea of a legitimately good Will Smith summer blockbuster instead of what we got.

  Secondly, in casting Will Smith as Jim West, the movie ends up having an unhealthy focus on his race. This is a woeful misstep. Will Smith goes through the movie being subjected to making racist jokes and explaining his circumstances as a black man. This messed up the character and adds a lot of scathing humor to the movie. They should've played it colorblind and just focused on making a well rounded character for Smith to inhabit. In Men In Black, did his skin color matter? Was it a huge focus of the movie? At all? No, no and no.
Just because the movie is set in the wild west is no reason to continually justify Jim West's race, over and over and over... and over and over. So what, he's black. Slavery exists. So what, let's move on. I really don't mind Kline as Gordon, because I feel if the writing was different him and Smith would've had a great buddy dynamic. The rest of the cast is totally unremarkable, yet... I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the villains.

  Kenneth Branagh plays Dr.Arliss Loveless. He plays the part doing nothing but chewing as much scenery as possible. His comedic timing is spot on, but the material he has to work with is woeful. There's a back and forth he has with Smith's character, they simply trade thinly veiled insults. See, Loveless has no legs, and West is black. So here comes the 'half-a-man' and slavery jokes. Oh god. It's painful. It's elementary school level insults. Nobody in this entire movie behaves like a grown adult. It seems like a bunch of hardheaded, hormonal teenagers running around blowing up the entire west. This is a far cry from the classy and cool handed, sci-fi, action stylings of the original show- and then some. So for all logical reasons, this movie is just... not good. It betrays the source material, and it fails to be as funny as it thinks it is.

  On the other hand...

I'm taking a deep breath here...


  There are a few reasons why this is a guilty pleasure of mine. Mostly nostalgia. This is a huge summer blockbuster with Will Smith, granted it's not a good one- but the whole feeling at the time was pretty exciting. There was Burger King toy tie-ins and exciting commercials and even the theatrical trailer made it out to be pretty damn fun. That whole atmosphere of reckless and mindless fun carries over into the movie itself, despite all logic and odds.  I vividly remember trying to collect all the happy meal toys...

  That image itself perfectly captures the nostalgia I feel about this movie. It's not so much the movie itself I'm crazy about, it's the whole atmosphere surrounding the movie when it was coming out. It looked crazy fun. And then there's the production design. The movie looks great. They captured that western sci-fi vibe in spades. I LOVE all the little gadgets and guns and visual flairs, and thankfully there's a lot of this stuff. Bordering on overkill, but I love it anyways. Will Smith's look in this movie is arguably very iconic despite the movie itself. His wardrobe is impeccably suited to his persona. The cocky, edgy, wild west gunslinger. Not the goofball who makes slavery jokes in a few scenes. Smith has moments of badassery here and there, and it's enough to illicit a smile from me now and then. And when they're working together, and not trying to kill each other, West and Gordon make a strangely appealing on-screen duo.

  So, if this movie seems like it might hold any kind of appeal to you, think of the giant mechanical tarantula that highlights the climax of the movie. It's odd, impractical looking, and just about hammers the last nail into the coffin filled with the nonsense spider theme that's tacked onto the villain. If this makes you facepalm and think "Oh god why?" then you have every right to join the hateful bandwagon and bash this movie to death. Yet, if the same thing seems like it's crazy cool and ridiculously fun looking... then you might want to give it a watch. Complete with mindless action scenes and humor of the lowest-brow sort, you might find it fun. It's not without it's supporters, yet in no situation does it deserve any sort of support or defense- god forbid an actual recommendation. For me? It's stupid nostalgic fun. For the critical me? It's just stupid. I guess it's all a matter of perception. Yet... there's no arguing 'stupid' factors into the end result no matter how you look at it.

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