Jonah Hex (2010)

Jonah Hex movie review Above the Line with Rory DeanJonah Hex (2010) is a travesty of epic proportions in the comic book adaptation, franchise building universe.  The movie plods, often directionless, and fails to make the most of the only commodity of any interest, namely the characters and story from the original Western comic book that first appeared in the early 1970’s.   While the film blends genres, incorporates animated sequences with live action to modest interest, it is clear from the onset that the end product, heavily and clumsily edited, is a shell of what it started out to be.

The film is identified as an Action/Drama/Thriller/Western though it is apparent from the opening scenes that we’re operating in the specific world of comic book adaptation.  Thin on drama and hardly a thriller, there is an excessive reliance on action with a Western backdrop, but neither is fully realized or otherwise spectacular.  The violence is muted for a PG-13 rating and the closest we get to sexual themes are a couple of brief bedroom scenes that have been edited to the point of irrelevance.  There is ample action for a film of this type but most sequences are fantastical if implausible and even unnecessary.  The characters are paper-thin renditions of stereotypes from an amalgam of B movie westerns and forgettable Saturday afternoon action flicks.  The dialogue, purposefully clipped at times, is stiff and anodyne, reduced to one liners and basic plot and back story delivery.  The story is poorly executed and at times fragmented to the point of confusion.  The only thing that keeps the film from falling apart altogether is the cast.

Josh Brolin (W, Milk, No Country For Old Men) is convincing enough as the anti-hero, a scarred and brooding cowboy with a code of justice but the character, like his bevy of deadly, video game inspired weaponry, is left to surface details and ancillary purpose.  John Malkovich does what he can as the bad guy but his part is hardly sketched out and sadly condensed to caricature.  Megan Fox, undeniably stunning, delivers her usual bright smile and tedious performance, more like background scenery that floats in and out of periphery and is nice to look at but doesn’t contribute in a meaningful way to the story.  It was obvious they needed a pretty girl and fresh from the Transformer franchise she fit the bill.  Michael Shannon (Runaways, Revolutionary Road) has one scene but it was cut from the film and is only available on the DVD – but the writing is thick and cumbersome in Shannon’s delivery and feels artificial and out of context anyway.  What his character might have been or how he tied into the plot is unclear.  Perhaps most troubling is the obvious studio meddling, but what really gets in the way of everything else and keeps this film from really taking off is sure footing; not even the talented leading men and familiar character actors can prevent the story from miring down beneath the weight of indecisiveness and a dismal script.

There is an inventive blending of comic book animation in the beginning of the film that is worth mentioning.  It serves as a fabric that is at least moderately successful in connecting the character and story with its roots, but it is not allowed breathing room and is quickly abandoned for less rewarding and unsuccessful subplots.  It is impossible to know the extent to which editing and meddling took its toll on the finished film.  Director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) says he was an obvious choice for the project given his connections to Pixar but it is unclear whether he had a game plan or thought he would be able to assemble a live action film in the edit.  What is clear is that Jonah Hex is flat and unenthusiastic.  The result is a car crash victim of a film that ends up on life support that no one is vested in enough to stick around to see if it makes it through the night.

Sadly the most disappointing fact of the matter is how quickly a failure like this settles into obscurity, lost in the Hollywood machine that has never been very forgiving.  The one exception is Marvel Comics’ character Hulk and their two-time effort to bring him to the screen.  The first attempt was made by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm, Eat Drink Man Woman) who delivered Hulk (2003) that subsequently failed miserably at the box office, due mostly to an unconvincing CGI caricature.  Marvels’ second attempt was far more successful when they brought in Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans) in 2008 for The Incredible Hulk.

Jonah Hex isn’t the worst movie from DC Comics, the company perhaps best known for their more successful franchises, Batman ($1.7 billion collected from 6 films), and Superman ($800 million collected from 5 films).  They’ve stumbled before with the disappointing Catwoman (2004) and the forgettable Steel (1997).  Not even Halle Berry could save the former and the latter was doomed from the concept with basketball star Shaquille O’Neal as an unconvincing superhero.  DC Comics remains in the shadow of their rival, comic book giant Marvel who retains the crown as the reigning king of comic book adaptations.  Warner Bros. will be bringing the Green Lantern to theaters in 2011 and an as of yet titled Batman sequel in 2012.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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6 Responses to Jonah Hex (2010)

  1. bleuravyn says:

    I don’t usually comment but thought I would– I agree with this definite “miss it” review. I didn’t go into it with high hopes but wanted a fun ride. My ass was sore by the end of it from the bumpy, unrewarding, mediocre train-wreck that is Jonah Hex. I was aware of this being a comic book adaptation like some of the better ones you mentioned from DC comics and others such as Marvel’s Spiderman and enjoyed the opening sequence that moved between animation in a distinct comic style and live action. It faded soon after though and I felt good talent was wasted as our stars just couldn’t save the film from the lacking script… oh well. We are close enough to Halloween now and its time for some fun fright fests that I am sure will soon erase Hex from my recent memory.

  2. Rodney says:

    I’m in two minds as to whether or not to see this debacle. on the one hand, as a film critic I feel I should try and watch it to give my opinion, but on the other, there’s the overwhelming consensus from those who HAVE seen it that it’s not worth my time.

    I think I’ll miss it. If Warners (and DC) don’t get their act together soon, and produce some comic-book films of decent quality (you already mentioned the rotten ones… Steel… really? *vomit*) then Marvel’s going to leave them for dead. If that hasn’t happened already.

    Green Lantern had better rock, that’s all I’ll say.

    • rorydean says:

      r-

      As a film critic you owe it to yourself to see it. Of course I’m bias because I want to hear your thoughts, but on the other I think anyone who has something to say or wants to say something about films indebted to watch everything that comes around. I remind myself, from time to time, that I have to watch everything even when the last thing I can imagine is sitting through another terrible comic book adaptation. I do admit that I thought Brolin and Malkovich was going to elevate the concept but sadly was disappointed.

      I would say see it, even though I said don’t.

      That’s the poison of the pint, as it were of what we do.

      • Rodney says:

        I owe it to myself to see it? Now that I’ve seen it, I think you owe me for making me owe it to myself to see it! LOL!!!

        Great write up brother, and I’ll link this review to my own when I get a spare moment!

      • rorydean says:

        Ha! Yeah, I guess that’s what happens when you put that out there. I love that line – thanks for the redirect too!

  3. Pingback: » Movie Review – Jonah Hex Fernby Films

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