Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jonah Hex review

Megan Fox, Josh Brolin and Michael Fassbender

Another DC comics character came to life on the big screen with Jonah Hex. Hex stars Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex, Megan Fox as his love interest and John Malkovitch as Jonah’s arch nemesis. Jonah Hex has been a film I have been looking forward too every since I first heard it was being made. I remember Jonah fondly from my childhood and am a big fan of the recent mini series written by Joe R. Lansdale. The early reviews were tough on old Jonah but that didn’t deter me from laying my cash down for a ticket opening weekend.

The movie follows the adventures of the title Jonah, a former Confederate soldier as he searches for the man who killed his family and left him brutally scarred. The film was not perfect but overall I enjoyed it. Hopefully the film will do well enough for a sequel. Now for the good and the bad about the film.

Josh Brolin makes the perfect Jonah Hex. After seeing this I could not imagine anyone else playing the role. Maybe Clint Eastwood in his younger years could have pulled it off. After all Eastwood modeled the look of Josey Wales on Jonah. Brolin had just the right amount of machismo for the role. At the same time we could see that sadness, melancholy and outright hatred that Jonah posses for those that wrong him. Josh also has the rough features that suit Jonah so well.

The story had more of a supernatural edge that I was expecting. Early on there were rumors of a zombie army, but the film makers decided to go a more realistic route. Knowing this I was not expecting the amount of supernatural thrown in Jonah Hex. Still they didn’t push it too far, leaving Jonah with the ability to talk to the dead and a demonic “snake man” in one scene. Both of these could be played off as non supernatural with a small stretching of the mental muscle. Jonah would not seem right without at least a touch of the otherworldly.

Megan Fox has gotten a lot of criticism and I know a lot of people who groaned when she got the role of Lila. Honestly she has earned some of her criticisms, but she does a decent job in Jonah Hex. Her accent was strained, but her dialogue is somewhat limited. She is beautiful to look at and handles the more physical parts very well.
It‘s hard to say anything bad about John Malkovitch. That being said he really didn‘t have that much depth of character here to work with. He did ok with the role but Turnbull really didn’t seem developed beyond generic evil villain. His voice and demeanor suited Turnbull perfectly and he was an excellent choice. He just needed more to work with. Likewise Turnbulls grand plan to “destroy the country” seemed not so well thought out and his motivations not that clear.

One of the things that scared me going into the film was the use of gadgets in the trailer. Jonah was always six gun and fists kind of anti hero, not a James West secret agent type guy. Happily the gadgets did not play as big a part as I had feared. They still seemed out of place and I think the film would have worked just as well without them.

The character of Smith seemed thrown in just as a way to distance Jonah from slavery ( and provide gadgets.) As it is Smith stands almost as a token black with no real story or purpose. Leaving Jonah in his Confederate coat and hat was one thing I liked about the film. Throwing aside any fears of political correctness and possibly tackling the truth that not all men who fought for the South believed in slavery. This brings me to another point, Jonah’s origin.

In the comic origin ( at least one of them, comics are nefarious for having multiple origins,) Jonah surrenders to the Union, and ala Josey Wales, his men are slaughtered. Inn the film it makes it seem that Jonah is complicit in the slaughter and paints all his men as evil. The story doesn’t go too deeply into this but a scene with Jonah looking on as his men are lined up sticks in my mind.

One of the great things about westerns is the west. The soaring mountains and wide open spaces are a cinematographer’s dream. Jonah Hex had little of this. Other than a few scenes the whole film could possibly have been filmed on a sound stage. There are a couple of spooky graveyards and a few scenes of Jonah Riding across the range but too much is filmed indoors and at night. I would have loved to have seen Jonah in a gun battle in the middle of the wilderness instead of so much sneaking around.

While I am not a Megan Fox hater, and she did do a decent job in Jonah Hex, I did find myself thinking she was simply too attractive for the role. I can’t remember Jonah ever being that picky about the ladies. With his prominent facial scarring, I don’t think he could have been that picky. Still seeing Megan Fox all sweaty in that tight corset did make me happier than seeing Rosanne Barr in it. I’m willing to call Megan a positive on that account alone.

The hallucinatory fight between Jonah and Turnbull seemed forced. I really didn’t see the need for it beyond just giving Brolin and Malkovitch more time on screen together. I had much rather have seen this a s a real fight near the end of the film, or even a fight before the end. Probably my biggest knock against the film is that I would have liked more action. Give me another fight scene with Michael Fassbender or Malkovitch. I wanted more gunplay.

Still even though this might seem negative, I loved Jonah Hex. Why? Because over all it is just so cool and seeing Jonah Hex on the big screen is a dream come true. The wrong actor could have spoiled this but Josh Brolin nailed it. So even though there are a lot of things that could have been better, I have to give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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