Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jonah Hex

Directed by Jimmy Hayward.
2010. Rated PG-13, 82 minutes.
Josh Brolin
Megan Fox
John Malkovich
Will Arnett
Michael Fassbender
John Gallagher Jr.
Tom Wopat
Michael Shannon

The possibility of time travel is still one of the great unknowns. Most of us would love to be like Marty McFly, traversing human history at will. As of right now, we can’t. Mentally, I often take trips to and fro throughout our existence, entertaining the possibilities or cherishing the memories. One of my favorite memories is spending much of my allowance on comic books. Spider-Man and The Uncanny X-Men were my favorites. For years, not a month went by when I didn’t grab the latest edition of each. This included all three of the Spidey periodicals that were going at the time. It’s a good thing they were only sixty cents a pop, back then. I grabbed many other titles, as well. Though I had seen it on the racks plenty of times, none of them were ever “Jonah Hex.” I don’t recall any of my friends buying it, either. I certainly never read a single issue. Perhaps, that was a subtle warning or foreshadowing of how I should’ve treated this movie.

Anyone who knows me, knows it’s a safe bet that I’ll give a comic book movie a shot. Therefore, even as negative feedback mounted to unbelievable heights, I never really entertained the notion of not seeing it. So there I was, all alone with a comic book flick that I really had no frame of reference for. That didn’t bother me. I just wanted a fun movie.

Very quickly, we find out Jonah (Brolin) is an ex-Confederate soldier and is at odds with his former, and still corrupt commander Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich). For the slow among us, this makes it a comic-book western set in the 1870s. Anyhoo, for some reason or another Jonah has not only turned on Turnbull, but killed his son Jeb. None too pleased about this, Turnbull returns the favor by having Jonah tied to a cross and killing his family right in front of him.. Still not satisfied, QT then literally brands his initials on our hero’s face. Jonah trying to get revenge ensues.

Oh, I forgot something. Since this is a comic book movie, our hero has a superpower. You see, Jonah nearly died on the cross QT strapped him to. When he came back from “the other side”, he emerged with the ability to talk to the dead. They’re like his personal GPS because each dead person can track the movements of the people they knew when they were alive. It’s not the most appealing ability to have, but it is what it is. No wonder I never read this comic. Almost forgot something else: Turnbull has bigger things than Jonah on his mind. He’s trying to build some ultimate weapon so he can overthrow the hated Union government and get rid of all us damn Yankees. What is it? What does it do? How does it work? I saw the thing and I’m not sure I can tell you a whole lot. Okay, maybe I gave up caring by then. The gist of it is, it shoots giant glowing canon balls and blows stuff up real good.

Sound silly? That’s okay, silliness can be well executed. Sadly, not in this case. Our hero occasionally kills people because he feels like it, is in love with a prostitute and doesn’t have the most pleasant personality. The prostitute, by the way, is named Lilah and is played by Megan Fox. She works so hard at her southern accent she neglects to ever change her facial expression. Even a face as beautiful as hers is boring if it never does anything. John Malkovich could’ve saved this thing by giving us a dynamic villain, but he’s far too restrained. As Jonah Hex, Brolin does what’s asked of him and grunts his way through the movie.

The whole thing reminds me of another movie set in the 19th century in which the bad guy creates a superweapon he wants to use to take down the US government: Wild Wild West. Yeah, I went there. The only real difference is tone. The Will Smith vehicle went for screwball comedy/buddy flick/action movie. This uses the gal as both lover and buddy, keeps the action and is goofy but not funny, at least not intentionally. In fact, it has no funny bone to speak of, trading in the former’s jovial demeanor for surliness.

Once again, I’m thrust back in time to the hours I spent gazing at the racks and racks of comics deciding what to spend my hard earned allowance on. A smile comes over my face as I see myself accidentally knock an issue of “Jonah Hex” onto the floor and step on it in an effort to reach the latest issue of “Batman”.

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