Jonah Hex (2010 movie) review…

Jonah Hex (2010 movie) review after the break…

Jonah Hex (2010 movie) review…

Exposition, as a director once famously said, is a screenwriter’s way of saying that they can’t write scripts.

Movies involving comic book characters chart for themselves a perilous course – Stay too close to “canon” and you most likely bore the casual audience who can’t appreciate the intricacies of a complicated storyline; Stray too far from “canon” and you most likely irritate the hardcore fans that have stuck with the franchise through thick and thin, causing massive negative publicity.

“Jonah Hex” is a 2010 movie starring Josh Brolin as the title character, a former Confederate (they’re always former Confederate soldiers, aren’t they?) soldier with a shattered past and a face not even a mother could love (although plastic surgeons might beg to differ). His reputation as a bounty hunter is infamous and it’s this reputation that causes him to be tracked down by the U.S. government. The government has learned that Hex’s nemesis, Quentin Turnbull, is not only alive but bent upon destroying the nation’s capitol with a “super-weapon” akin to a steampunk version of a nuclear bomb.

So much of this movie doesn’t make sense that it’s almost a little unfair to review it. Somehow, someone “upstairs” also realized that the audience would get quickly lost and so a cavalcade of exposition marches all around this movie despite the short running time.

Since I’m not fluent with the comic book of which the character is based upon, I won’t judge this movie by that standard. From what I understand, Jonah Hex was given a supernatural bend in this movie, being able to communicate with the dead where he doesn’t have that ability in the comic books. Regardless of the inclusion of this ability is good or bad, it really isn’t utilized very effectively; It is literally used as a quick plot device to tell Jonah where to go next so that the plot can move forward. Who needs to perform detective work when all you have to do is talk to the dead?

Loose story-telling ends abound in this movie; There’s a “snake”-man briefly shown fighting in the movie. Will Jonah have to fight him? If the plot was tightened up, then “Yes.” However, the snake-man only serves one purpose – To dispatch an enemy of Jonah’s. Why a snake-man for such a simple purpose? Why not just your garden-variety Civil-War era gladiator? Wouldn’t that have been a better conclusion – To be inadvertently killed by a run-of-the-mill guy instead of purposely killed by an animalistic “savage” snake-man? It makes no sense.

Why is Lilah, a prostitute, in this movie at all? She makes no significant contribution except at the very end as a convenient plot point to complicate Jonah’s ability to kill Turnbull. Why not have a story arc involving her to convince Jonah to settle down or, at least, not kill people? Wouldn’t that have been more significant?

“Weird West” films tend to always have grandiose plots involving the murder of U.S. Presidents by ex-Confederate soldiers. Couldn’t the screenwriters have thought up of a more original plot? I almost expected Will Smith and Kevin Kline to accidentally stumble upon the set and then meekly apologize for having wandered into the wrong movie. What a hoot it would’ve been to have had the villain of “Wild Wild West” sneer, “A huge Gatling gun? That’s all you could make? I make a huge mechanical spider and all you made was a huge Gatling gun?”

The list of “Why did they…?” and “Why not do instead…?” could be written until my knuckles turned purple with overuse. Clearly, this was a script pulled in too many directions – Gratuitous detail for the fans, supernatural abilities added for the casual moviegoer, Megan Fox added for the eye candy… Characters underutilized, abilities over utilized… Even the ending is borrowed from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Enough.

What does “Jonah Hex” get ‘right’? Well, it has some nice special effects. Teenage boys get a chance to see Megan Fox in a corset. And… I don’t know. I’m grasping at this point.

Had I been in charge of the script, I would’ve completely scrapped the “origin” story. Pared down the main plot to something more manageable. Scrapped the supernatural element or tied it better into the character (maybe the character wants to get rid of the ability and wants to be a “real human” a la Pinocchio?). Better utilized Megan Fox so that she’s just not a damsel-in-distress but has an actual role in the movie.

Exposition is unavoidable in a movie of any length. Just because you may need to use it, though, shouldn’t mean that a screenwriter should exclusively use it. And if they feel that exposition is the only thing that they can do in order to help the audience follow along… Rewrite the script.

As a director once said, It’s a movie, not a book. Show them the movie, don’t read it to them. Sage advice, indeed.

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