Jonah HexBagging an early showing of an upcoming movie has its perks. For one thing, it's possible to write about it on opening day. However, it has its downsides, such as when the movie is somewhat crap. If I had to put it in a DC Comics movie quality category, Jonah Hex probably goes somewhere around the level of Constantine, but not quite as good.

Jimmy Hayward's film is short at 81 minutes, which is probably a good thing considering the plot is unfocused and has holes that are a mile wide and a fathom deep. The best thing about it is Josh Brolin-- and it isn't even his best performance (he was much better in W.). Llikely, Jonah Hex would have been better if it was more a parody of the clichés of Western movies (like Unforgiven, but campier), but it seemed to take itself way too seriously. Spoilers begin after the jump.
One of the problems of Jonah Hex is that it doesn't quite fit a category. It's a steampunk Western like Wild Wild West but with horror movie elements. Hex now has the ability to speak to the dead provided he makes physical contact with the carcass. John Malkovich plays a southern plantation owner, Quentin Turnbull, who is a little peeved that Hex killed his son in the Civil War and that his side lost, so he has decided to overthrow the United States government. In the biggest example of typecasting in the movie, Megan Fox plays a prostitute. Insert joke here.

Two nice surprises for entertainment buffs are a rare dramatic role for Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as an army Lieutenant and an appearance by Tom "Luke Duke" Wopat. Michael Fassbender chews the scenery as Burke, the psychotic Irish terrorist and the closest thing the movie has to The Joker.

I recognize that the target audience of Warner Brothers' sole 'superhero' film of the summer is pre-teen and early-teen males, but the odds are that none of them have ever heard of the Jonah Hex comics (or even comic books in general). The only way they'll see Jonah Hex this coming weekend is if Toy Story 3 is sold out.

Even the steampunk technology isn't really properly explained. The bad guys' major weapon (stolen from the good guys, of course) is a long-range cannon capable of delivering a payload that is something like a small-scale nuclear bomb. Huh? Even the giant spiders of Wild Wild West weren't quite this far-fetched.

Jonah himself is an anti-hero who slaughters as many people as he saves (a point brought up in the dialogue) and is more motivated by revenge against Turnbull (who kills his family and brands his face. Hex scars himself to remove the brand) than by any sense of justice. He does exhibit a little more decency than the people he is shooting, but only a little. The closest Marvel character equivalent would be The Punisher. Actually, The Punisher is also probably the Marvel franchise that is the closest analog for Jonah Hex. If that is the case, we'll probably see a direct-to-DVD sequel in a few years with someone else playing the title character.

There are some fun elements to Jonah Hex, but overall it's a wasted opportunity to bring more of DC's obscure characters to the mainstream. It's a film that was done poorly from the script level even if the actors give some good performances (even Megan Fox shone for a moment or two). If you're going to watch it, wait until it's on cable TV in three months or so. Go see Toy Story 3 instead.
categories Reviews, Sci-Fi