Zombos Says: Fair (read the comic series instead)
I miss Doctor Miguelito Quixote Loveless (Michael Dunn), the diminutive villain with grand schemes on the 1960s television series The Wild Wild West. He was a villain to reckon with, one far above John Malkovich's burlap sack portrayal of renegade madman Quentin Turnbull in Jonah Hex. Loveless devoted his creatively criminal and misguided scientific genius to endless schemes embellished with his weapons of mass destruction, gleefully challenging government agent James West to stop him each time they crossed paths.
Paths are crossed in Jonah Hex, but they don't seem to head in any sensible direction. They meander around with the artlessness of that silly Wild Wild West movie with Will Smith, then saunter a well-trod vengeance trail much like The Outlaw Josey Whales, and finally stop plumb cold at the usual quest-between-mundane-here and mystical-there with less force than The Crow.
A weapon of mass destruction, created by Eli Whitney no less, figures prominently. They always do. Mysterious glowing balls of fire provide the triggering mechanism for larger balls of fiery, explosive material. Turnbull does a dry run of the weapon's capabilities by blowing up a small town just after church services. He threatens to blow up the nation's capital on the centennial celebration for July 4th. President Grant (Aidan Quinn) conscripts Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) into hunting down Turnbull and ending the madman's grand scheme. The bad blood between Hex and Turnbull goes back aways: Turnbull killed Hex's family in retribution for Hex causing the death of his son.
Something truly weird happens in this movie and I'm not referring to Megan Fox.
A flashback done in comic book format explains, sort of, how the Indians helped Hex survive to become the I-talk-to-the-dead-bounty-hunter-badass wanted by the law. Watching the colorful but limited animation (it brought to mind those Marvel Super Heroes cartoons in the 1960s) I wondered Did they run out of budget? Was this movie originally planned as animation? Why suddenly eschew perfectly good live action for a graphic novel on screen? Why not pepper this lengthy backstory as flashbacks throughout this leisurely-paced movie to make it less onerous?
I thought about this until "I don't play house" Lilah (Megan Fox) and Hex hook up for a bedtime social visit. Then I started thinking Why is she in this movie? Beauty to his ugliness? She doesn’t have much to do, or much to say, or much to act on. Brolin has even less to work with, but he does have a nifty ability to talk to the dead. He just grabs hold of a moldy corpse and it springs to life. But he needs to talk fast because the fresher the corpse, the faster it starts to immolate into ashes. Aside from Hex's orneriness, this appears to be his best and only mystical ability.
Red-tinted fever-dream flashes of him fighting Turnbull around a coffin with a crow sitting on its lid are the only other mystical touches. They don't make sense, but touches they remain. Eventually Hex talks to enough dead people to find Turnbull. Before he meets his nemesis, he stocks up on the usual badass tricky gunnage that can deliver high explosive impact and flailing bodies flying asunder with minimal effort. He gets it from this movie's equivalent of James West's gadget-buddy Artemus Gordon.
Hex and Turnbull and Lilah square-off on an ironclad ship in Independence Harbor as it speeds toward the capital with its deadly weapon preparing to fire. Union soldiers pull up alongside in their version of the ironclad Monitor and ask Turnbull to kindly surrender his weapon of mass destruction and stop being such a damn nuisance. While they wait for his reply, he locks and loads and blows them out of the water in a shower of little ironclad pieces. I was hoping for a better reenactment of the Battle of Hampdon Roads.
The one thing they got right in this movie is when Hex whistles for his horse to come to him.
At least his horse knows what to do.