Wild Wild West (1999)
Ahh, the days. The contentious new millennium was just around the corner, the TV-show to film adaptation was in vogue, and cell phones were a strange and exclusive luxury. Arguably, one of the biggest the action stars of the time was the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. Hot off the success of Independence Day and Men in Black, the TV-show wave is infused with “Big Willy Style”with a remake of mid 60’s show Wild Wild West.
Right from the start the suspension of disbelief for me is shattered as the film opens with a short scene of a guy being chased by some sort of magnetically powered , rotating blade device. Technology like that just doesn’t seem plausible, and looks even more out-of-place, to me in the post civil war era that the film takes place in. Getting around that aspect of the film is a continual challenge as the screen is constantly barraged with steam-punked props on steroids. But as the title sequence displays, until it decides to get ‘hip’, this flick is packed with that sweet stench of summer blockbuster, and it is to that credit that some flaws can be forgiven….but only some. It is abundantly obvious that, and therefore severely unclear exactly why, the two leads of the flick are thrust together. They are claimed to be the presidents two best men, but its anyone’s guess what their jobs actually are. Also the fact that Will Smith and Kevin Kline are the only two people in the country that can save the country seems, in the context of the movie, a little too convenient.
As far as acting goes, this simply is yet another Will Smith picture. Not that that is a bad thing; Will certainly has a unique and undeniable charm that even I could look up to. Its obvious why his films work and why audiences respond to him as the mega movie star that he is. But it’s the surprising supporting cast that pulls out the stand out and impressive performances in this popcorn perfect flick. Kevin Kline comes in as the brainy Artemus Gordon and reminds the viewer why he’s a superb actor. Though the part itself doesn’t call for many dramatic turns, its the more nuanced moments that he’s able to flaunt a taste of his acting chops. Then there’s Salma Hayek, who in this movie is unfortunately reduced to just eye-candy; but it cannot be said that she is not some darned tasty eye-candy, there is also a great actress that goes along with that. However, the most unanticipated turn came in the half stature form of Dr. Arliss Loveless. This character is played with a perfect nastiness and a nicely used, over the top southern accent; all provided by Kenneth Branagh. He brings a deliciously nastiness to the role while completely giving diving into the role and bringing great life to the character.
As great of a mindless, summer blockbuster as this flick is, the problem is that it’s just that….mindless. The plot feels like its held together with Scotch tape and good luck, several of the jokes don’t land (especially the dated, pop cultural jokes), and the characters are flat and predictable. Seeing Will Smith as a woman is, in a word, absurd and just doesn’t work. And then there’s that giant spider. While it would be nice to more ‘color’ represented in a western setting, this is unfortunately not a shinning example of that. Looking for a mindless escape to the days of yesteryear, want to relieve the good ole days be they in the late 90’s or the old west, then this is your ticket.
- The Wild Wild West, is “the worst kind of bad”.