June 29, 2010
Cue the eye-rolling as the icon for DC Comics appears on the screen. Yes, I found myself trapped in a screening of a graphic novel put to film. I had the misfortune of encountering graphic novels in a graduate American Lit seminar. They have audaciously been carted up to the great gates of the literary canon in hopes of gaining admittance.
Of course, graphic novels have one very strong and worthwhile asset: fascinating artistic imagery that heightens the visual senses. On the other hand, they tend to come off as hacky, as though they were conceived by 31-year-old guys who never progressed beyond their parents' basement. The Tarantino posters have cobwebs on them and the copyright date on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is 1995. Ditto the most recent pair of underwear.
Josh Brolin may never recover from the success he had with No Country For Old Men. However, he will probably continue to get amusing, gritty, anti-heroic parts for a while, which is better than doing daytime television roles or yogurt ads.
Jonah Hex is a bounty hunter in the 1860s (post-Civil War) where a nutjob Confederate is plotting to destroy America with advanced artillery of an apocalyptic nature, on Independence Day. Of course, this is the same villain who savagely murdered Jonah's wife and son while he watched helplessly. Thank goodness for the stark sense of good and evil that graphic novels provide, otherwise we might never know whose side to be on. Megan Fox plays a sharp-witted prostitute who wields kisses and knives with equal force and skill. It's refreshing to see Fox playing something other than the Maria von Trapp roles she normally gets...
The movie itself isn't all that terrible, but it's just sort of ridiculous. And because the source material is so bleak looking and heavy-handed, Jonah Hex, like all its other relatives in the graphic novel medium, lacks the leavening sense of humor (even though Brolin's character dispenses enough one-liners to sink the Q.E. II). Will Arnett (Gob on Arrested Development) has a thankless role--that made me laugh because I've never seen him play a serious character before (he certainly has the deep voice for it). The best thing about Jonah Hex? Its mercifully short at just over 70 minutes, but that doesn't forgive it for wasting an hour and ten. ★