This summer there are several comic based movies being released, Marvel Comics had two, Kick-Ass and Ironman and DC Comics has two, The Losers, released in April and Jonah Hex which premiered on Friday in theaters all over the Atlanta metro area.
Hex is a western anti-hero created in 1971 in the defunct All-Star Western #10 by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga. Hex is a former Confederate Soldier turned bounty hunter. His face was scarred when sold into slavery by his abusive, alcoholic father to an Apache tribe and during a duel broke tribal custom and was branded with a tomahawk as ‘the Mark of the Demon’. Much of this origin is ignored by the film which attributes the scarring to his arch enemy Quentin Turnbull, who also burned his wife and son alive in revenge for Hex killing his son during the Civil War. While portions of this are portrayed in the movie Turnbull is portrayed as increasingly savage, slaughtering innocent civilians causing Hex to turn his unit over to the Union forces to satisfy his honor. Jeb Turnbull, Hex’s best friend in both instances was killed and Jonah was held responsible.
The movie stars Josh Brolin as Hex, Megan Fox as Lilah and John Malkovitch as Turnbull, another surprise was Tom Wopat (Luke Duke from TV’s Dukes of Hazard) as a former Confederate Colonel who runs a fight pit and is part of Turnbull’s plot against the Union. Written by Mark Nelvadine and Brian Taylor, known together professionally as Neveldine/Taylor (Crank, Crank: High Voltage and Gamer), William Farmer, John Albano and Tony DeZuniga. Hex also departs from the comic series by giving Hex the power to speak to the dead, an ability explained in the DeZuniga illustrated intro that came from a secret Crow ceremony. This power also has crows following Hex in a way like bats have been portrayed swarming around Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Films.
The film is set in 1876 near the 4th of July, America’s Centennial. The plot is almost identical to Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1999’s Wild, Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline where a disaffected madman left over from the war seeks to destroy the Union. Wild, Wild West has it done where the villain, Dr. Lovelace (Kenneth Branagh) uses a giant mechanical spider and advanced munitions to try and extort the west from President Grant and return the land to the British, French and Spanish rulers. Hex’s plot has Turnbull using a ‘nation-killer’ device created by Ely Whitney Jr. with plans to destroy Washington D.C. with the device. The action is set in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia as opposed to the West where most of Hex’s stories are set. Turnbull destroys a town of over 350 people with the device as a test before mounting it onto a steam ship and gunning for D.C. The ending is also similar in that Grant offers the triumphant hero(s) a job with the government (in Wild, Wild West it is the Secret Service, in Hex it is Sheriff of America).
The movie isn’t horrid; it is a far cry from Superman IV or Batman and Robin in quality. Brolin captures Hex’s core personality in an outstanding way. Fox is there for the sex appeal as a prostitute in love with Hex and Malkovitch is his usual laid back criminal character he has portrayed in Dangerous Liaisons, Con Air and In the Line of Fire. Despite the unoriginal plot and the departure of several key Hex factors (namely supernatural ability) it is a decent action film. Turnbull’s second, Burke, played by Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds) is a typical psychotic villain from Ireland with a penchant for explosives and Bowie knives and is one of the better characters in the film. Jonah Hex is not the roller coaster action of Ironman but it was engaging and enjoyable. Panned by Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel and Roger Ebert you should give it a try, when I was younger watching Siskel and Ebert at the Movies was a must. If they panned a movie that usually meant it was a decent film to see. It may not be DC’s best movie of all time but it is certainly in the top 10.