Friday, October 29, 2010

Four things that you may not know about the worst film ever made.

1999 was a strange year for cinema. Along with modern classics like Fight Club, The Matrix and American Beauty, Hollywood graced us with The Phantom Menace, Virus, and Inspector Gadget.

But perhaps no other movie drew as much hate that year as Wild Wild West.

I watched it for the first time recently. Partly because I thought I might get a blog out of it, partly out of some morbid curiosity, but mostly... Mostly I watched this crap so you don't have to.

Please, I mean it. Do not watch this film. There are many things you can do in the 101 minutes it would take, all of which are better for you. You can watch The Matrix again, and still have 10 minutes left over to try and figure out why Will Smith turned down the role of Neo.

First, all the things you probably know about this film:
  1. It stars Will Smith, Kevin Kleine, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek. (Two of these have played Hamlet - see if you can guess which two)
  2. It's set in the west, the wild wildness of which can be debated.
  3. Will Smith's cheque for this film came on a flatbed (yeah! yeah!)
  4. The movie was based on an old TV show.
  5. At some point, it features a GIANT MECHANICAL SPIDER
One: It's a Bond Movie

Well, it tries to be. The whole film follows the plot of a Bond movie pretty accurately. They figure out who's behind everything in about twenty minutes, and then they show up uninvited to a party in his mansion, provoke a reaction, then it's off to his isolated base in the middle of nowhere where he reveals his doomsday device and tries to hold the world to ransom. Kenneth Branagh even has a conclave of villainous types in order to explain his plan and offer them a piece of the pie.

This isn't particularly surprising. The TV show on which the movie is based was made during the 1960s, when James Bond was flying high, and the movie is pretty true to the plot of the show.

And of course, no stereotypical Bond movie would be complete without the captured scientist's daughter, who joins our heroes to rescue her father. Played ably here by Salma Hayek's cleavage and backside. Also by the rest of Salma Hayek.

B: Kevin Kleine is getting very unusually typecast

Kleine's character is the absent-minded-scientific-genius-master-of-disguise type. The first time he is introduced to Will Smith's character, he's disguised as Ulysses S. Grant. The door then opens, and in walks the real Ulysses S. Grant, who - in order to demonstrate for the audience how brilliant Kleine's disguises are - is played by Kevin Kleine as well.

If you include Dave, that makes this the second film where Kevin Kleine has played both the president, and someone who impersonates the President. Throw in Fierce Creatures, where he plays his character, his character's father, and his character disguised as his character's father, and I begin to see a very disturbing pattern.

III: Hollywood is still ever so slightly racist

Will Smith, aka Jim West, is supposed to be a helluva ladies man. We see him for the first time in a water tower with Garcell Beauvais, then later he flirts with Ling Bai and, of course, there's Klein-Hayek-Smith love triangle. No white actresses? Ever? Have you noticed that? Can you name a movie where Will Smith got the caucasian girl at the end?

I, Robot? Nope. I don't remember much romance there. And even if there was, that was OK because it was The Future.

Delta: Racism can be funny

Well, at least the makers of this movie seem to think so. Here's some lines from the movie for you to enjoy:

Branagh (who is in a wheelchair) meets Smith (who is black) for the first time:

"Mister West! How nice of you to join us tonight and add color to these monochromatic proceedings!"
"Well when a fella comes back from the dead, I find that an occasion to stand up and be counted!
"Miss East informs me that you were expectin' to see General McGrath here. Well, I knew him years ago, but I haven't seen him in a coon's age!
"Well, I can see where it'd be difficult for a man of your stature to keep in touch with even half the people you know.
"Well, perhaps the lovely Miss East will keep you from bein' a slave to your disappointment!
"Well, you know beautiful women; they encourage you one minute, and cut the legs out from under you the next!"

Translation: "You're black." "You're crippled." "But you're black!" "Yes, but you're crippled" "And you're still black" "Hey! You're still crippled." "Bye!" "Bye! Nice chatting." It's a duel of wits to which both combatants arrived unarmed.

Here's another golden one:

"The whole slavery thing? I don't understand what the big deal was anyway. I mean, who wouldn't want folks running 'round, doing things for them, doing chores? I mean are you gonna get your own ass out of bed every morning, and pick your own damn cotton? I don't think so."

And who spoke those lines? Will Smith, ladies and gents.

How big was that cheque again?

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