Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jonah Hex Makes Me Sad

I didn't see Jonah Hex, which, judging from the box office totals, makes me just like each and every one of you. In five weeks it's barely made $10 million dollars, and is now only playing on 65 screens nationwide. With a budget of $47 million dollars, that's a pretty awful return. It's the type of movie that gets people fired, and will, hopefully, keep director Jimmy Hayward from ever working again. And here's something interesting: I just looked at this guy's Wikipedia page, and he used to work for Pixar. Guess he didn't learn much about storytelling there....

None of that matters so much, except now the character of Jonah Hex will be forever tainted by this mess. And that's a terrible shame, because Jonah Hex is a terrific character, probably the preeminent western character in comics. Moreover, the current Jonah Hex series, by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and illustrated by a host of artists, is fantastic, probably my favorite comic book currently being published. It's also a fairly low-selling comic, and it's long been assumed that the book was safe because DC wanted to have a Jonah Hex comic on the stands when the movie came out. That certainly worked out well.

I have no doubt that Jonah Hex would make for a great movie; he's a gritty, complex anti-hero that carries death with him wherever he goes. Hex (especially in the current comic) is basically just a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western; it should translate to the screen seamlessly. Heck, given the character's tragic past and brooding nature, a more serious tone akin to Eastwood's Unforgiven would not be inappropriate.

What is inappropriate is to give Hex some kind of wonky power to reanimate the dead, a Morgan Freeman-style weapons smith, a superweapon right out of Wild Wild West, and, of course, Megan Fox. It's a Jonah Hex movie in name, and scars, only.

What really boggles my mind is how poorly DC Comics have allowed their properties to translate into movies. Even ignoring the success blood rival Marvel has had, DC's track record is astonishingly poor. Seriously, excepting the Batman movies (and even they have the two Joel Schumacher films), what's a good movie based on a DC Comic? The first two Superman movies are fine (and I'm of the camp that liked Superman Returns, mostly). Beyond that... what? V for Vendetta? Well, it was better then Watchmen. Conversely, look at the absolute disasters based on DC Comics' characters that have shamefully made their way into Razzie contention: Catwoman, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and, now, Jonah Hex.

It's particularly appalling because DC is owned by a movie studio, Warner Brothers. Please, don't give me that old "right hand doesn't know what the left is doing in a big company" song- and- dance. DC and Time Warner should want to make the very best films possible, based on the characters that they own, because it's an investment. Now, DC has had success in generating interest in the comics source material (a lot more then Marvel), which is great. But what they don't seem to get is that a poor translation will permanently stain the property. If a movie comes out based on anything- be it a comic, book, video game, whatever- and it's incoherent and asinine, people will assume that the source material is incoherent and asinine. Don't believe me? Here's what Roger Ebert wrote about Jonah Hex: "It's based on some DC Comics characters, which may explain the way the plot jumps around. We hear a lot about graphic novels, but this is more of a graphic anthology of strange occult ideas."

Thanks to Frank Miller, it's going to take years before Will Eisner's work on The Spirit will ever be viewed with anything but skepticism by the general public, and Jonah Hex will probably end up getting the comic canceled and sending the character back into hibernation. Mommas, don't let your cowboys grow up to be in bad movies.

1 comment:

  1. my only encounter with Hex is the Batman series and it was a little Wild Wild West with some sort of battleship turned dirigible. does "technology" follow him in the comic book series as well. an accurate indictment of DC, they are about 4-12 when it comes to movie adaptations. much like the upcoming Eagles season...