Wicky wicky Wild Wild West. Jim West, desperado, rough rider. No do you don’t want nada. That’s because he is on a mission from the President to stop a conspiracy enacted by former Confederate rebels. Paired with annoying inventor Artemus Gordon can they join their brains and brawn to take down the baddies before it’s too late? Find out in… Wild Wild West.
How?! I contemplated whether I should just write all the lyrics to the song here and leave it at that, but unfortunately the song has nary a mention of a giant mechanical spider. So Jim West (desperado and alleged rough rider) is hot on the trail of a big time gun runner/former confederate general. When he tracks him to a saloon he busts in only to find that another federal agent (and inventor/master of disguise) Artemus Gordon is there already. As a result everything blows up and the baddies get away. Called to DC, West and Gordon find themselves paired up in the service of President Grant to stop whatever grand conspiracy the criminal enterprise is up to. “Go get on that steampunk train I have for some reason,” Grant huffs and off they go. They make their way to New Orleans for a grand party thrown by a former Confederate inventor who had been presumed dead. They are able to get some information about the plans, escape, and pick up the sexy Rita Escobar who is searching for her captive father. They then chase after the baddies as they head to Utah to disrupt the completion of the transcontinental railroad only to have Rita kidnapped and find themselves playing some dangerous (and ultimately useless) technological games set up by the inventor. They again escape and track down the bad guys, who have kidnapped President Grant and are attempting to use him to sign away large swaths of the United States. Luckily Jim West (desperado) is there to dress up like a Middle Eastern belly dancer (for real, it’s crazy) and distract the bad guys. A big fight on a giant mechanical spider (still real) ensues and eventually our heroes beat the baddies. Hoping for a smooch they find that Rita is actually married and they instead ride off together for their next sequel. THE END.
Why?! Jim West (desperado) actually does have an interesting motivation in this film. A bit surprising given that the good guy usually is motivated just by goodness. Of course he and Gordon want to protect the President and the nation, but it’s also revealed that Jim’s parents were killed in a massacre orchestrated by the evil genius antagonist. So it’s personal. The bad guy on the other hand feels betrayed by both the US and the Confederacy so he is attempting to break up the United States and sell it to the highest bidders. He also don’t want nada of any desperados or rough riders that may be about.
What?! I would have done a complete 180 on this film if Will Smith pumped up some Reeboks before jumping onto the giant mechanical spider. But alas, it didn’t happen so there is nothing to talk about for this section. I guess I’ll just reiterate that there was a part of this film where our main bad guy is giving a large presentation about his intricate plot to take down the US only to be distracted by Will Smith dressed as a Middle Eastern belly dancer… it’s INSANE. It’s also the most racist portrayal of Middle Eastern culture we’ve seen since *checks notes* last week.
Who?! Will Smith is one of the ultimate musicians-turned-actors, but I have to give a big shout out to Kevin Kline who played both Artemus Gordon and President Ulysses S. Grant. At one time we had contemplated creating a Hall of Presidents where each time a US President (real or fake) appeared in a BMT film that would serve as his “election” and start his term in office. Thus this would begin the term of Ulysses S. Grant as President of the Sklognited States of America. This would of course be his second term in office having been previously elected for his portrayal in Jonah Hex. Huzzah! Long live President Grant!
Where?! Almost a Road Trip Alert with a plethora of specific locations. Starts in West Virginia, moves to Washington DC, heads next to New Orleans, and finishes in Promontory Summit, Utah for a very special climax set at the laying of the Golden Spike to finish the Transcontinental Railroad. Gotta give that a B+.
When?! Did I mention that the climax was set during the laying of the Golden Spike? That gives us an exact date of May 10th, 1869. That is simply magnifique. Giving that an A- for effort, although not exactly necessary to the action at hand.
Oh boy. I mean, this is right up there with Batman & Robin as one of the most misguided films ever to be created. It is straight up terrible and almost impossible to understand how it went as far down the path of terribleness without being stopped. For some reason they cast Will Smith as Jim West riding a steampunk train and fighting a mechanical spider and then felt the need to inject realism about the social climate at the time. Every character has to express surprise at his appearance and thus Will Smith finds himself making joke after joke after joke about the rampant racism that he would have had to deal with. This includes an entire scene where he attempts to evade a lynching by convincing the crowd that he was just evoking his African heritage in touching a woman’s bosom and that slavery wasn’t that big of a deal in his opinion… it is insane. Add on top of that the sublime overacting performance of Kenneth Branagh and the general nonsense and unfunny jokes that populate the script and we have a true BMT gem. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! You’ll have to forgive me, I’m actually recovering from a sickness. I developed a terrible fever and hallucinated that Will Smith was in a sci-fi western with a flying bicycle and a mechanical spider. I saw death at my door … up until I realized I wasn’t sick. I was just watching Wild Wild West (slammed), let’s get into it!
The Good – I very much enjoyed the set pieces. You could tell they had the ability and leeway to put together some really special moments. The brothel in particular was incredible, the multi-tiered almost comic-like take on the classic setting, brightly-lit and colorful in opposition to typical westerns. I also very much enjoyed the assassins hidden in paintings, very well put together. Salma Hayek was fun, Kline was fun, Will Smith did his best I think. People were game is what I’m saying.
P’s View on the Preview – We had seen the film before so there wasn’t much to surprising in the preview. I guess I was most fascinated by how the Wicky Wicky Wild Wild West theme song would be incorporated (it wasn’t), and a bit about Kenneth Branagh who I’ve since seen in The Winter’s Tale on stage in London (with Dame Judi Dench … it was fantastic, and yeah, I’m bragging … it was awesome).
The Bad – I mean … mostly everything? Will Smith might be game, but he’s out of place in this film, he feels like a modern action hero instead of a US Marshal in the Wicky Wicky Wild Wild West. I love Branagh, but he character is very weird and, again, feels out of place (this time by being a little too gross and dark for the comic tone). The last third of the film is just catastrophic from a storytelling perspective, even Will Smith just pops out of nowhere in disguise at one point. The gang of attractive women Dr. Loveless drags around … gives off a problematic impression (so problematic they apparently rewrote the final fight because it was just Will Smith wailing on three women, wowza!). This film is stunning. Like Batman & Robin except dressed up as a cautionary tale about steampunk westerns.
Get Yo Rant On – The writers of this film did Will Smith a huge disservice. I hope I’m not speaking out of turn: but they put him in a position where he’s faux-lynched and is avenging the death of his freed-slave parents … and to serve what? Some strange question as to why a black US Marshal might be out of place for the time? It sure seemed like it. Ignore it! I mean … Kevin Klein’s character invents a genuine self-propelled airplane in 1869, so why is it impossible to believe this weirdly advanced society is colorblind? The film is bad enough as is without making the bad guy an ultra-racist confederate (Dr. Loveless isn’t even a Confederate in the original show, he’s just a (short) man out for revenge!) and explicitly pitting him against Will Smith. Woof. Just very strange to watch twenty years later. End rant.
The BMT – It’s a classic right? I would watch this movie again. I would watch it a bunch of times. As I said, the brothel set piece is actually quite nice looking in the beginning, the painting assassination scene is also pretty fun (middle) and I can laugh all day at the belly dancing scene (end). It really doesn’t quit. Probably the best argument so far for watching some of these films we’ve seen before, I couldn’t have even imagined how crazy this film was without watching it again.
Welcome to Earf – So, Salma Hayek was in Wicky Wicky Wild Wild West and Grown Ups with Adam Sandler, who was in Jack and Jill with Al Pacino, who was in 88 Minutes with Leelee Sobieski, who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!
StreetCreditReport.com – This has got credit up to wazoo. It is third for the worst film of 1999 in Rolling Stone, and although the formatting is a bit messed up it was mentioned near the end in this New York Post article. It basically swept the Razzies, and you can find a litany of quotes from everyone involved about how terrible the film is.
So in theory there was a ton of Homework Sklog-signment, because the movie is based on a television program. I did end up watching an episode (season 1 episode 20, the Night of the Whirring Death). Two things: first, luckily I found an episode streaming with Dr. Loveless, who is played by a little person in the television show (Michael Dunn, who I recognize from an episode of the original Star Trek); second, the show is far more serious than the movie they decided to make. It is like Star Trek, quippy or tongue in cheek at times, but also very serious. Old-fashioned. That is what I would have preferred for the film and I’m glad I wasn’t incorrect in my thinking. Welp, better for the eventual Wild Wild West Cinematic Universe (WWWCU) to reboot it anyways.