This flick really needed to be more Once Upon a Time in the West and less Wild Wild West. Much like how the 2009 Land of the Lost adaptation failed with a new generation of consumers I sincerely doubt that anyone introduced to the character by this movie will be at all interested in Jonah Hex in the future. I kept thinking I had nodded off without realizing it and missed parts of the story, which would kind of go with most of the other reviews stating that much of the film had ended up in the wastebasket of the editing room. Josh Brolin did a good job but didn’t seem mean enough in that Justin Gray manner from the most recent comic book series I’ve come to appreciate.
My least favorite part of the movie was the the speaking to the dead aspect. I found it a sorry short-cut to fleshing out the actual story. Why ride around all over the country chasing down the villain when in the space of a few minutes all the answers could be had via a seance? Because travel from Point A to Point B in the 1800s took months if not years. It wouldn’t do to have Jonah ride from Texas to Missouri to Washington dogging Turnbull when he could just grope a dead body. Of course the long protracted chase worked just fine in The Outlaw Josey Wales, but what do I know.
As a Hex fan from his first appearance way back in the 1970s I disliked the film because it just wasn’t very good as it was presented. It left out all the characterization that made Jonah Hex what he is and portrayed him as much more of a super-hero then even the Fleisher-penned issues of the 1980s did. Josh Brolin whipped his gray poncho around more than Christian Bale did his Bat-cape in The Dark Knight.
The end of the film? I absolutely expected President Grant to light a fire under the focusing lens of the Hex Signal Lantern, calling the Gray Knight to Washington DC to tussle with El Papagayo, who is poisoning the water supply and making all the fish look like parrots. My advice is to leave the Wild West Batman to Grant Morrison.
As for Megan Fox, her acting isn’t up to the role of Talulah Black even with it being written as weak as it was. The time when an audience would pay to see Megan Fox bend over an engine or foot stool or something in a film is several years past and other than that she did not bring much to Jonah Hex. Talulah should have at least been presented as trapped and weary and Megan just acted scorned and heart-sick for a daddy-figure. Honestly, this film could have had the potential to do for Megan Fox what Monster did for Charlize Theron even though Fox is no where nearly as talented as Theron. Imagine how different the film would have been had they made Fox up as the comic book version of Talulah Black, ravaged and angry?
Matching Dragoons, the best Jonah Hex blog there is, has a roundup of reviews to read. First, check out MD’s review: Official Jonah Hex Review. He approaches it as an unabashed and unapologetic fan of Jonah who I believe is is just glad something about the character got made, regardless of whether it meets his personal criteria for being good or not (I feel the same way about many science fiction films). Then go browse his collection of critiques of the film from around the web: Some Jonah Hex reviews are in. Once you get done reading those, come back for my list of Top Ten Jonah Hex Comic Book Tales That Would Have Made The Movie Awesome.
Understandably, the story of Quentin Turnbull and how Jonah received his scars are the tales that must serve as the main impetus for the film. That dynamic should be the focus, not a throw-away scene giving a reason for Hex to hate Quentin. In the comic book Hex was falsely accused and trapped and the one thing that really saved him for all those years was time and distance from Turnbull. It was difficult to track Jonah over thousands of untamed miles of territory. What could have been different about the film is some of they story elements. Instead of the science fiction and supernatural aspects that were used to make things “cool” here are some Jonah Hex stories that could have been reworked and successfully included in the film.
1: Promise to a Princess from his first appearance in Weird Western Tales #12 (July 1972). Jonah saves the life of the daughter of a Native American chief, only to have her and the tribe die of a disease abetted by a greedy landowner. Included in the film, this story of corruption and evil could have been one of Jonah’s motivations for hunting Turnbull down and the villain could still have been portrayed as a terrorist.
2: The Hangin’ Woman from Weird Western Tales #17 (May 1973). This superficially resembles the Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter. I could see Jonah fighting alone against Turnbull and the town of variously cowed and nasty citizens High Noon style.
3: Death of a Bounty Hunter from Weird Western Tales #34 (June 1976). What this classic tale would be used for is the ultimate fate of Turnbull after the big showdown. Basically, Jonah would let Turnbull destroy his gang and himself (just prior to the mandatory scene where he tries to shoot Jonah in the back and then gets plugged, letting Jonah make a action hero quip just before the credits).
4: The Holdout from Jonah Hex #11 (v1, April 1978). This issue is perfect for the Tallulah Black story (assuming she would not appear in the sequel) and one that reportedly caused some friction between the creative team members. Allegedly, the artist did not think Jonah should kiss a dead woman goodbye and either had to comply or another artist drew the scene. This issue also noteworthy for the Crucifixion scene. All the villains could have been reworked to be a part of Turnbull and his cronies.
5: The Massacre of the Celestials! from Jonah Hex #23 (v1, April 1979). Include a vengeful Turnbull in a story of the railroad barons and race-relations and you’ve got a winner.
7: The Fort Charlotte Brigade! from Jonah Hex #35 (v1, April 1980) and Return to Fort Charlotte from Jonah Hex #36 (May 1980). This two-part tale reveals the entire back story of why Quentin Turnbull wrongfully hates Jonah Hex. Partly told in a flashback it could have been two movies for the price of one!
8: Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo #1-5 (August 1993): If you go supernatural with Jonah then go all the way. This is a gritty, mean series and one of Jonah’s first forays into the mystic for the character.
9: Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #1-5 (March 1995): Jonah Hex, steam-punk and ancient horror. Done properly this would have messed-up an audience for life. The video game tie-in sales for this version would have been crazy huge.
10: The Ballad of Talulah Black, Part 1 from Jonah Hex #16 (v2, April 2007) & The Ballad of Talulah Black, Part 2 from Jonah Hex #17 (v2,May 2007. While the brutal attack and mutilation of Talulah may have been difficult to portray this tale is most reminiscent of another Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven, except the victim goes on her own mission of justice instead of hiring someone else. Reworked so Jonah Hex and Talulah are a team getting revenge on Turnbull would have been fantastic.
On a final note, just how great would this page from The Last Bounty Hunter! (Jonah Hex Spectacular, DC Special Series #16, 1978) have been as the final scene in the Jonah Hex movie? What a great setup for the sequel it would have been. To repeat: WOULD. HAVE. BEEN.