Even powerful locomotives run out of steam
Wild Wild West
Review by Ross Anthony

The opening sequence brings back memories of the TV series it recreates on the big screen. Not only is Jim West back, but now he's black! I absolutely love that! Others may criticize feature film remakes of 50/60/70's TV shows for changing character attributes; but hey, these are the 90's, filmmakers have got to meet the changes of the viewing public. Taking a white character and making him black ... it's very bold and I applaud the decision. Oddly, it was Artemus Gordon's casting I would have liked re-thunk. Every time I see Kevin Kline in a comedic role, I feel like he's trying to be Steve Martin. Speaking of casting ... the menace, Arliss Loveless, is played marvelously by Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh.

Jim and Artie are U.S. Marshals trying to protect President Grant from less-than-pleased Southerners shortly following the civil war. Loveless (who lost his legs in the war) has developed a steam powered weapon of mass destruction with which to recapture the union. Salma Hayek plays Rita, a plainly pointless character.

Artemus Gordon is an inventor bent on using his mind to botch the bad guy's schemes, while Jim West, in the words of the President is a "Shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more" kind of guy smooth with the ladies. These characters haven't much more depth than that. But if you're looking for a script thick with intrigue and dimension, then you're looking in the wrong place. Aside for the slightly-adult sexual innuendoes, "Wild Wild West" is an action comedy for the 10 year old -- give or take 3 or 4 years. They'll no doubt love it. That's not to say you won't have fun. In fact, I was having a real good time ... until the climax. (If you don't mind knowing the ending ... click here to find out why it drains the zeal.)

In fact, "WWW" sports some impressive stuff. The sinister Loveless bursts on the screen from a shattered 10 foot model of Pres. Lincoln's head. How very morbidly appropriate to his character! Further, "WWW" is also to be applauded for it's creative design of Loveless' wheel-chair and master weapon, and for Gordon's method of viewing a murdered scientist's last seen image, among other less notable steam-powered creations. "A-" for fun, special effects, and action right up to the climax where "WWW" wanes into a "B+".

PS: For the record (forgive the pun), I don't like Will Smith dubbing over a perfectly good Stevie Wonder track.

[Click here to find out why the ending of WWW drains its zeal.]

Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Selma Hayek.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
Screenplay by S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock and Jeffery Price & Peter S. Seaman.
Produced by Jon Peters and Barry Sonnenfeld at Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:50:04 PDT