Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jonah Hex- Why Comic Book Movies Shouldn’t Look Like Comic Books

I was playing cards with a friend last night (unfortunately not with whiskey and not while smoking bad ‘backy in a saloon) and we got to discussing Jonah Hex.  We both like the character and he collected the comic for a time.  He asked me if I liked the movie.  “Honestly, I’ve never seen the whole thing,” I told him.  “I didn’t go see it in the theater, and whenever I try to watch it on cable after twenty minutes of so I end up thinking of something better that I could be doing- taking a nap, going for a run, writing, reading, doing taxes, cutting my grass, methodically banging my head against the wall, stuff like that.”

When the Jonah Hex movie was first announced I was pretty excited about it.  It wasn’t long before I started lowering my expectations.  First were the Josh Brolin interviews, where he basically intimated that after making great movies like No Country For Old Men and W, he was ready to make a bad movie from a bad script.  Way to sell the concept, big guy.  Then the publicity shots all had Megan Fox walking around half naked with an impossibly thin waist. Surely every faithful reader knows that Hex has a weakness for dirty frontier soiled doves, but there’s got to be more to the movie that this, right?  The final straw came when Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray interviewed the director in an issue of the comic.  He claimed to have read all of the comics and loved them.  Then Palmiotti and Gray asked him what his favorite scene from the comics was.

Great question.  So many scenes to choose from.  One showing Hex’s deep loathing and self-doubt?  One of the amazing flashbacks with his father?  One of his grim determination and utter lack of compassion?  No, the director said he liked the scene with the kid fighting the dog.  From the first issue.  Certainly an interesting image, but hardly a cornerstone for the comic. 

Upon watching parts and pieces of the movie I was left with the impression that the creators flipped through a few issues of the comic, liked the imagery, then threw in a bunch of things that they felt were more “comic-booky”- talking to the dead, Gatling guns on the horse, the dynamite crossbows, the secret lairs, the Joker-esque villain, etc.  In an effort to make the movie feel like the comic, they tried to make it feel like a generic comic book.  That is where they failed.

This image upsets my notions of firearms and physics
Great comic book movies do not look like comic books.  X-Men 2 was an espionage thriller.  X-Men: First Class was a James Bond movie with super powers.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films succeed because they do not feel like they are comic book movies.  They are disturbing, gritty crime stories filled with human emotion. 

The owner of a local comic shop told me that he thought the Hex property was too good to ignore, and that a better movie will be made despite the massive failure of Jonah Hex.  I doubt it.  If we are lucky we may see a great Hex movie some day, but in the mean time I’ll stick to the comics. 


  1. You nailed the problems with HEX. And sadly it will be a long time before we see another movie featuring this character.

  2. Thanks, David. Expect many more Hex related posts to follow.