Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hexed

I mentioned in my Jonah Hex review earlier this week how I wasn't that familiar with the comic book exploits of the gunslinger, but with yesterday's release of the DC Comics iPhone app, I took care of that (and kissed productivity goodbye) by downloading the first six issues of the current Hex ongoing series (which started in '05). By the time I'd worked my way through them, I was even more irked at the unfortunate movie version.

With Warners no doubt licking their wounds over the film's opening (the worst of the year for a wide release), their natural inclination will be to indulge in some navel gazing to see where they went wrong, but before they get too far ahead of themselves they might want to head over to Heat Vision, where Borys Kit has a fascinating/depressing account of the Frankensteinian process the studio undertook in stitching together several different stories and styles (including what the heck Aidan Quinn and Will Arnett were doing there).
Originally, [writers] Neveldine and Taylor also were set to direct, but that idea was cast aside after Josh Brolin came aboard to star. Animator Jimmy Hayward, co-director of Horton Hears a Who! took on the directing assignment as his live-action film debut.

But after Hayward delivered his cut, Warners decided to move in a different direction and brought in I Am Legend helmer Francis Lawrence to oversee reshoots. How extensive those reshoots were remains a subject of debate.

In the Hex the studio finally released, audiences can see signs of two movies painfully trying to coexist.

The dream sequence involving Brolin and bad guy John Malkovich, which pops up at least twice in the film, actually is part of Heyward’s original climax. The plot about stealing high-tech cannonballs, along with a glowing ball detonator, were added during Lawrence’s reshoots, as were scenes involving Hex’s backstory, President Grant (Aidan Quinn) and Hex talking to the dead. (The first cut kept his link to the dead more ambiguous.) Scenes with Michael Shannon and Will Arnett were trimmed to mere seconds.
I know, with all that futzing and fiddling around, I'm as shocked as you that it didn't work.  Kit goes on to echo a point that I made repeatedly throughout this whole process, but especially once I saw the finished product:
The movie version of Hex should have been rated R, made like a relatively cheap spaghetti Western instead of a PG-13 exercise with a budget said to have climbed to $50 million-$60 million, including reshoots.If Warners didn’t want to commit to a more down-and-dirty version, it shouldn’t have made the movie.

In fact, what Hex should have been, and still could be, is a limited TV series on HBO, FX or TNT. It would have been about a bounty hunter who is barely better than the men he hunts but who occasionally shows a spark of humanity.
There are a lot of great second, third, or even fourth-tier characters and properties in the DC toy chest that could easily translate to live action (I know I'm probably alone in this, but I'd love, love, love to see a big screen Kamandi flick), but the approach has to be tailored to the material, not the other way around.  Seems simple to me, but you'd think it's rocket science for all the times the studios have managed to screw it up.

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