What The Film?! – Wild Wild West

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What The Film?! is a new weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the plot holes Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by comedy writer Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes that you feel needs to be exposed, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

This Week’s Movie: 1999’s Wild Wild West.

I want you to think about this idea: James Bond in the 1800s, a western James Bond. Give that idea some time, because if you didn’t think that idea sounded awesome then you haven’t really thought about how cool of an idea that is. Two Secret Service Agents working together in shortly after the American Civil War to defend Ulysses S. Grant at all costs while exploring the rich western American countryside . Taking lots of influence from James Bond, it would have women, crazy villains wanting to take over the country, and fun gadgets. It’s James Bond in the cowboy era. That combination couldn’t possibly be bad.

Pretend Cowboys & Aliens didn't happen in this hypothetical, because that was pretty bad .

Wild Wild West was based on the significantly better television show of the same name running from 1965 to 1969. The show was as much as an homage to James Bond as it was an original intellectual property. It incorporated elements from many different genres, not just Western, but Science-Fiction, espionage/thriller, steampunk, and in one episode they even did horror. It was a fun television show that when brought to the silver screen it should have been incredible, rather than this abomination.

Warner Brothers purchased the movie rights to Wild Wild West in 1992 and was planning on having it directed by Richard Donner (of 1978’s Superman: The Movie and all four Lethal Weapon movies fame), written by Shane Black (who wrote Lethal Weapon and is currently writing/directing 2013’s Iron Man 3), and starring everyone’s favorite racist Mel Gibson. Donner and Gibson then left the project to make 1994’s Maverick, a different western, this one based on the 1950’s television show of the same name.

Source: www.paunchstevenson.com

After they departed, the lead role of James West was cast again with Tom Cruise strapping on the cowboy boots. Tom Cruise left to make 1996’s Mission: Impossible, a different James Bond influenced action film, this one based on the 1960’s television show of the same name. This project was passed from different hands so many times that when it was finally made, it was a collage of bad ideas connected together by poor writing, directing, acting, and just… It’s just bad.

“Oh hey, this looks good” - No One Ever.

It’s hard to really explain how stupid this movie is without wildly flailing my arms and crying a little bit, so I’ll just break down a few things to show of the lack of care and respect given to its source material.

  • The movie takes place in 1869, but in an early scene the protagonists speak with Ulysses S. Grant in The White House’s Oval Office, located in its famous West Wing, which had its construction start in 1901, completing in 1909.
  • Will Smith uses his trademark “AwwHELLNAW” and other modern slang, despite it being 1869. Characters also marvel at the Southern Confederacy has a Tank (calling it a “Tank” in the movie) despite that not being something that existed till the first World War.
  • James West says he fought in the Civil War in the 9th Calvary Regiment, a group that wasn’t even formed till after the Civil War had ended.
  • There’s a robot spider.

Who the hell thought this would be a good idea?

The film adaptation of Wild Wild West was the brainchild of Hollywood producer Jon Peters, a former hairdresser who got into Producing by befriending Barbara Streisand. While his name is on some pretty good and sometimes iconic movies, the more power he has over a movie, the worse it is. Most of his movies he’s listed as a producer out of some legal reasons and had nothing to do with the actual production of the movie. You can see Kevin Smith’s hilarious experience with Jon Peters over a failed Superman movie here.

Watch that video we just linked. It's okay, we'll wait.

Jon Peters is the stereotypical producer that doesn’t understand the source material. When working on a film adaptation of Sandman, Neil Gaiman said that Jon Peters insisted on putting a huge spider in that movie (for those who are fans of Sandman, I cringed too). For every The Dark Knight, there will be hundreds of Batman & Robin-esque movies that don’t get it and exist purely to sell toys and to inflate the egos of the producers who think they understand. Will Smith said this is the worst movie he’s ever been to and has even apologized face to face with the original actors of the television program.

Had Warner Brothers played their cards right, they could have had a new an ongoing franchise like James Bond, with continuing adventures (which is something they need since they ran out of Harry Potter books), but someone decided it would be best to make it awful. I can’t blame all of this on Jon Peters since some details are clearly overlooked by the Director and Set Designers.

Yes, those are American Flags with 50 stars back when we had 37 states.

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