Jim West is a guns-a-blazing former Civil War hero. Artemus Gordon is an inventive U.S. Marshal who excels in disguise. When the United States is threatened by psychotic Confederate Arliss Loveless, President Ulysses Grant teams the duo up to bring him to justice. On a hazard-packed train journey from Washington D.C. to Utah, West and Gordon must combine their skills to best Loveless and his diabolical machines. Written by
Chris Turner <firstname.lastname@example.org> and J. Kyle
Don't the people making these movies LIKE the original shows?
I won't add more insults -- others here have done that well enough. This movie is godawful. But I will point out two areas that seem to be staples of bad movie remakes of beloved old TV shows. First, how about getting someone to write/direct that actually liked and understood the original? That person would understand that the West-Gordon relationship was the core. In a sense, West and Gordon complimented each other to make a slick, functional crime-fighting machine: West handled the action and romance, and Gordon took care of the thinking, deception, and humor (disguises). This was a well-used TV convention -- think the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad in Star Trek, or the great contrasty chemistry between Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in I Spy. Add a lovable villain to the mix (not an offensive atrocity like the film-Loveless) and you've got a crazy, tongue-in-cheek action classic. The filmmakers here seemingly did not know or care about the fundamentals of the original show. Not that this is necessarily a problem, but then why bother resurrecting the premise in the first place? Why not just make Will Smith a different wild west troubleshooter? The Mission Impossible franchise has the same problem.
Second, why all the emphasis on showing the principals getting to know each other? I know -- because it eats up 30% of the script, and creates conflict. But the conflict should be between West and the villain. Jim and Artie should just BE. The TV show didn't bother explaining how West met and knew Gordon, any more than Barney Miller, Mission Impossible, or 24 found it necessary to have all the main characters meet and learn to work together. They were a team with a job to do. Audiences understand this concept; having a trumped-up plot about how the heroes meet and overcome their differences is a hackneyed device that only exposes the script weaknesses present. See the film version of Dragnet (a better film, though) for another example of this unfortunate trend.
Finally, a comment on the "race" issue. Inserting content that justifies Smith-West's skin color is no more necessary than explaining Henry V's skin color when Laurence Fishburne or Andre Braugher play him on stage. Indeed, ignoring Smith's race in a movie like this one would help us all look past such issues. If a blond actor had portrayed West, nobody would have suggested a plot that explains his Norwegian background! He just would have been West, and that would be that. But color-blind casting requires courage, and could conceivably cut into the film's bottom line. So, not in this spineless script.
I seldom get mad at movies I don't like. Even The Avengers didn't anger me, though it was possibly even worse than this one. This one ticked me off REAL good. Buy the original series on DVD instead, and see how it's done right.
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