“Yeah, you could have motorcycles.”
February 3, 2020 11:08 PM   Subscribe

 
Man I loved this movie as a kid. It was wacky and different, I enjoyed the comedy like the pool table contraption or them yelling at each other as they run through the corn field. Surprisingly I can still quote large parts of this movie. "Nitro? This is not the way you transport nitro!" Or Brannaugh coming out of Lincoln's head yelling "Don't you just hate that song?"

It's definitely not a movie I've seen in a while but remember it fondly enough.
posted by Carillon at 11:58 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


The original TV show was a lot of fun.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:02 AM on February 4 [18 favorites]


Ever seen FilmJoy's Deep Dive series?
"Okay fine, there are TWO things you can do with sword arms."
posted by bartleby at 12:36 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Look, the title track was ok, but have you heard "Wow Wow?"

bees!
posted by Pronoiac at 12:54 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I saw this in the theater when it came out and thought it the worst piece of art I'd ever seen. I remember being without words to describe how absolutely dreadful it was.
posted by dobbs at 12:55 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Referenced in the article, Kevin Smith discusses Jon Peters and the Giant Spider in the context of Superman Lives...
posted by mikelieman at 1:05 AM on February 4 [16 favorites]




No, no, the film makes perfect sense once you see it’s a metaphor for a steam punk western fever dream with a giant mechanical spider.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:22 AM on February 4 [9 favorites]


Bai Ling, at least, gets the big picture:

Ling is the only exception. “Don’t even think it’s not successful,” she tells me. “Of course it’s super-successful. In history, when money doesn’t matter anymore, this film is one of the best.” She doesn’t care how the public or the industry judged it. “It’s a beautiful production in its own way,” she says. When she watched it in China, her mother asked her why she exposed most of her ass in the scene in which she seduces Smith. “In the mood of seducing, I didn’t care what part they showed because that’s not my concern,” she says. When she saw the film on the big screen, she said, “Wow, my ass looks so beautiful and sexy, I’m so proud it’s captured on screen.”

Now that's a show biz attitude.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:27 AM on February 4 [44 favorites]


Will Smith: "Why I Turned Down The Matrix"

"I did y'all a favor."
posted by fairmettle at 3:18 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


Is there a better live action wide release depiction of steampunk?

Also, did not recognize Kenneth Branagh until I happened to be browsing IMDB.
posted by Query at 3:50 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I saw this in the theater when it came out and thought it the worst piece of art I'd ever seen. I remember being without words to describe how absolutely dreadful it was.

I haven't seen this film since it first came out, but it lost me in what might have been the first scene. A guy with this huge metal collar is running through a cornfield pursued by a flying blade. As he runs through the corner field taking corners, the blade follows his path taking the same corners. His head is cut off, and a villain (the villain?) says the collar is magnetic.

Even an MRI machine wouldn't pull a metal blade from across a field. And the blade would go in a straight line toward the magnet – not turn corners on its way. How come all the guys with magnetic collars aren't sticking to each other?

That said, if it turned out to be a good movie, I could have forgiven some incidental stupidity on the way. But that wasn't this movie.
posted by rochrobbb at 3:51 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I love this dumb movie.
posted by minsies at 4:32 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I just remember a lot of people at the time arguing about the racial makeup of the casting, with the arguments dividing into camps of this movie cast Will Smith as a cowboy damn the PC crowd vs. there were TOO black cowboys in the old west wake up and face facts, and whenever I saw one such argument break out I'd always point out that i don't see anyone arguing over whether there were giant mechanical spiders in the old west either why is anyone expecting verisimilitude from this film anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on February 4 [28 favorites]


It was a really well-made dumb movie. I think that with films like this, there are people for whom, despite all the better ideas that they feel that they have, no green light would ever be lit, no money spigot opened, few to no ears to even hear. What we got was a group of really good, interesting screeen actors, one monumentally great actor, and a jug-eared charmer at the height of his popularity, all being allowed to play in a field of cash (err, high production values) that strove to capture some of the essence of a beloved small-screen classic that had no right being as good as it was. Bitterness ensues.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:52 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Maybe it helps to have grown up watching the TV series to kinda get into the probability of improbability that's a hallmark of the Wild Wild West.
posted by mightshould at 4:54 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I don't get why people disliked this film, it was gloriously goofy. It wasn't afraid to lean into the absurdity, if anything, it whispered "more absurd," as it put its foot down on the pedal of the giant steam-powered mechanical spider.

Hell, the insults Smith's character traded with Brannah's are worth it alone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 AM on February 4 [10 favorites]


... Barbra Streisand's hairdresser?
posted by PMdixon at 5:16 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


God Bai Ling is so cool. When is her Jeff Goldblum-style quirky reevaluation and appreciation going to happen?
posted by Think_Long at 5:17 AM on February 4 [7 favorites]


Are we just not going to talk about the sequence where they take a severed head, scoop out its brains, and shine a powerful light through the back of its eyes to project an image of the last thing the man saw on a screen? Are we going to just pretend that didn't happen? Than this movie didn't define the term "creepy stupid"?

Because it did. That happened. Yeah, go ahead, focus on the steampunk spider and Will Smith's shades. Honestly, I can't blame you.
posted by phooky at 5:29 AM on February 4 [11 favorites]


I thought it was okay. I mean, come on, there's a thousand movies out there with stupider rationalizations for stuff. What's important to me is largely that the people making the movie had a hell of a time making it. That shit shows up on the screen. I forgive a lot if I can watch people having fun.

Shanghai Fortress, on the other hand, was so bad it was stunningly bad, like what????
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:31 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Are we just not going to talk about the sequence where they take a severed head, scoop out its brains, and shine a powerful light through the back of its eyes to project an image of the last thing the man saw on a screen?

Oh my bad, there's so much wonderful absurdity in the movie, it's hard to remember all the awesome fun. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:45 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]




I like the steampunk aestheic, and for whatever reason I get bits of this movie mixed up with the Adventures of Brisco County Junior. I Love the quote in above that they kept Brisco just under over the top. WWW was so absurdly over the top.
posted by CostcoCultist at 6:36 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


similarly, Neil Gaiman said that Peters wanted a massive mechanical spider at the end of a film of The Sandman. He, in fact, told Gaiman that the spider “would make any film a hit.”

I'd heard about Kevin Smith and Peters wanting a giant spider in that, and honestly, that's the sort of thing that you'd expect to see in a superhero film, but Sandman?

Sonnenfeld tells me that Warner Bros. paid for three corporate gulf stream jets for the film: one contained Smith, his family and his entourage; the other was for Sonnenfeld and his people; and the third was empty in case at any point Peters decided to join the tour.

I know that it's kind of a cliche to say that a movie about making the movie would have been a better movie--and documentaries about movies have sometimes been compelling--but, really, Peters seems like a near-perfect villain here.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:45 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


loathed by critics and has gone down in history as a bizarre flop, a blip in the otherwise outstanding careers of Will Smith and Kevin Kline.
Maybe because I know about Kevin Smith’s tales of this and Jon Peters and his giant robot spider obsession, but reading this not long after waking, I initially parsed this as, “a blip in the otherwise outstanding career of Kevin Smith.” I was puzzled: I have never seen Wild Wild West but I couldn’t think of how it fit into KSmith’s oeuvre. “1999... that was Dogma, I thought. Weird.”

I wouldn’t mind seeing more giant robot spiders in movies, though. Perhaps not as much as Jon Peters seemingly does, but yeah.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:59 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I'd heard about Kevin Smith and Peters wanting a giant spider in that, and honestly, that's the sort of thing that you'd expect to see in a superhero film, but Sandman?

To be fair, it worked for Coraline.

I had wanted to see this movie at the time, but the reviews kept me away. I'm glad at least some people are happy with it. Still, I am most sympathetic to any writer who has to work with a giant talking pile of cocaine, which seems to be an entrance requirement for getting anything done on a large scale in Hollywood.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:05 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


He, in fact, told Gaiman that the spider “would make any film a hit.”

This is one of those things that seems to be self-evidently true and yet the evidence says otherwise.
Science has still not explained this discrepancy.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:10 AM on February 4 [9 favorites]


The article’s most pertinent quote comes from Dutch actress Frederique van der Wal: “In America, funny isn’t always so funny to me.”
posted by theory at 7:24 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I had a little remaining fond feeling for this film, but I was reminded about the steady barrage of ableist, sexist, racist slurs, and then it's gone.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:27 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


Is there a better live action wide release depiction of steampunk?

Now that you say this, I have come to the revelation that Mortal Engines is this generations Wild Wild West. Are they good? No. Are they wonderful? Absolutely. Steampunk movies with giant, improbable machines that lean into the ludicrous. Both have a "east vs west" motif, are about taking down large corporations, and have an odd couple as the main characters. And, of course, an extremely attractive badass woman
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:44 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I always thought the best part of this movie was the bizarre Dr. Dre/Eminem song Bad Guys Always Die on the soundtrack.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:48 AM on February 4


This movie did flat-out shitty ableist jokes targeting the wheelchair character.

No thanks.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:01 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I remember thinking at the time that maybe I hated it just because I was such a huge fan of the TV series. I mean, other than the title, a couple of character names, and the dustpunk spy premise, they didn't keep much from the source material, which generally tends to annoy me. So, I was kind of relieved to hear a lot of other people didn't like it, either.

I have no problem with things in a movie being unlikely if the writing, acting, and directing are good enough to sell them, and if the film has an internal logic. But that just wasn't the case here. The script was just offensively dumb, (and, as others have pointed out, just plain offensive in places) and nobody could seem to agree on what the tone was supposed to be. The three leads appear to be acting in three different movies, for which the director is just as much to blame as they.

In this age of constant reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings, I hope that it'll be possible someday to give the property another try in the style and quality that it deserves.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:38 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Is there a better live action wide release depiction of steampunk?

Now that you say this, I have come to the revelation that Mortal Engines is this generations Wild Wild West. Are they good? No. Are they wonderful? Absolutely.


Actually, Mortal Engines is indeed surprisingly good, and absolutely takes the steampunk crown.
posted by fairmettle at 8:45 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


The best live-action steampunk movie is City of Lost Children and neither Wild Wild West nor Mortal Engines deserves to be mentioned in the same thread as it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:11 AM on February 4 [26 favorites]


The Fifth Element proves that you can be comically, outrageously, over the top and still make a good (great? Greatest EVAH?) movie. I think Sonnenfeld summed it up when he said that "Tonally it was confused". You need a firm vision and a reliable hand to make batshit anarchy work.

Plus, casting Kevin Kline as the the straight man? He's done fine in dramatic roles before, but in a comedy you want him to be funny (contrast that with Tommy Lee Jones, who is funny in MiB precisely because he isn't funny and, much of the time, seems unaware that he's in a comedy).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:02 AM on February 4 [9 favorites]


I would be shocked to learn that cocaine wasn't involved here.
posted by tommasz at 10:14 AM on February 4 [5 favorites]


For devotees of the original show, I have a fan casting challenge.
Suppose we make a deal with the studios that they can do all the remakes and reboots and nostalgia-mining they want; ON THE CONDITION that they race- or orientation- or gender-swap it.

With that in mind, who do you put in the bolero jacket and boots with explosives in the heel, for the inevitable Hulu revival or whatever? Who's your (for example) Jane West and Artemis Gordon?
posted by bartleby at 10:32 AM on February 4


Plus, casting Kevin Kline as the the straight man? He's done fine in dramatic roles before,

I concur that Kline is a fine actor in both drama and comedy* but goddammit, for comedies he has to have a moustache.

*Also history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:49 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


“I had to sit there with my hands over my face, in horror, watching this awful, pointless, stupid movie,” [co-writer Brent] Maddock says. He compares it to watching one’s child get tattooed.

I swear I will never, ever tire of my Hollywood schaudenfreude
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:52 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Is there a better live action wide release depiction of steampunk?

It’s TV, but how about The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne?
posted by MrGuilt at 10:57 AM on February 4


I concur that Kline is a fine actor in both drama and comedy* but goddammit, for comedies he has to have a moustache.

Roger Ebert, in his (scathing) review of Wild Wild West notes this and says that the movie is so bad that it violates two of his Rules of Movies:

By casting M. Emmet Walsh as the train engineer, it invalidates the Stanton-Walsh Rule, which states that no movie with Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh can be altogether bad. And by featuring Kevin Kline without facial hair, it violates the Kevin Kline Mustache Principle, which observes that Kline wears a mustache in comedies but is cleanshaven in serious roles.

Although he goes on to note:

perhaps he could use the defense that "Wild Wild West'' is not a comedy.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:59 AM on February 4 [7 favorites]


The best live-action steampunk movie is City of Lost Children and neither Wild Wild West nor Mortal Engines deserves to be mentioned in the same thread as it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:11 PM on February 4 [7 favorites +] [!]


This comment is absolutely sending me. This is the kind of irony Alanis dreamed of.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:07 AM on February 4


For devotees of the original show, I have a fan casting challenge.
Suppose we make a deal with the studios that they can do all the remakes and reboots and nostalgia-mining they want; ON THE CONDITION that they race- or orientation- or gender-swap it.


I always thought it would be fun to have Artie played by someone with a really androgynous look, and be able to wear both male and female disguises convincingly and not for laughs. Like, to the extent that neither the audience nor most of the other characters were certain what their "real" sex was.

perhaps he could use the defense that "Wild Wild West'' is not a comedy.

Yeah, the line between "comedy" and "adventure movie with a sense of humor" can be a difficult one to establish.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:11 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah technically Thor: Ragnarok was not a comedy either but it had a lot of very intentional jokes.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:15 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Like the talking rock with a New Zealand accent!
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:48 PM on February 4


I would be shocked to learn that cocaine wasn't involved here.

This. I had the misfortune to see this in the theater, and walked out thinking ‘all y’all need waaaay less cocaine in your lives. At least while you’re working.’ The movie does make much more sense if you allow for coke-fueled decision-making.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:55 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I know that it's kind of a cliche to say that a movie about making the movie would have been a better movie--and documentaries about movies have sometimes been compelling--but, really, Peters seems like a near-perfect villain here.

Those of you who want to read crazy stories about Jon Peters (and his partner, Peter Guber), should read this book. It has tons of them.

I still remember the part where they were trying to get Rain Man to end with Dustin Hoffman's character throwing out the first pitch at a World Series or something like that.
posted by dobbs at 12:55 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Thor: Ragnarok was straight up comedy from start to finish! MCU doesn't do serious very well (though neither does DC, try as they may).
posted by Burhanistan at 12:56 PM on February 4


I saw this movie in a theater in the peak of summer, godawful hot day, and the AC in the theater broke down before the movie started. Someone came up front and said they were getting ready to show the movie, but the AC wasn't going to be back on anytime soon. We could stay and watch if we liked, or they'd refund our money and we could go home.

I stayed. God help me, I stayed because I really loved the original show in syndication when I was a kid. So I got to see this incoherent, deeply offensive piece of crap in a sweltering theater with sweat in my eyes and my clothes sticking to me. This is possibly the worst movie I've ever seen. There are worse movies out there, but I could see they were going to be horrible and I stayed away. This one I sought out. I deliberately watched it. I deliberately paid money to watch it in a miserably uncomfortable theater. So my Wild Wild West is actually a wee bit worse than your Wild Wild West, impossible though that may seem.
posted by Naberius at 1:06 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


I saw this at a drive in movie theater on a cold fall night as a double bill with Titanic. Wild Wild West came first. By the time Titanic was showing it was so cold out we had to keep scraping frost off the inside of the windshield. I had fun watching Wild Wild West and quite enjoyed it, but that may be entirely due to comparison to the misery of sitting through 3.5 hours of Titanic in a 1973 VW Beetle in sub-zero weather.

I would watch Wild Wild West again, but there is no way you could convince me to rewatch Titanic.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:39 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Blame it on the giant spider.

Sure, other stuff sucked too though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:35 PM on February 4


I concur that Kline is a fine actor in both drama and comedy* but goddammit, for comedies he has to have a moustache.

Luke? Non, Luuuuuc Teyssier
posted by littlesq at 3:57 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I feel compelled to defend the "last thing a dead person saw" - it's a well established superstition behind the idea and fits well with the pre-scientific pseudo-science around that era.

Not a fan of Kline's crossdressing played for laughs, and likewise punching down on the wheelchair/ accessibility issues.

I enjoyed it when I first saw it, have deliberately rewatched it, and I think a lot of my enjoyment was that the cast looked like they were having a lot of fun.
posted by porpoise at 6:13 PM on February 4


Loved the show (for the most part, taken for what it was) and hated the movie (taken for what it was trying to be).

But honestly, nobody was going to live up to Ross Martin, so why even bother?
posted by tzikeh at 6:34 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Are we just not going to talk about the sequence where they take a severed head, scoop out its brains, and shine a powerful light through the back of its eyes to project an image of the last thing the man saw on a screen?

Didn't they do that on CSI?

I made that up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out I wasn't wrong.
posted by rochrobbb at 6:57 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I'm more concerned with their rather cavalier approach to maintaining that head. Why wouldn't they just have a book of sketches of those final images so they don't have to shine that light through the dead guy's eyes every time? Surely that degrades the image. Their evidence collection management needs a massive overhaul.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:03 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of my enjoyment was that the cast looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Many years of media consumption has taught me that if an actor is on a late night show (then: Carson or Letterman; now Fallon or Colbert) to promote an upcoming movie, there is a surefire warning sign: if the interviewer asks about the movie and the interviewee enthusiastically exclaims, "We had so much fun making this!" then you're into Cats and Gigli territory.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:42 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


It was around the end of my three year stint as a head projectionist at Cinemaworld this damn movie came out. The C to the double V, representing ACT III, getting to work on the LTD.

On the projectors we had had the ability to listen to audio as it left the audio processor, be it Dolby Digiital, DTS, SDDS, analog, or (bypass). And we could also listen as it came back from the amps in the auditorium. And we could also turn channels on and off as they came back to our monitor. And it had a headphone jack.

But there were audio problems in Wild Wild West one day so I used the monitor to isolate a hum in the left channel. It was during this it clicked that I could turn off everything except Will Smith rapping during the credits. This is actually horrific. It sounded incredibly weird.


But I could do the inverse and turn off vocals. I had some friends that were into karaoke so I would record the line out of the songs during the credits so the could do their sing along thing.
posted by johnpowell at 10:23 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


So... Shane Black was responsible for the initial film adaptation? Did I get that right? If so, I'd love to know what he was envisaging.
posted by Auden at 11:49 PM on February 4


Still, I am most sympathetic to any writer who has to work with a giant talking pile of cocaine, which seems to be an entrance requirement for getting anything done on a large scale in Hollywood.

I believe he prefers to be addressed as "Jonathan Depp" these days.

You'll also have to cast Helena Bonham Carter in your production, but she's generally known to be a delightful human, and can help mediate the giant talking pile of cocaine.
posted by Mayor West at 7:59 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


So... Shane Black was responsible for the initial film adaptation? Did I get that right? If so, I'd love to know what he was envisaging.

Something a damn sight better than what we ended up with, I'll wager. Granted Black got a little too far into Hollywood excess around then. In the late '90s, he would have been coming off The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight - and so this project would have been right in his swim lane - but even when his stuff was ridiculously over the top, it still somehow worked.

And I'm guessing if nothing else, the verbal jabs between West and Loveless would have been way smarter than than just an endless string of racial slurs and cripple jokes. God, the more I think about this movie, the more pissed off I get. I can sympathize with a movie being bad in the sense of "not well made," but this movie managed to be so deeply, deeply offensive at the same time - and for no good reason - that it crosses the line into bad as in "evil."
posted by Naberius at 8:54 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


In timely-yet-sad news, Robert Conrad (James West on the TV show) has died.
posted by tzikeh at 7:10 PM on February 8


Probably just trying to pull one over on Dr. Loveless.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 PM on February 8


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