By WILDWEST2-L member   Robb Miles -

A little background to explain my current mood:

           Several friends and coworkers neigh-kidnapped me into going tonight. Lots of taunting and threats, their treat, even the popcorn. I certainly have been on the, "it'll never be a good flick" side, but I took my seat with every hope a-waiting.

           My one-word summary: dreadful. Dreadful music, pretty dreadful effects, dreadful editting, dreadful direction, and exceptionally dreadful writing. This review may be hostile, but comments from my kidnapperss include, "Well, there's another night I could have been home flossing," and, "So that's what Purgatory is like," and, "It was OK, as long as I never have to see it again," and, "Wing Commander was boring, but not as bad as this, " and, "I found those laughing 5-year-olds annoying becuase they kept waking me up." If you think the rest of this review is scathing, my kidnappers all were in a foul mood as we drove home.

           Let's start with the writing: I truly hope legislation is passed to require a warning label slapped on any ad for a movie written by these schmoes. Despite their best efforts, several moments which felt like the show slipped in. The first part of Smith's big fight scene worked like a Conrad moment. A couple moments of Kline's characterization evoked some of Martin's Artemus. Some of Branaugh's scene-chewing actually worked. And about two moments of Jim/Artie byplay were as close as could be expected. Massive negatives include: historical boo-boos, e.g., referring to Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico as States, the poor handling of scientific issues including the Bernoulli Principle stuff, the retinal image stuff, the hypnotization stuff, the totally insipid quality and quantity of sex-related "humor", the mostly completely off-base characterizations of James and Artemus, the stupid stupid corn field scene, the stupidity that prevented even one person fleeing the spider vs Grant confrontation by getting on one of the trains and backing up. And let us not forget to add to this list the cartoon moment when, in the middle of his meglomaniacal moment in front of dozens, Loveless is completely distracted/entranced by West's dance; imagining Wile E. Coyote in Loveless' place made the scene make much more sense. One kidnapper got really tired of West commenting about Gorden's inventions never working, when they have a 100% working rate. Outside of about 5 places, the only people in the theater (about 70 out of 340 seats) who laughed were the 10-year-olds. The only jokes I laughed at were the knife vs bootknife scene and Artie's comment when Jim makes a wrong assumption about his disguise. A couple of the puns appealed to me as well. I think that I do overall appreciate that Artie's drill had to be hooked up; a subtle touch, but it shows what the entire movie could have been like.

           Next, and related, was the dreadful editting: this movie has massive continuity/make-any-sense-whatsoever issues. E.g., what the heck happened to the steel-head gunsel? Why was Selma Hayek's character left in the movie (plot-wise, that is; box-office-wise, it's obvious)? The title sequence at least was sufficiently awful that it was laughable. The re-editing to cover the on-site train accident takes but a moment of brain power to discover.

           Also related, the F/X screw-ups (being a computer person, I spend too many neurons watching this stuff): most notable is that the spider has two different sizes--80 ft when against much of the rock-only backgrounds, and about 30 ft when near any objects, such as the western town; I can see why the ILM subcontractors had such a tough time with the spider. Some of the blockouts with Loveless don't quite work. And why do these "old-fashioned" explosions look _exactly_ like futuristic sci-fi explosions in other movies? The Kline/Kline scenes worked very smoothly.

           The dreadful music was just plain annoying throughout. The disco bits during the title sequence generated one of the biggest laughs from the audience.

           And, lastly, the dreadful direction: just what _was_ Sonnenfeld thinking during the filming and editting? He seems to have effectively quashed any attempt to let the characters actually _do_ something and _be_ somebody. At no point does any character do anything which isn't either utterly generic or utterly forced. The flow just doesn't seem to be there. The actors just don't seem to do anything except regurgitate the script.

           And somewhere I have to gripe about the "track sled" (I didn't grasp whether the movie had a name for it)--just how did it have a smooth ride??! If it rode on the top of the track (like a standard train wheel), it couldn't possibly get past any of the car or train wheels. If it rode on the ties, the ride would be noticeably bumpier. If it rode on the "inside" of the rales, the track plates & bots & spikes would prevent a smooth ride.

           At least there were trains. The Wanderer is/was the famous William Mason, which will be returned to the B&O Museum in Baltimore. The other engine or two at the Golden Spike Ceremony didn't get enough attention from me in time to do any identification.