Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine
Plot: Two US Marshalls (Smith, Kline) are on the hunt for a mass-murdering Confederate (Levine), accidentally stumbling on a plot to overthrow the government.
Wild Wild West is the kind of explosive entertainment blockbuster that packs similar sort of thrills to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Big, loud and more focused on amusing set-pieces than high stakes. It serves as popcorn cinema at its finest, the kind of simple plot you can easily follow or abandon altogether. There is a vague plot at hand, but more likely, you will just stick it on, let your mind wander for a few moments and then happily settle into the fact that the characters are now running for their lives by magnetic chainsaws.
Yep, Wild Wild West might be a Western, but it doesn’t let little things like historical accuracy get in the way of good fun. Parodying technology and ending up with a steampunk’s dream feature, Sonnenfeld’s movie features knife boots, explosive snooker balls and the world’s most functional wheelchair in history. It means that the sky is the limit with what Sonnenfeld can bring to the table. But in being larger than life, it is unavoidable when noting that Wild Wild West is essentially a bunch of pretty colours. Scratch beneath the surface and there is very little on offer. For example, this is a movie that “kills off” its lead a few times, but, surprisingly, Sonnenfeld fails to conjure an iota of false tension. No one expects Will Smith to not survive this movie. As a child, the explosions and giant robot tarantula is enough to make Wild Wild West a fun spectacle to sit down in front of, but adults need more to tie everything together. Kenneth Branagh seems like an interesting enough villain (a crippled Confederate with a grudge), but all depth is swapped for a melodramatic accent and acting that wouldn’t look out of place in a pantomime. By the end of the film, with Branagh launching into another barrage of indulgent dialogue, you wish that Will Smith would just get on and murder the villain. It is another case of Branagh doing what he wants, instead of what the film needs. The sad thing is that Wild Wild West shoots itself in the foot by not even really being something for the younger viewers. It would seem that they are the intended audience, but then the writers throw in some truly cringe-worthy misogynistic and racist remarks. Will Smith is game to bat the racism away, giving as good as it gets, but without him, the script would be borderline insulting. And the women get a very short shrift. Salma Hayek is here for male pleasure only, serving as something for the men to make jokes about curves. Branagh also surrounds himself with half-dressed female henchmen – another case of indulgence perhaps. It means that Wild Wild West is a very flawed movie, only saved by a few neat set-pieces (the robot spider is still awesome), and two lead performances. Will Smith and Kevin Kline bickering over anything is simply pure entertainment.
Final Verdict: Over-stuffed fantasy action that needs more underneath the surface to truly deliver on its promises.