Wild Wild WestJune 30, 1999
The two best hired guns in the West must save President Grant from the clutches of a 19th century inventor-villain.
Release Year: 1999
Rating: 4.4/10 (71,343 voted)
Critic's Score: 38/100
Stars: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh
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.
Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Capt. James West
U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon
Ulysses S. Grant
Dr. Arliss Loveless
M. Emmet Walsh
General 'Bloodbath' McGrath
Frederique Van Der Wal
(as Frederique van der Wal)
Mike H. McGaughy
(as Mike McGaughy)
Rodney A. Grant
It's a whole new west. July '99.
Release Date: 30 June 1999
Filming Locations: Balboa Park – 6300 Balboa Boulevard, Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $49,705,055
(4 July 1999)
Did You Know?
Dr. Loveless demands the "immediate and unconditional surrender of the United States" from President Grant. Ulysses S. Grant's nickname during the Civil War was "Unconditional Surrender", which made use of his initials.
When James West visits Washington, there is an establishing shot showing the partially constructed dome of the Capitol Building. The matte painting of the dome is clearly illuminated by the sun from the left of frame while the live action plate of the foreground, showing James West riding through town, is strongly lit by the sun, from the right of frame.
[West's face is magnetically joined to Gordon's crotch]
Capt. James West:
Gordon, when you tell this story to your grandkids, you be sure to leave this part out.
Lame bloated blockbuster
`Wild Wild West' joins an increasingly long list of big bloated
blockbusters, movies made for no possible reason beyond grabbing a quick
summer buck yet which, ironically, by their very cynical and slapdash
nature, utterly fail to connect with even the least demanding of audiences.
The result is a multi-multi-million dollar debacle that leaves studios
searching for answers and audiences shell-shocked into seeking out their
entertainment along the more audacious pathway of off-Hollywood, independent
filmmaking the single positive outcome of these dull, empty
`Wild Wild West,' like so many films before it, looks to the relics of
television's bygone era for inspiration as sad a comment as any on the
dismal state of current movie creativity. As one not familiar with the
original series, I cannot say what justice, or lack of justice, this homage
does to its source. What is evident, judging from the results on screen, is
that `Wild Wild West' is, as with most current blockbusters, top-heavy with
special effects and as weak in the nether limbs as its legless villain.
Straight Westerns being hopelessly out of fashion, especially for a special
effects-driven summertime extravaganza, the filmmakers obviously felt that
what was needed was a tongue-in-cheek approach to the material, resulting in
a bizarre, but completely unfunny amalgam of fantasy and science-fiction
gilded onto a Western format. The disparate styles simply fight against
each other, leaving no one in the audience – neither Western nor
science-fiction fans – satisfied.
The alleged plot involves the attempts by James West (Will Smith) and
Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline) to foil an evil Confederate inventor's plan to
kidnap all the world's most brilliant scientists and, ultimately, terrorize
the Union and President Grant into submission. This he attempts to do by
creating a giant mechanized spider which is, obviously, a last ditch,
desperate attempt on the part of the filmmakers to fulfill the seemingly
insatiable demands of the modern audience to be dazzled by impressive
special effects, no matter how inappropriate they appear in context. Here,
though, the miscalculation is fatal because even the audience is wise enough
to know when it is being had. Kline and Smith never achieve a palpable
rapport despite the usual abundance of lame wise cracks and sarcastic asides
designed to make them `hip' and `trendy' two qualities incongruous to the
setting, which again shows the lack of real commitment to the spirit of the
project. There is exactly one clever moment in the film an astonishingly
creative homage to the old RCA logo that hints at what might have been had
the moviemakers been willing to really let loose their anarchic imaginations
and aimed for something truly sophisticated rather than simply pasting
together a series of confused, poorly written blackout sketches.
Incidentally, even some of the expensive special effects come across as
surprisingly crude, especially many of the shots utilizing rear-screen
projection. Hence, this film strikes out even in the one ballpark in which
it might have stood a chance of emerging victorious.