In over three years of movie podcasting, we’ve somehow never landed on a Will Smith vehicle before. Notorious 1999 bomb Wild Wild West might not be the most obvious place to start, but when you all of his (successful) franchise movies out of the equation, the field does start to look a little thin.
Based on a largely forgotten 60s TV show, a big-screen adaptation of Wild Wild West was mooted for stars including Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise before finally landing on Smith, then at the height of his fame thanks to a four-year hot streak that included Bad Boys, Independence Day, Enemy of the State and Men In Black. He would subsequently describe the decision to make this film instead of The Matrix as one of the biggest regrets of his career.
The problems with Wild Wild West have been well documented elsewhere, but to summarise the key issues; the script was a disaster – clumsily accounting for a black lead by having the main villain subject him to a barrage of horribly racist insults. (There’s also a healthy dose of sexism, ablism and gay panic humour, so at least the end product was equal opportunity offensive). It was also notoriously written around the nonsensical inclusion of a giant mechanical spider – a hangover from producer Jon Peters’ vision for a Superman revival that never came to fruition.
Re-watched today, it’s a fairly entertaining relic of its era – particularly for the insane amount of money that was sunk into it, none of which was able to account for some of the truly abysmal green screen scenes. Smith and co-star Kevin Kline do their best to elevate the terrible dialogue, and Kenneth Branagh is on truly Oldman-esque form as the villainous Arliss Loveless, sporting an American accent that even he later described as one of the worst in cinema history.
In this week’s podcast, we’re breaking it all down – including the incoherent editing, Salma Hayek’s thankless supporting role, the surprising amount of drag featured in this movie and much more. We also check in with our listeners, pitch some drinking games and discuss the sequels that might have seen the light of day had this movie not gone so very badly off the rails.
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Next week, we take a look at a much more successful Smith outing, and surprisingly his only major rom-com role to date. Until then happy listening, and remember – most pyjamas are not one-size-fits-all…