Wild Wild West

Steampunkery in the Old West

I know that some of you are already upset that this movie is appearing on the site on Film Friday but, as I dug through my mind to think of a good STEAMPUNK movie to do, my eyes fell upon a copy of 1999s Wild Wild West.  I watched it with an eye to the Steampunk and I will tell you that though I don’t think this is a bad movie it is even better when you start looking for the steampunkery in the movie.

Plot Synopsis (There be Spoilers)

Capt James West and Artemis Gordon are both seeking confederate general Bloodbath MacGrath. Through tracking him down the discover a plot by Dr Loveless to take over the United States.  The charge into the old west on a high-tech train to chase down Loveless and stop his plot to take over America.

(That may be the shortest plot synopsis on a film Friday yet.)

The Good

Ted Levine – General Bloodbath Magrath – I love Ted Levine.  From my first introduction to him in Silence of the Lambs through his role on Monk, if I see that Ted Levine is in a movie, I don’t need any other reason to watch it.  His portrayal of Magrath in this was wonderful.  The fake ear, the spit coming out of the fake ear – wonderful.

Kenneth Branagh – Dr Arliss Loveless – Branagh proves that even in a summer movie that will win no awards but a Razzie or two, that is you put a Shakespearean actor into a movie he will take the over-the-top role to a whole new place.

The Steampunk Machines – There were lots of them, let’s count them off.

  1. The train – The Wanderer, as it is called, is beautiful.  The upgrades that were made to it in the form of the gadgets and devices are excellent.  I especially love any device that seems to serve no real purpose other then to look cool in a movie.
  2. The Spider – This may be the ‘thing’ in the movie that gets the most crap from critics (professional and casual).  I can remember seeing it in the theater though that summer and thinking:  WOW!  Go back and watch it again, it is freaking cool looking and completely steampunk.  What could be more steampunk then a steam powered spider.
  3. The Flying Bike – My least favorite steampunk gadget in the flick but still worth mentioning.
  4. Loveless’ Wheelchair – A steampowered wheelchair and the guy in it is wearing a top hat and sunglasses.  Come on!  And then of course it transforms into a four legged walker.
  5. The Tank – The tank that Loveless uses to slaughter the confederate soldiers.  Amphibious, and deadly it was the first real point of steampunkery in the movie.

The Bad

The Writing – It is written for the lowest common denominator in the audience.  But, let’s face it, it was written as a summer blockbuster to make big money.  Obviously the writer had a steampunk flare and probably the computer that he wrote it on had gears and cogs attached to the side but he didn’t write it to win an award.

The Ugly

The Handicapped / Racial Humor – I will say, back in the day, I laughed at the jokes between West and Loveless, but now, they are lame and tired and the should be retired.  I think, had they hit that one note a few less times it would have been better or at least it would have stood the test of time.

In conclusion, I still like this movie.  It is still a fun movie to watch, I am not saying it is a great movie, but it is fun.  Go pop it in the DVD player (you know you own a copy) and set back while you remember the fun that was the summer of 1999 with Wild Wild West.