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We Need Talk About 'Jonah Hex,' Josh Brolin's First Comic Book Film Role

By Jodi Smith | Celebrity | June 4, 2020 |

By Jodi Smith | Celebrity | June 4, 2020 |


Way back in 2010, Warner Bros. and DC were still hot from giving us Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) while fans awaited the anticipated final film in the trilogy. Marvel was just starting its domination, with Iron Man in 2008 and Iron Man 2 set to hit theaters that year.

For some reason, Warner Bros. and DC decided that this was the perfect time to release Jonah Hex, a comic book film based on a lesser-known character set in the post-Civil War American West. Created in the 1970s by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga, Hex grew up with an Apache tribe in the comics before a falling out… you know what? Here is a chunk from the Wiki, friends.

Born November 1, 1838, in northwestern Missouri, to Woodson and Virginia Hex. Jonah was a regular victim of physical abuse as a child at the hands of his father. In 1851 his father sold him into slavery to an Apache tribe. They worked him constantly until one day when he saved their chieftain from a puma and he was welcomed as a full-fledged member of the tribe. The chief took Jonah as his own son, but his adopted brother, Noh-Tante, grew jealous. Noh-Tante shared Jonah’s affections for a young girl named White Fawn, so he betrayed his brother during their manhood rite at the age of 16 and left Jonah for dead with their enemies, the Kiowa. He was rescued by a Cavalry patrol, although they shot him in the gut when he tried to stop their slaughter. Left for dead a second time, he was nursed back to health by an old trapper in the woods. Returning to his tribe’s camp, he found them long since gone.

In the comics, Hex received his facial scarring from his adoptive father after killing his adoptive brother in combat. He’s also a skilled marksman, hand-to-hand combatant, and lives by a moral code to help out those in need. He’s cool with murder though. Hex has no supernatural abilities whatsoever and even died in the comics at the age of 66 via a shotgun blast.

He doesn’t really sound like movie material if I’m being honest. Nonetheless, Warner Bros. hired Josh Brolin to portray Hex, somehow convinced John Malkovich to play a villain named Quentin Turnbull, and scored a post-Inglourious Basterds but pre-X-Men First Class Michael Fassbender to play Turnbull henchman Burke.

Screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor —the geniuses behind Crank— seemed like a home run get but once they dropped out of directing, Warner Bros. brought on Jimmy Hayward. At that time, Hayward had only directed the animated feature Dr. Suess’ Horton Hears A Who! and has since directed Freebirds. Really, things just kept going full akimbo from there.

Neveldine and Taylor —or perhaps the rumored rewrites by Hayward— changed Hex’s “origins story” from that of the comics and also gave him the ability to communicate with the dead. Hex fights in the Civil War but refuses to burn down a hospital, resulting in him killing Turnbull’s son. Turnbull returns the favor by burning down Hex’s house with his wife and child inside before marking the man with a brand of the initials “QT”. Hex DIES and is brought back by Native Americans, imbuing him with the power to resurrect the dead for short time periods in order to get information. Oh, his Native American friends also apparently bring him back from death whenever he needs them to do so.

Any fans of Hex were lost with that rewrite of the character, I reckon. Add to that Turnball’s terror plot to use a weapon created by Eli Whitney —Mr. Cotton Gin himself— to attack the United States on the Fourth of July and the film’s finale seeing President Grant offering Hex the position of SHERIFF OF THE UNITED STATES and it is easy to understand why Jonah Hex failed.

Now imagine actually watching the flick, which I have, with Megan Fox as Hex’s love interest Lilah. Then you have very heavy music by Mastodon that suffered from a swap of collaborators requiring a redo of completed songs paired with Hayward’s poorly-directed action sequences nailing the coffin shut so securely that Beatrix Kiddo couldn’t punch her way out.

Let me tell you that anything you visualized this movie being is better than the final product, which grossed only $10,547,117 in total on a $47 million budget. Its Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 12%, with an audience score of 20%. It is every bit as bad as one may think at this point and likely a miracle that none of the actors involved suffered any fallout in their careers long-term.

Even after the experience of filming and the box office failure, Brolin insisted that everyone set out to make something wonderful but the pieces never really fit together. King Understatement right there.

Sometimes I think about Jonah Hex and how it could have soured Brolin completely on comic book adaptions, forcing us to miss out on his Cable in Deadpool 2 and probably the most emotive and emotionally believable CGI character to grace the big screen in Infinity War and Endgame.

If you dislike yourself, you can watch Jonah Hex on HBOMax now.

Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Warner Bros. Pictures