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"Wild Wild West" (1999) Is a Wonderfully Awful Film


Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

Wild Wild West is a 1999 steampunk western action comedy (yes, all of that) that is famous for how terrible it is. In fact, it won at least three Razzie awards and to this day, it still holds a 17% rating on the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.

As time has gone by, however, it has become one of those "cult classics," a film that people love because it's so bad that you can't help but enjoy watching the train wreck.

To be perfectly honest, I never thought Wild Wild West was a bad film. I think it's because I love trashy, kitschy films (Cry Baby directed by John Waters comes to mind). I never really saw what was wrong with this film and I still kinda don't.

So on that note, let me tell you what I actually enjoy about Wild Wild West.

Garcelle Beauvais

I've been in love with Garcelle Beauvais since I was about twelve.

Yes, I knew at a young age because people are born gay, just as I'm sure you straight people had crushes on adults of the opposite sex when you were twelve. Also, lowkey homophobic comments will be deleted. =)

I used to watch The Jamie Foxx Show just to see Garcelle. And now, even though she is fifty-two, she still buckles my knees.

Enjoying the film just because Garcelle Beauvais appeared naked in it is pretty shallow, I know. I don't care.

Brown sugar.

Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon

When it comes to this film, I might be a little biased because I love Kevin Kline -- or rather, I love his work.

In & Out, The Road to El Dorado, Grand Canyon, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- He's basically done a lot of stuff that I love.

I always thought his chemistry with Will Smith was pretty good in this film. He was supposed to be the Felix to Will Smith's Oscar. They were opposites in personality and had different ways of doing things. Captain West (Will Smith) was all about kicking in doors and shooting first, asking questions later, while Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) was all about infiltration, tricks, and gadgets.

In the beginning, they have a sort of predictable dislike for each other only to be -- surprise! -- forced to work together, until they eventually respect and even like each other, despite -- or perhaps even because -- of their differences.

I thought it was cute that Artemus Gordon also came off sort of bi in this film. When he first meets Captain West, the captain has burst through his window in an attempt to "save" him from General "Bloodbath" McGrath (Ted Levine).

At the time, Artemus is disguised as a woman and tells Captain West in a sweetly shrill voice, "I don't need your help, dark stranger!" For some reason, that line always sounded so sincere to me, like Artemus really found Captain West sexually attractive, even though he later develops a crush on Rita Escobar (Selma Hayek).

Artemus has no idea what a breast is supposed to feel like and has to be told by Captain West how unrealistic his disguise is. It's a subtle -- and hilarious -- way of showing how inexperienced with women Artemus is. He is the polar opposite of Captain West, who is implied to sleep around by the film's dialogue.

I think it was the film's intention to highlight the differences between the two main characters by making Artemus a virginal middle-aged man.

Either way, Kevin Kline gave a great performance.

Gadgets Gallore

This movie was full of enough gadgets to make my nerdy little heart explode.

I love steampunk stories with trains and folding guns and doohickeys. One of the criticisms of this film was the crazy amount of gadgets. They really were eye candy, though.

Also, the way the gadgets tied into the plot was really neat.

Artemus using the severed head of one of the scientists to unravel the mysteries of the plot was a pretty memorable scene. At least for me.

Kenneth Branagh as Dr. Arliss Loveless

Which brings us to Kenneth Branagh as Dr. Arliss Loveless, a horrible man in a wheelchair who is . . . out to do something bad. Honestly, the plot of the film was so bad I can't even remember what the villain was after, and my now-adult brain cannot sit through this film again with patience.

Part of the reason there are so many gadgets in the film is because Dr. Loveless is disabled. In order to combat the heroes, he has to compensate with machines. He uses some pretty cool things to screw over his enemies throughout the film and it was fun always waiting to see what gadget he would employ next.

Also, I feel Kenneth Branagh is a decent actor who somehow always winds up in bad films. It's unfortunate, but it's my opinion: I just don't like most of his movies. I did love him in this -- obviously -- as well as The Road to El Dorado, where he starred alongside Kevin Kline.

As far as Wild Wild West goes, I thought Branagh made a pretty good villain and that he should play bad guys more often. I will always remember him for this film and his great performance in it.

The Crossdressing

I always thought the crossdressing was hilarious, and it was meant to be. Artemus Gordon is one hideous woman, and yet every man in the film is trying to sleep with him while he's in disguise.

In the opening of the film, Artemus is dressed like a woman in order to seduce General McGrath and extract information from him. So many men are clamoring for Artemus that the general has to shoot someone dead to keep them off.

Even Captain West makes a remark that a "sturdy girl" like Artemus probably cleans up as a *lady of the night. And later in the film, West mistakes a real woman for Artemus and beats on her cleavage like a set of bongos, culminating in a moment when he is nearly hanged.

*Avoiding censors.

Toward the end of the film, Captain West must don one of Artemus Gordon's disguises in order to save the day, dancing and singing shrilly in a hilarious scene. And as funny as the entire thing was, Will Smith somehow managed to make a prettier woman than Kevin Kline, bless him.

Wild Smith is still apologizing for this film, but he needs to stop. Every film he makes is not going to be perfect or a 10/10 every time. We all know that.

And what's more, Wild Wild West still has some entertainment value just the way it is. It's not a complete waste and it's not like Will Smith committed an act of evil by participating in this film. Let it go, Will.

No harm done.

© 2019 Ash


Brianna W from East Coast on April 07, 2019:

Wow, I have loved this movie since I can even remember. Probably NOT a film I should have been watching as a kid but oh well lol. I haven’t thought about it in years. Thanks for the memories and now I am on the fire stick trying to find it!

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