Wild Wild West

Wild Wild West (1999)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Brannagh, Salma Hayek
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Still Galleries, Music Videos and much more...

After "Independence Day" and "Men In Black", Will Smith seems to be in a continuum that keeps throwing him in big budget and big special effects comedies. The latest entry is "Wild Wild West", a movie version of the beloved TV series from the 60s and 70s of the same name. With spectacular effects, director Barry Sonnenfeld, who was also at the helm of the grandiose "Men In Black", has created a movie that melds the Western genre with industrial Science Fiction and tops it off with some light-hearted humor. The best way to think of the movie is certainly to view it as a James Bond flick in the Wild West. It’s not very deep, demanding or realistic, but imaginative, furious, charming and highly entertaining. Warner Brothers is now releasing "Wild Wild West" in a special edition on DVD, one that is worth more than just a quick look.

Even the Wild West had undercover agents, and in this movie they are James West (Will Smith) and disguise specialist, inventor Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline). After having had a bad start with each other, the two are thrown together by the president of the United States to investigate a case of national blackmail. Someone is kidnapping the country’s most influential scientists, and it is up to the two government special agents to find out what happened to them. Soon after following the traces, West and Gordon find out that the mastermind behind the kidnappings is none other than their mutual nemesis Dr. Loveless (Kenneth Brannagh). He is working on a diabolical plan to overthrow the democracy of the United States and impose himself as the new ruler. With the help of his newly recruited scientists he is able to build war machines like the West had never seen them before and before too long the United States are in real danger of becoming the "Disunited States of America".

Interlarded with gags and many mechanical gimmicks, "Wild Wild West" is a fast paced comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Will Smith and Kevin Kline do a great job as the duo that has to team up after doing anything they can to disgruntle each other in order to save the world. Much of the film’s humor is certainly not politically correct and limited to the two agents insulting each other in every possible way, or James West settling his spats with Dr. Loveless by adding injury to his insult. The cast for the movie is a great selection, and especially Kenneth Branagh as the Dr. Loveless is deliciously evil, yet slyly humorous. Look out for the grandiose seduction scene when Will Smith is doing his best to get Dr. Loveless heated up as a belly dancer.

Apart from the temptuous Miss East, played by Bai Ling, and Salma Hayek’s character as the daughter of one of the kidnapped scientists, all women in this film are there simply for decorative purposes. Although prominently featured as Dr. Loveless’ assistants, the only thing they really offer is insight into their busty cleavages. No one would really expect a literary masterpiece when watching "Wild Wild West". It is a radical and sexist film that uses cliches and minorities to make fun of, but that’s what most viewers would certainly expect, and it is certainly what works best in this film.

"Wild Wild West" is also a special effects orgy, with countless computer generated and practical effects, ranging from the leg removal of the amputated Dr. Loveless throughout the film, all the way to the many gadgets, and ultimately the 80-foot mechanical spider. The effects are always well integrated into the film and create the perfect illusion that at the time, someone with an inventive mind could have potentially created such gadgets and devices.

Warner Home Video is presenting "Wild Wild West" in a <$PS,widescreen> transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. Coming from a very clean print, the transfer is free of any speckles or dust, and is also devoid of any signs of grain or noise, as you would expect from such a brand-new movie. The transfer is stunningly detailed, reproducing every bit of information from the source print, emphasizing the elaborate production design and costumes of this period film. Color reproduction is flawless. Strong hues and shades dominate the screen without over-saturation or bleeding. Sharply delineated, image quality is nothing short of spectacular, creating a very deep and dimensional look through its solid shadows and blacks and the well-balanced highlights.

"Wild Wild West" comes with a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> surround soundtrack in English. Being a modern film, and an action comedy at that, this audio track will throw you in a furious surround mix that bombards the listener from all sides and angles. Dialogues are well centered, but the spatial integration of the sound effect and the music is what makes this mix a sheer pleasure. The sound field is wide and makes constant and aggressive use of the split surrounds. The disc also has a very strong bass extension and care may be advised with this disc, as the sonic spectrum goes below 25 Hz for some period of time on a number of occasions during this film.

The release contains a <$commentary,commentary track> with director Barry Sonnenfeld that is very enlightening in terms of the actual production. Sonnenfeld is going through the film shot by shot, explaining exactly how things were done and who the people are we are seeing. Although it may get a bit tiring after a while, it is a very detailed commentary that literally dissects the entire movie.

The disc comes with a number of extras. A number of small featurettes take you behind the scenes of the laborious production. Since the many gadgets have clearly been one of the highlights of the movie, it is hardly surprising that some of these small documentaries also show off some of these interesting toys encountered in the film. Separating the gadgets of the Good Guys from those of Dr. Lovless, these featurettes are interesting at all times. The same is true for those that cover the costume designs and the Ladies of the Wild Wild West. There is also a longer "Making-Of" featurette on the disc, but to some extend it is a rehash of material and information supplied in the other featurettes – or vice versa, depending on the order you watch them in.

Having been a smash hit, Will Smith’s "Wild Wild West" music video is of course also part of the package, combined with a small featurette from behind the scenes of the shoot of this video, as well as Enrique Iglesias’ music video "Bailamos". An extensive still gallery, biographies and the film’s trailer, together with cast & crew biographies rounds up the DVD Video portion of the extras on this release.

The disc also contains a number of DVD-ROM features, however the content seems to be very specific regarding the screen resolution used to display the material. Many buttons and parts of the images fell out of my window and oftentimes I could only guess where to click to proceed. The content itself is made up of some more tidbits about the movie and the history of the "Wild Wild West" TV series, well prepared and presented.

"Wild Wild West" certainly doesn’t offer a lot of surprises, but I have to admit that the gadgets in the film are very well thought out and come in very handy at certain points in the story. The film is a popcorn movie in its truest sense that nicely captures the flair of the TV series it is based upon. You have to take it for its face value. Fast, furious, loud, entertaining and not demanding. Just sit back and enjoy the fun filled ride Warner Home Video is offering on this great DVD they have compiled here.