Hops and Box Office Flops: ‘WILD WILD WEST – So Many Spiders’
Oh Wild Wild West, how did it go so wrong? Will Smith was literally crushing it in the years leading up to the epic Western misfire.
He’d embodied the cool renegade cop with Bad Boys; he’d conquered invading lifeforms twice with Independence Day and Men in Black (MIB); and he’d even bested corrupt federal agents in Enemy of the State.
Wild Wild West was meant to be yet another high in his meteoric rise—particularly since it reunited him with the director of MIB, Barry Sonnenfeld. Alas, it was not meant to be, and not even a catchy tie-in song could save it.
A tonal mess, Wild Wild West earned the scorn of critics (17% on Rotten Tomatoes with 131 reviews) and was utterly dismissed by fans (28%). It grossed just $222.1 million on a production budget of $170 million. If you take into account marketing—and there was plenty—it probably cost upward of $300 million.
Being a financial and critical flop is bad enough, but earning eight Razzie nominations—five wins, including Worst Picture—is just the mushy cherry on top.
This movie was indeed the summer of 1999’s punching bag. Some would argue rightfully so. The ending, which includes Will Smith belly dancing and a 100-foot tall hydraulic war machine spider, is as bad as any 30 minutes there has ever been in a big budget film. That’s not an exaggeration.
The climactic portion of Wild Wild West is an undeniable mess; and it unfortunately detracts from what was a semi-enjoyable—albeit derivative—mismatched buddy adventure. Thanks, Jon Peters.
To ignore the clear and baffling influence of Hollywood’s most infamous hair dresser, one must consume a few cold ones. So sit back, fire open a Sun & Steel from Robinsons Brewery with a six-gun, and hop aboard a steam punk arachnid! I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), Capt. Cash, and Chumpzilla are riding Artemus Gordon’s gadget train across the U.S. to track down the disreputable Arliss Loveless!
This Week’s Segments:
- Introduction/Plot Breakdown – A Will Smith movie finishing 17th at the domestic box office in 1999 would’ve sounded implausible then. This one accomplished that feat. (00:00)
- The Jim West Tamin’ the West Trivia Challenge – I challenge Capt. Cash and Chumpzilla to a series of Wild Wild West-themed questions. (54:54)
- Recommendations – We offer our picks for the week, and next up: Our 2020, “I can’t believe this shit is happening” special, Idiocracy. (1:06:43)