The release of Goldfinger ('64) launched the 1960s spy craze which spawned a genre of copy-cat super spy movies and television series. And so entered television's The Wild, Wild West, or James Bond in buckskin.
Incredible anachronisms, fist fights and a cool train were the signatures of The Wild, Wild West. As were the cool storylines of world domination. I'm explaining this at some length to offer a warning. If you're not a fan of the 60's spy genre, you're probably not going to enjoy the 1999 version of The Wild Wild West. Also, if you didn't care for Men In Black, again you're probably not going to enjoy Wild Wild West.
However, if you are a fan of the genre, you'll probably feel that Wild Wild West is the best summer fair thus far. Wild Wild West explodes onto the screen. Brash, outlandish and over-the-top, director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black) takes the television show's original concept of futurist devices, made in the late 1800s, to the next level. Wild Wild West's visual-effects, sets, clothing and cinematography are breathtaking as you take this two-hour roller-coster thrill ride with nowhere to get off.
Smith plays US government agent James T. West, who is assigned, with his reluctant partner/inventor Artmus Gordon (Kevin Kline), to protect President Grant from Dr. Arless Loveless (Kenneth Branagh), a racist bitter defeated officer of the Confederacy and his mechanical giant tarantula.
During the television show's 1965 - 1970 run, James West was played by veteran actor Robert Conrad. Hard core Wild, Wild West fans are probably wondering if Smith is convincing has James West, since the character was cast originally as White. Smith pulls it off with the help of Sonnenfeld's directing that establishes Smith's ethnicity in the opening minutes of the film. Sonnenfeld actually uses Smith ethnicity as a plot device to move the story along and to motivate Smith to the final confrontation with Branagh who plans to kidnap President Grant and force him to give the Unted States back to the original colonialist.