Saturday, August 27, 2016

How the West Was Really Won, or Thoughts on Cowboys & Aliens

Having learned no lessons from the Wild Wild West remake (1999), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) returns to that unexplored and under-represented genre, the sci-fi western crossover.  Based on the graphic novel of the same name by director John Favreau, it’s a gritty post-modern western and CGI show reel that succeeds in telling two confusing stories that go nowhere and meet up somewhere near the finale.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan, an amnesiac cowboy who wakes up in the desert with Jason Bourne outlaw fighting skills, who rides into a town controlled by gruff cattle baron Harrison Ford and besieged by, yep, aliens, like an American episode of Doctor Who.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with Cowboys & Aliens and it has an exceptional cast, including Olivia Wilde as Ella, who looks mighty fine in a prairie dress and a gun belt, Clancy Brown, the Kurgen as Meachum, Absolution’s preacher and Keith Carradine (David’s brother) as Sheriff John Taggart.  Also watch out for Walton Goggins from The Hateful Eight (2015) as Hunt, another outlaw pal of Jake's.
Much like aliens building the pyramids or spacemen in King Arthur’s Court, the sci-fi western seems to only work with time travel, which is a completely separate genre with its own set of rules.  Joss Whedon’s Firefly series and Serenity (2005) took western themes and brought them into space, which was a far more effective strategy than bringing futuristic elements into the past.  Westworld (1973) also transported the western to a modern 70’s time period and added killer robots, always a winning combination.  The Western is a uniquely American cultural icon and I think even in our cynical post-modern world it’s still confusing to viewers to mix horses and ray-guns.  And these days the western remains beloved and sentimental but has no contemporary relevance, it’s not how we see ourselves now.  We’re not lone gunmen in white hats, we’re superhero crime fighting billionaires.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).