Q: A cross between Sergio Leone and Steven Spielberg?
A: Something either really good or really sucky. The jury is still out.
Cowboys & Aliens: Footage of the movie directed by Jon Favreau is practically nonexistent but speculation is running high. You got cowboys and Arizona of the 1870s–classic western, but with an space-alien-takeover-so-the-cowboys-team-up-with-Apaches twist. You got a director who wants to channel John Ford and Sergio Leone, but who is mentored by alien-master/fluff-maestro Spielberg. You got Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and probably every special effect explosion known to humankind.
Just call it America’s dilemma.
One reason the western hero is so emulation worthy is because he doesn’t have special powers or special education, except for the hard-knocks sort you get in range wars and on cattle drives. William Savage in The Cowboy Hero: His Image in American History and Culture described his allure as the “promise of America in a cowboy suit.” Anyone could be a cowboy–if you’re willing to ride and pull a metaphorical trigger.
John Wayne stood for the America of possibility–give him a straight shot and he’ll take it. Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name was the embittered America that held on, barely, to a very strict moral code–get them before they get us.
How will the protagonists of Cowboys & Aliens, an epic mash-up of sci fi and western, with heroic (but tiny) Colt .45s with six chambers, fare with CGI effects? With slo-mo camera work and synthesized harmonica scores? The camera angles and shots of Ford and Leone are so familiar through repetition in other films we accept them, even cheer them, when toys strike the cowboy hero pose in Toy Story 3. Film goers will cheer Daniel Craig’s icy gimlet stare but know he probably won’t win against bigass aliens through native intelligence and pluck and that little toy of a six-gun. Chances are, he’s going to reach for some bigass laser/bomb/nuclear whatever and blast those fuckers out of our American skies.
Looks like we know we need some help getting out of our bigass challenges.