Miss Verity: This doesn't look good, Zeke.
Zeke: Nope, it don't.
After seeing the movie trailer I have high hopes for Cowboys and Aliens. The only reason Western Sci Fi hasn't worked in Hollywood is Hollywood.
Simple ideas can get overly complicated and cluttered with witless additions in the process of making a movie (like Sonnenfeld's unpalatable Wild, Wild, West); and demanding ideas get simplified and sanitized, losing nuance and subtlety important for defining the story (the remake of The Haunting, for instance).
The challenge presented to Cowboys and Aliens is taking the bland, uninspired graphic novel it's based on, with its single bold idea, and building it into an inspired movie. There's a lot to go wrong if Hollywood thinks a few big name actors will be able to carry this premise seriously, and with integrity, without a good script. Worse, still, if they stick to the graphic novel.
Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley's Cowboys and Aliens avoids the rich culture and ambiance of the Western, choosing instead to fanboy the characters, simplify the dialog, and rush through simplistic, threadbare situations. Names like Zeke, Miss Verity, and Shaman Skunk Belly may have fanboys grinning, but it will be a hard sell on the big screen if these characters don't go deeper than this.
Luciano Lima's artwork, devoid of period detail and subtlety, brings no panache to the novel. The exciting cover showing a cowboy squarely aiming at an alien ship overhead, his horse running at full gallop, shows an energy and a situation that doesn't appear in the story. A tacked on prologue, drawn by Dennis Calero, promises sophistication the rest of the novel fails to sustain. It compares the alien colonization of other worlds to the American Indian's displacement by settlers; but this deep-seated, tone-setting theme is glossed-over in the story.
Zeke and Miss Verity are fighting off Indians attacking a wagon train the two of them are escorting in the opening panels. This quaint staple of most early television westerns is interrupted by an alien ship crash landing nearby. The aliens decide to claim the planet, the Indians and settlers decide otherwise. Alien technology conveniently becomes usable by Zeke, and not much time is spent on the expected disbelief-giving-way-to-plausible-acceptance of alien creatures suddenly appearing with magical gadgets. As to be expected, the ending leaves franchise possibilities open.
Clearly, the promising idea of cowboys and Indians and aliens mixing it up in the Old West sold. Now the question is, can the movie sell the idea to its audience?
No, I've not read the script. I know this has been in "production" for around 10 years, which seems to be the batting average for getting unusual ideas onto the screen.
Posted by: zoc | March 14, 2011 at 09:24 AM
Have you seen the script that's floating around? I found it on Facebook under "Cowboys and Aliens Screenplay". According to the copyright it predates the graphic novel... but there sure are a lot of similarities.
Posted by: Art Schnabel | March 13, 2011 at 12:57 PM