Monday, February 7, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens: UFOs and Yee Haws!

During the Superbowl, I wait for each break in a play, commercial timeout, downed player on the field so I can see the latest commercials.  Some of the ads this year were okay, some fun, some irritating. The number of movie trailers for summer movies seemed greater than usual. Given the audience, trailers featuring a lot of action, explosions and pretty girls didn't surprise me. But what did catch my eye was the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens  starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the story takes place in the mid- 19th century and is played like a western, not a campy send up. At least that is what we are to believe according to interviews with the creators.  I also read we are not to expect steam punk but, again, a true western and that's all right with me. Mash ups, as popular as they are, can go either way. They can be an homage or a parody.  But the more I read about this movie, the more I find myself wishing the summer would get here and not because of the weather!

According to a film commentator, many early sci fi movies were really just futuristic westerns with frontiers to explore, territories being invaded, and the inevitable shootouts between the white hats and the black hats. I get that. Those grainy Saturday invasion movies, Star Trek and Lost in Space were my favorites. But they came after I fell in love with Wagon Train, High Chapparrell, and all those western flicks. Almost forty years later, I will finally have two of my favorite genres in one movie!

Yeehaws and UFOs are a great mash up for our times. We still long for straight shooting sons of guns who can take down the bad guys and ride away with the pretty young miss. We are full of nostalgia for the days when good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black. Gray was not an option. The themes of honor, protection and frontier adventure resonate as much now as back when I got up early to watch my westerns and grade B scifi. The swagger and bravado of the guys who live on the range and ride in the saddle are still the same.  Straight shooting, spit in the eye, "this is my land and you aren't going to take it" sort of men do not back down from aliens from another planet.

Science fiction still has its appeal as well. The possibility of breaking the fetters holding us back here on earth. The plays on fear of new technology. There are still scary monsters threatening our borders and our sense of calm. Our aliens are more advanced than we are in some ways and far less compassionate in others. But, in those maybe not-so-classic movies of my youth, they were always destroyed by the earthlings' sense of inventiveness and belief in their planet. We need that reminder yet again.

For all these reasons, I can't wait for the shootout at the UFO Corral.  Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig aren't bad reasons either.

What appeals to you about westerns and/scifi movies? Do you like mash ups? Why or why not?