Thursday, February 27, 2020

Aliens in the Old West

This is my entry in the Harrison Ford Blogathon hosted by Sat in Your Lap

Two of my favorite types of movies are westerns and sci-fi.  The two subjects are pretty disparate. Although, truth be told, a lot of sci-fi movies are just westerns set in an alien world.  (Star Wars, for instance could be a western if you substitute horses for the spaceships and a wooden fortress for the Death Star, in my opinion...)

But pitting aliens against a background of the old west is something that is pretty rare.  Howard Waldrop, a sci-fi author, once wrote a parody of War of the Worlds as experienced in an old west setting, but it usually is not something that would mesh.

Cowboys and Aliens started out life, as you would expect, as a comic book.  The graphic novel, created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, made its way into the comic book stores in 2006.  But its genesis began 10 years earlier when Rosenberg pitched the idea to Universal Pictures.   They bought the rights to the idea, but it bounced around for years.  By 2004, Columbia Pictures had acquired the rights but it was still going nowhere.

So Rosenber published the idea as a graphic novel.  That apparently was the needed factor.  Now, with a concept that was visually on paper, Universal once again acquired the rights and it was put into the process of bringing it to the big screen.  It took another 5 years to get it done, but we finally got a concept that was unique to Hollywood.

Cowboys and Aliens is actually two movies welded into one.  You could take out the aliens and still have a pretty decent western.  And you could transfer the western setting to a modern setting and have a damn good alien invasion film.  But together, the concept makes for a pretty entertaining mash-up of the two genres.

Cowboys and Aliens (2011):

A cowboy (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert.  He has no idea of where he is, how he got there, or what this peculiar bracelet is that is attached to his arm.  He also has an odd wound on his stomach.  He stumbles into the town of Absolution where the local preacher, Meacham (Clancy Brown) performs some rudimentary work on his wound.

Meanwhile, Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the malcontent son of a local cattle baron, Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), roughs up the town and shoots one of the deputies.

Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) arrests him and prepares to ship him off to the county seat for trial.  In the process he recognizes the stranger as Jake Lonergan, a wanted man, who has also coincidentally robbed Col. Dolarhyde of some gold.

But before the stage can take off, aliens invade the town and take some of its citizens hostage.  The true nature of the bracelet that Jake has on his arm comes to the fore as he uses it to take out one of the alien ships.

But Jake still has no idea how he got the bracelet or what its nature is.  With some misgivings at being roped into a posse to chase down the aliens he joins forces with Dolarhyde and Taggart.  Dolarhyde's main focus is to rescue his son who was one of the captives, but the rest of the posse has a goal to save members of the town, some of whom where related to the posse members.  (One of them is the wife of the town's saloon operator/doctor).

In the process, more of Jake's background is revealed.  It seems he ditched the rest of his gang and took off with all the gold from a robbery.  But when he and his wife were in their cabin, the aliens came by.  They are not just interested in captives, they are also trying to harvest the Earth's gold (for which purpose is never really fully explained).  Jake's wife was killed during an experiment on the alien ship, but Jake managed to escape, with the strange bracelet attached to his arm.

Much of the story comes to the fore when Ella (Olivia Wilde), a woman with a strange past reveals she knows quite a bit more about the aliens than any Earthling should know.  Of course, the reason she turns out to know all of this is because she herself is not really an Earthling, but an alien from another world that our enemy aliens ravaged.

That's enough to get you involved in the story.  Its a typical shoot-em-up western, but the added twist of aliens makes it pretty intriguing.

Time to fire up the engines on this Plymouth. Drive home safely folks.



  1. I found this movie pretty entertaining, and I probably should watch it again just to see if I like it better on the second viewing. I did love getting to see Ford and Craig in cowboy hats :-D


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