Cowboys and Aliens: the Genre-Bending Preview

Cowboys and Aliens

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by Stefan Abrutat

Combining movie genres has been a Hollywood trademark since Abbott and Costello first goosed Frankenstein. (I can’t remember if they did or not, but it’s a notion that’s certainly entertaining me, so perhaps they should’ve).

The movie industry borrowed the idea from the literary tendency to categorize fiction into different types, but I don’t think the division really applies in this more fleeting of mediums. Movies are over in a couple of hours, whereas novels stay with us for much longer. For me, if the literary genre is romance, for example, I’m about ready to eat a gun barrel during the typical female protagonist’s first agonizingly contemplative daydream about the object of her fantasy’s biceps or brawny chest. I don’t have to sit through such protracted stuff in movies, thank Christ, or you might hear about me on the evening news.

See, I’m personally of the belief that a genre shouldn’t define a particular movie. I’ve never understood when someone says they don’t like horror movies, or fantasy films, or high school flicks, or whatever. To me, a good movie is a good movie; I don’t care what genre the marketing gurus have shoe-horned it into.

Genres are a marketing tool designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of movie-goer; the kind that mindlessly inhales popcorn by the bucket and requires a picture to paw at on a drool-flecked fast food menu. These blank, grunting boneheads are the reason staggeringly bad movies like Transformers 3 get enthusiastically thrust upon us.

If a movie is well-written, beautifully shot, and superbly acted, what’s not to like? If such criteria can’t hold your attention, I strongly suspect you’re firmly entrenched in the demographic I’ve just been describing.

This latest genre mashup is Cowboys and Aliens, which carries the quadruple stamp of being helmed by the capable Jon Favreau (Ironman, Ironman 2, Elf) and produced by Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. That’s quite a bucket of talent, but I start to get nervous when I see another TWELVE producers attached, not to mention FIVE screenwriters. There’s collaboration, then there’s groupthink.

So I’m looking forward to this offering with a little more trepidation than I expected, which is probably a good thing. I think it’s actually better to underestimate a movie going in, so you’re pleasantly surprised by the event itself. And if a movie is bigger and better than its trailers (which more and more movies are doing nowadays; teasing the audience rather than aggregating the best bits into those two minutes: see the Super 8 trailers, for example) that feeling of value for money caps the movie-going experience. I’m certainly getting that teaser feeling from the Cowboys and Aliens trailers, which hints at rather more than shows there’s big things contained within. I most certainly hope so.

Cowboys and Aliens opens on July 29th.

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