If film titles were indicators of quality, then such utter non-classics as Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Snakes on a Plane and the quite magnificently overwrought A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell would be members of the cinematic canon. And so would Jon Favreau’s next film, Cowboys vs. Aliens: it possesses a title any 1950s B-movie shlock would be proud to call its own.
But B-movie this most certainly is not. Favreau is joined behind the camera by a team of producers including Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. The Iron Man director (and star of the brilliant 90s bromance-comedy Swingers) has put together a list of talent which most Hollywood directors would bite their arm off to assemble, and is putting them all in 1870s Arizona during the waning years of the Old West. Based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel of the same name, the plot is as mad as a march hare but the people involved have a seriously impressive pedigree.
Daniel Craig is the centrepiece, starring as amnesiac outlaw Jake Lonergan, who wakes up with a futuristic shackle around his wrist and no idea who he is. Stumbling into the local town of Absolution, he quickly learns that he’s a wanted criminal being pursued by Harrison Ford’s Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, but greater problems await them both. The threat? An alien invasion, and one which Lonergan’s mysterious armwear holds the key to repelling. The townsfolk, many of whom are not exactly fans of Lonergan, must group together and repel this foreign attack: a bizarre combination of Zulu and Aliens, if you will.
Also featuring Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano and Tron: Legacy leading lady Olivia Wilde, there’s strength in depth on screen, but what remains to be seen is how this movie is going to work from a narrative perspective. From its fairly explanatory title, it would appear that Cowboys & Aliens is set to be a throwback exploitation piece, its tongue firmly in its cheek, but the trailers to this point belie these early expectations: the film looks more bruising than amusing.
It’s not due for release until July (in North America) and August of this year, but due to the fantastic title and long list of wonderful contributors, big things are expected from Favreau’s next feature. Regardless of how Favreau and company play it, Cowboys & Aliens looks like one of the most entertainingly preposterous movie concepts in some time, and one which is sure not to want for entertainment value.