If you think Universal's sci-fi/western mashup film Cowboys & Aliens had a silly title, you're probably not going to think any better of of the studio's upcoming project - an adaptation of the graphic novel Cowboy Ninja Viking.
Although the title may seem ridiculous, the project is being developed for the screen by some considerable talent. The script is apparently being handled by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, the minds behind Zombieland, G.I. Joe 2 and the highly-anticipated Deadpool movie - while directing duties are going to acclaimed director Marc Forester, best known for award-courting films like Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland, as well as blockbusters like the little-loved James Bond film, Quantum of Solace and the much-debated upcoming adaptation of Max Brooks' World War Z.
Cowboy Ninja Viking was released by Image Comics' Shadowline imprint back in 2009. It was written by A.J. Lieberman, drawn by Riley Rossmo (Proof), and contains a mix of superhero action, espionage and psychodrama, as detailed in the following Wikipedia synopsis:
The series revolves around a counter-intelligence unit of Multiple Personality Disorder patients, formed by psychotherapist Dr. Sebastian Ghislain, who are transformed into agents known as Triplets (referring to the three different personalities inside their minds). After the unit falls apart, its various members are turned into hired killers. Duncan, a Triplet who channels the skills of a Cowboy, Ninja, and Viking, is sent to find and stop the rogue Triplets.
So, kind of like The United States of Tara meets...many of the espionage/revenge thrillers that you've either read or seen onscreen before.
Even with a more grounded explanation of that wonky title, this is a film that will almost certainly hinge on the lead actor's ability to convincingly portray a warrior with the eponymous (and anachronistic) skill sets and personalities. There is certainly a lot of room for Reese and Wernick to have some fun with the premise - and if word about their Deadpool script is to be believed, they definitely know how to mix action, violence, tongue-in-cheek humor and an off-beat tone into an overall enjoyable cinematic experience.
Cowboy Ninja Viking was originally set up at Disney, but was released into Universal's hands after the script by Reese and Wernick was deemed unsuitable for the Mouse House's family-friendly standards. A similar fate recently befell TRON Legacy director Joseph Kosinki's new Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi project, Oblivion, which is also now setup at Universal.
To be honest, having films like Cowboy Ninja Viking and Oblivion housed at a studio unafraid of realizing darker and edgier visions seems like a better bet than having the films neutered and/or diluted to appeal to a family crowd. That latter approach has somewhat failed to generate much buzz for Disney's upcoming sci-fi blockbuster John Carter, which was toned-down from the bizarre and sometimes risque source novels by famous sci-fi writer Edger Rice Burroughs.
Right now, the ball is just getting rolling on Cowboy Ninja Viking. We'll keep you updated on the status of the project as more news develops.