Cowboys & Aliens: A Match Made In Heaven
As seemingly incongruous as sci-fi and cowboys appear to be on the surface, Favreau feels that these worlds, in many ways, make an ideal match. As far as the characters and relationships are concerned, there is a notable parallel between the Cowboys & Indians stories of the past - in which a culture of greater technological force enters the realm of an established culture that has less advanced technological capabilities - and the alien-invasion films we now flock to see. Though in this case, as in most modern alien invasion stories, the populace in the weakened technological position are the heroes of the tale. As to how the characters in this film will surmount this unknown and seemingly unconquerable enemy, Favreau says:
That's the trick. And the trick is to do it in a way that's plausible, so that you believe each chess move. Face yourself with such insurmountable odds that people are like 'oh, there's no way,' place the bar that high and then cross over it it. So we create the rules and then we find ways to solve the puzzle, and that's the fun part about what we're doing now. It's really earning our intelligent audience, making sure they're on board, not just people who want to watch stuff blow up....If you want to watch stuff blow up – there's plenty of that – we got it. It get's bigger every step of the way.
The director sees an additional connection between the two genres in that, "A lot of alien movies and Westerns are death metaphors, “Cocoon” coming to terms with moving on to the next world.“The Seven Samurai” (“The Magnificent Seven”) drifting through this purgatory of a town, setting things right and moving on, a little microcosm of life. You know, what are you going to do in this life? What do you stand for? What markers are you leaving here?" Though he takes the time to explore these ideas, Favreau does emphasizes that Cowboys & Aliens is a smart popcorn film, rather than a studied intellectual exercise saying, "For us, as filmmakers, we have to think on that level and then hopefully we just make an entertaining movie that people will go see."
He references the character work, pacing and subtlety of the science-fiction films of the '80s as a template for the alien aspect of the film (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and even Jaws with a look at the shark as an alien, in particular) and takes a less-is-more approach to the development of the psychological horror. As to the Cowboy portion of the equation, the director sources many of the classic Westerns (with some emphasis on the films of John Ford) for the tone and scope of the story, so that it becomes about, "Finding common ground and the intersection of the two genres; and if you do it right, it honors both, and it becomes interesting and clever and a reinvention of two things that people understand the conventions of – instead of just a retread, a remake, a reboot or a sequel of a film you've seen before."
Cowboys & Aliens comes to theaters July 29th, 2011.