Many Davis residents, upon learning of the new sci-fi Western that opened last week, speculated that movie producers had been smoking something, perhaps some of California’s medical marijuana. Yes, they were picturing a bunch of young men toking up, eating cheetos, and saying to themselves, “let’s pitch a movie about cowboys . . . cowboys and ALIENS!”
Those are not, however, the Davis residents who hang out at Bizarro World comics, who know that the producers were in fact merely pitching an adaptation of a graphic novel. (Whether the graphic novel author was smoking something is a different question.)
This new summer blockbuster, fun though it is, it not to be dismissed so quickly. Although it’s predictable (only because there’s no such thing as an un-predictable Western), it is decently written, directed, and acted. It’s fun to watch Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) battle it out against both James Bond (Daniel Craig) and aliens, all while keeping his hat on. Although the aliens are uniformly “othered” enough to wipe out without remorse (in the way that cowboys used to do with natives), they are given a motivation that can give the audience pause.
It is also notable that this film actually teams the “cowboys” (few of whom are–it just means “white” here) with natives–they are all settlers defending the land from colonizers. (It is best not to remember at the end of the film that only half of the victors will truly win the day.)
I was also struck by the film trope of the man with no memory. Daniel Craig’s character wakes with no memory of who he is, as so many heroes do. Does this happen in real life? It must, but I think it’s a lot more rare than movies would have us believe. There’s a narrative reason why we like this construction–we, as the audience, get to learn with our hero about himself. We don’t know any more than he does, which creates a puzzle for us all to figure out. And figure we will, with a little peyote.
In short, this film has a lot more going on that you think, but if you don’t want to think, you can just watch Daniel Craig punch people. That’s fun too!