Western Movies for 2011–Old, New and Alien

Which TV westerns would you like to see made into movies?  There’s one in the works that I just found out about. I saved that info for last, because this blog started out on movie westerns for 2011, a mix of cross-genre and traditional approaches that says a lot about the changes in our culture.

To me, the most interesting mash-up is Cowboy’s and Aliens, maybe because my husband is a big Sci-Fi fan.  The bigger the monster, the better.  You can’t have too many giant ants crawling toward your hometown. Neither can you have too many zombies threatening to take over every person on Planet Earth.  I thought of him when I was googling stuff for a recent blog. A movie poster came up for Cowboys and Aliens.  I thought it was hilarious.  Surely someone was joking . . .

Nope.

The movie comes out in July 2011 and it stars Daniel Craig, my favorite James Bond by far. It also stars Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford, who is forever etched in my mind as Han Solo, space cowboy extraordinaire. The idea originated as a 2006 graphic novel. Created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Voley, Cowboys and Aliens mixes the western and science fiction genres.          

 Here’s the write up from IMDB:  “A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.” I love this!  My husband won’t be able to resist the alien spaceship, and I’m on board with the cowboys.

Cowboys and Aliens isn’t the only cross-genre western to be in the movie theaters.  Has anyone seen Rango?  It’s out now, and I confess I haven’t seen it. Johnny Depp is the voice of Rango, a chameleon who ends up in the town of Dirt.  There he meets a community of desert creatures in need of a sheriff. The story is full of classic western-isms.  A bank gets robbed. Someone cuts off the water to the town.  A grizzled old cowboy gives Rango much needed advice and wisdom. And, for course, there’s a duel.

Rango is a western . . . it’s also a cartoon and an alternative reality story.  What an interesting mix!

I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to western movies.  True Grit (both the old and the new) is more my style, but I’m excited about these cross-genre movies. Not only are they crossing lines in terms of “story,” they’re crossing into places where westerns will find new  fans.  Both movies will have video games, and Rango is bound to make a splash with children.

It all bodes well for the western genre.  But I’m most curious to see is what it does to western traditions.  I can’t help but think of Gene Autry’s “Cowboy’s Code.”  I hope the new movies reflect those values, because that’s what makes the western genre great.

I just did some more googling and found something else.  It looks like The Big Valley is coming to the big screen with a story about Heath, the Barkley son played by Lee Majors. Filming is on hiatus, but it’s supposed to be finished this year. With Lee Majors (as Tom Barkley, the father) and  Aidan Quinn (not as Heath, but he’s the lead), I’m all for it!

 Has anyone seen Rango?  Who else is eager to see Cowboys and Aliens? Any thoughts on The Big Valley?  All this movie talk, and now I’m in the mood for popcorn!

Victoria Bylin
Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

20 Comments

  1. Hi Victoria, they really are turning the western upside-down. I didn’t know about Big Valley–wow!
    I saw Rango and have mixed feelings. I appreciate the originality and animated details. A western spoof with a little bit of Chinatown thrown in,it’s more for adults than children. The characters are pretty weird and I’m more of a cuddly type. For me the movie lacked heart–but don’t go by me; it got terrific reviews.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  2. Cowboys and Aliens sounds like it will be a fun movie. I will definately see that one.
    I would like to see ‘Rawhide’ made into a movie. Although, I can’t imagine anyone looking as good as a young Clint Eastwood did in it…but I am open to someone trying. 🙂

  3. Hi Margaret! I’m looking forward to seeing Rango when it shows up on “On Demand.” At the very least, it’s research, but it does sound kind of strange. I loved “Toy Story III,” and that movie had a an edge. The giant baby was terrifying 🙂 The Rango mash-up is quite a mix.

  4. Howdy, Tammy! Rawhide would be awesome. I’ve been mulling this question over and can’t decide. Bonanza is iconic… I can’t imagine it, but I felt that way about True Grit and loved the updated version.

  5. Saw Rango and loved it Vicki. Laughed my head off. But I agree with Margaret that the humor is more for adults than for kids. The takes on classic movies are hilarious, something youngsters wouldn’t get at all. Johnny Depp is brilliant, and I enjoyed the sound track so much that I now own it.
    Not for everyone maybe. I’ve heard a range of opinions but now you have mine.

  6. Victoria – You and your husband sound just like me and mine. I’m all about westerns and period pieces as he’s all about action and sci-fi. When I first saw the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens, I was thrilled! A movie to give us both what we want. I hope it lives up to our expectations.

    I loved The Big Valley. I’ll be interested to see how that one comes out. I’m excited to see hints of the western genre coming back to films. Thanks!

  7. Hi Vicki,
    My daughter saw Rango and loved it (she’s 24) and said, “MOM, you and I have to go see that!” She thought it was more for adults than kids, too. I am sooooo with you on Daniel Craig–he’s my favorite James Bond, too, and I thought no one would ever replace Sean Connery for that #1 spot in my heart! But Daniel did it, and quite easily. LOL I am anxious to see Cowboys and Aliens. I think it looks great–hope we aren’t disappointed. Oh, yes–Rawhide would be GREAT made into a movie. The other one I would love to see in movie form is that old series, LANCER–it was only on for 2 seasons, but had 2 very hot guys in it, James Stacy and Wayne Maunder. Great post, Vicki–I haven’t been to a movie in quite a while.
    Cheryl P.

  8. Good morning, Elizabeth! I love movies that are layered, where there’s something for kids and a more sophisticated angle for adults. Sounds like Rango fills the bill. I often play music while I write. Movie soundtracks are at the top of the list. I’ll check it out!

  9. Hi Karen! I read about the movie a year ago and couldn’t quite believe it. Now I’m sold. It’s got a great cast for sure. My husband and I are polar opposties re: movies, so we take turns picking. I still haven’t see the new Jane Eyre. It’s his pick, and I’m betting he’ll go for the action flick that’s out… Los Angeles 2012? Something like that…

  10. Hi Cheryl, Lancer would be awesome. I loved that series. “Brother” stories almost always appeal to me. To make it modern, we could have the brothers be vampires 🙂 Just kidding . . . or maybe not!

  11. Vicki, I’ll probably watch Cowboys and Aliens even though it’s a weird combination. I like the actors who are in it and that’s why I’ll pay to see it. I heard about this movie last year and know they filmed it in New Mexico. I hope I don’t waste my money. We’ll see I guess. And I haven’t seen Rango yet either. I hear it’s a really good movie with lots of humor.

    They could make almost any TV western into a movie and I’ll go see it. I have so many favorites from the 50’s through the 70’s. Do you by chance remember Desperado? It was a TV movie series that only brought a new episode out maybe twice a year. I think Alex McArthur played the lead role. I’d love to see that made into a big screen movie.

  12. When I first saw the trailer for COWBOYS AND ALIENS I couldn’t believe it. I must have replayed it several times, trying to decide if they were serious. My husbands reaction was kind of the same. I am looking forward to watching it, out of curiosity if nothing else. They certainly got big names on board for it. In a way, it reminds me a bit of INDEPENDENCE DAY. In its own way, that had a touch of the cowboy in it.
    My daughter and her sons are looking forward to RANGO. I think they have hit every animated film that has come out lately.
    We were never BIG VALLEY fans. Not sure why, we just never watched it. I would certainly like to see more westerns produced for both the movies and TV. Maybe these movies as well as the release of the new TRUE GRIT will spark something.

  13. Hi Linda, I saw Desperado. Loved Alex McArthur! He had the dark-edged cowboy look down pat. It shows up on CMT every once in a while.

  14. Hi Patricia, My husband jokes about “Space Cowboy” movies. The description fits Independence Day and the Star Wars franchise. Han Solo was a favorite of mine 🙂

  15. I too want to see Cowboys and Aliens and what a great cast! I have found that many books are now a mixture of genres and I’m loving it. I enjoy variety and I’m all for mixing it up!

  16. Hi catslady! Mixing subgenres sure leads to some interesting mixes. Can’t wait for this particular movie!

  17. Oh, Big Valley sounds fun! I’ll probably see the others too.

  18. Hi Jennie, It’s fun when movies bring back the original actors, the way Big Valley is bringing back Lee Majors. Only one problem . . . it makes me feel old!

  19. Hi Vicki, awesome blog. I too love the new twists on the traditional Western. My son and dil took their four-year old to Rango–it was all he’d talked about for weeks–but it was way too dark for him. They had to leave. As for me, I heard about C & A quite a while ago and cannot wait. It’s a John Favreau film and I totally love him.

    As for B.V., I loved that show! All the brothers were hotties in their way (remember Eugene who lasted one season then vanished LOL.) Audra’s skintight trousers didn’t quite match the style LOL of the times…my folks always said Victoria should have married Ben Cartright.

    I’ll enjoy this movie as well. oxoxoxox

  20. Hi Tanya, I’m with your grandson! Even the posters for Rango looked spooky. I’d hate to find *that* in my closet!

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