Director Jon Favreau Talks the Tone and Style of 'Cowboys & Aliens'
by Ethan Anderton
February 7, 2011
Along with the footage shown at Comic-Con, audiences have already been privy to an official teaser trailer and yesterday's 30-second Super Bowl spot for this summer's genre mash-up Cowboys & Aliens. Though the film is based on a comic book, Universal and director Jon Favreau know they have a lot of work to do in order to make audiences well aware of this epic sci-fi western. Recently, Favreau sat down with EW to dissect the Super Bowl spot, but more importantly, he talked about the tone and style of the film. Amongst many of the challenges, is convincing people this is not just a spoof or comedy. This is some serious shit!
If the trailers haven't already proven this, Cowboys & Aliens is very much an action-adventure, and while there's fun to be had, Favreau wants everyone to know that this is not going to be a comedy by any means:
"I think people's first response on hearing the title, which is a play on words, is that it's going to be a comedy. They've been disappointed in the past when people have played with the Western genre, and not stuck to what's bad-ass about it. When they throw that out the window, and play a pastiche of it, they don't feel like they're getting what they want. What you want is the grizzled warrior on the parched plains, and you want to see this iconic figure, who almost magically emerges from the mirage of the horizon."
"There's a level of fun, but that doesn't mean we have to wink. The characters aren't having fun, but the audience is. We wanted to maintain the integrity of both genres, and focus on a specific aspect of the alien genre which mostly revolves around the films of the '80s that I grew up with, and I'm lucky enough to be working with Spielberg [as an executive producer], who was the author of many of the films we're using as inspiration. And sometimes it's fun to play things as thriller, sometimes verging on horror, like 'Alien' or 'Aliens.' We wanted to maintain that gravity."
Favreau also says the film, especially some of the action in it, has echoes of other classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark or John Ford's Stagecoach from 1939. This level of exciting action and adventure is exactly the reason Favreau brought in actors like Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford to carry the film. He explains:
That's the archetype we're going for. That's what Daniel Craig was able to completely capture. People know him from Bond and he brings a certain virtuosity to his action performance. Then you have Harrison Ford, and just like if you would cast John Wayne in a Western, you're bringing this whole sense of history. We're bringing these two forces together and putting them at odds.
In bringing these two forces together, there was also a bit of a flip on the usual advantages that gun-toting cowboys would normally have in a battle over Native Americans. The story basically turns all the settled cowboys into the natives, and the aliens into the aggressive and invading Europeans. Favreau elaborates:
It's always the low-tech culture that feels powerless when faced with an enemy that has technology on their side. And of course the culture with technology on their side feels like it's manifest destiny: They've been granted this gift by the divine and intend to use it. So yes, it is a bit of a flip, because the cowboys find themselves as the low-tech culture. And what's also fun is it allows the cowboys and Native Americans to come together, which would be impossible had there not been a greater common enemy. It sets the Western up in a very classic way and then turns it on its ear.
So we know what Favreau is already know the story that Favreau is trying to tell, and how he's going about telling it, but what is the director holding back from being thrown into the marketing machine for now?
We haven't shown any of the aliens. We want to hold that back. And all the images we're showing are from the beginning, up to the first half of the film. We're not showing a lot of where it goes. The first teaser was showing the opening of the film and a little of the setup. This one is showing more of the sense of adventure as things unfold. We're just trying to get people's feet wet.
I don't know about everyone else, but I'm pretty much ready to do a cannonball into the summer so I can see Cowboys & Aliens as soon as possible. Of course, I'm glad that Favreau has decided not to have a trailer that shows anything from the second half of the film (so far, at least). Nowadays way too many trailers spoil key moments later in the movie. If you want to hear more from Favreau, specifically about the Super Bowl spot and many of its key moments, check out EW's full interview or also head over to Hero Complex as well.
This is definitely one of my most anticipated movies coming up in the summer, and yesterday's Super Bowl spot definitely got me even more excited. Though Universal hasn't exactly been at the top of their game with their tentpole projects recently, I'm really hoping this works out. July can't get here soon enough! Agreed?
nice cant wait
A5J4DX on Nov 13, 2018
nice cant wait
A5J4DX on Nov 13, 2018
Can't wait! Its got Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and fookin' Aliens. SOLD.
Anonymous on Feb 7, 2011
I'm not familiar with the GN, but Craig is too damn sexy.
Anonymous on Feb 7, 2011
I really don't see how this could be a losing combination. This is easily my most anticipated summer flick.
Al on Feb 7, 2011
No actor wearing a hat in the world has been as terrible as Daniel Craig in the world movie history. He just looks like a dwarf... or a troll maybe? and those hears lol Such a looser face lol
sylvain from Paris on Feb 8, 2011
voodoo2 on Feb 8, 2011
To sylvain from paris: Say that to my face, you pasty french Bitch! from russia with love, Daniel Craig
daniel craig on Feb 8, 2011
He should make Angry Bird.
Anonymous on Feb 8, 2011
Gotta say that screenshots CG just looks terrible, maybe its the timing of the freezeframe but damn. Being nit-picky of course, overall this movie looks super kick-ass. Just hope Favreau learned his lesson with Ironman and learned to balance Character development and action better.
Cody W. on Feb 8, 2011
Wonder why no one here, ( especially here at Firstshowing) have not mentioned the graphic novel. I agree, this could be my most antcipated film of the year. Even the way they have shot this tale, with old school 35mm tells me it will deliver on all levels. Good job Ethan! And Cred X....do not forget Olivia!!!
RandallM on Feb 8, 2011
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