PREVIEW: Cowboys & Aliens (2011) – Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig

Cowboys & Aliens, the only Western on the major release calendar at this stage, has generated a lot of internet buzz. Based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel of the same name, it promises to combine gritty Western action with a spectacular science fiction extravaganza.

In 1873 Arizona, a man wakes up in the desert with no memory of his life or identity, and a strange shackle around his wrist. When he enters the town, he is arrested, and learns that he is an infamous criminal known as Jake Lonergan. However, when aliens attack the town, he finds that the mysterious shackle is a futuristic weapon capable of shooting down the aliens’ ships.

But will it be any good?

Director Jon Favreau certainly has his merit badges for action, special effects and comic book adaptation, with the excellent Iron Man and disappointing-only-by-comparison Iron Man 2 under his belt. He has an ample USD 100 million budget to work with, and some real talent in the cast, including Daniel Craig in the lead and Harrison Ford and the underrated Olivia Wilde in support.

There is a caveat, however – Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci are also aboard. Without intending to offend fans of those two films, seeing these two writing for a film with some potentially tricky expositional challenges should ring alarm bells.

There’s potential dynamite in the concept. After all, what were the white settlers to the native American tribes, if not invading aliens with superior technology? The second trailer suggests that the filmmakers are keenly aware of this and will be working it in explicitly. However, as always in film, the winning factor is not concept but execution. Look for a review closer to release.

US release: 29 Jul 11

Australian release: 18 Aug 11

Complete list here.