Archive for July, 2011

In the opening credits for Firefly, Joss Whedon shows the spaceship Serenity swooping down low over a field of running horses, a fairly unsubtle declaration of intention.  SF-Western mashup here! Get yer cross-genre tropes!

Firefly was smart and fun, its run curtailed because nobody seemed to get it. Except, well, the audience. It was with this precedent in mind, admittedly a pretty high bar, that I anticipated Cowboys and Aliens. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was hoping, given Favreau’s light, deft touch with at least the first Iron Man movie, that it wouldn’t suck too badly.

When I saw that there were something like five writers credited with the screenplay, I started to get a bad feeling. It didn’t go away until about 100 minutes later when I was sliding my parking receipt into the little validation machine in the theater lobby.

So what’s wrong with this movie?

The aliens have goofy little hands coming out of their stomachs. The first time we saw this, about half the theater audience laughed out loud. Not good for a scene that’s supposed to be harrowing.

The aliens are here on Earth for … gold. Seriously. A starfaring civilization and they have to plunder a proto-industrial world full of dumb, hairless mammals for gold. I liked it a lot better when aliens wanted our women.

I like Daniel Craig. I don’t really care that he studied at the Chuck Norris School for Facial Expression. He was a good Bond (neither shaken nor stirred!). He was off the charts great in a little British crime film called Layer Cake. In this film, like his character, he didn’t seem to know where or who he was most of the time.

There’s a dog, but he is never really at risk. This is a huge missed opportunity, a Chekhovian gun-on-the-wall.   Cliche capital hoarded and never spent.

Indians give Daniel Craig peyote so he can remember stuff. Dude, where did I park that spaceship?

And oh yeah, Harrison Ford! Man, I keep forgetting he was in this!

The theme underlying the bizarre, inexplicable character transformations that riddle this listless piece of dreck, articulated by a dying priest, is “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. Just what you do now.” I wish Favreau had read that part of the script.

Tropes, used well, encode narrative. This is the humming engine of genre. When this is forgotten, or never really understood in the first place, you’ve got – at best – eye candy. As eye candy goes, C&A is only fair. By any other standard, it’s a huge FWT and a massive fail as either Western, sf, or mashup. Stay home. Spend the money on a DVD box set of Firefly.

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Authors: Vylar Kaftan, Dan Marcus, Tim Pratt, and Rachel Swirsky.  Join us for an awesome fund-raising reading for Clarion West!  Clarion West is an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy, held annually in Seattle, Washington.  As Clarion West is a non-profit, it relies on donations from members of the writing community and other supporters.  All of the readers appearing at Borderlands are either Clarion West or Clarion alumni; Vy Kaftan was just nominated for a Nebula Award, and Rachel Swirsky just won one!  If you are interested in learning more about Clarion West, want to support working writers in your community, or just want to check out some exceptional readers, this is the place to be!   866 Valencia

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