A very silly point about movies

How the western got lost: why the genre needs to innovate to survive

To a great extent the genre did innovate. What the hell is Star Wars other than a Western moved around a bit in time?

The error perhaps is in thinking that westerns are about the west when all that is is the backdrop. The tales are heroes and villains and that’s just moved on to a different scenery setting for the same old human tales.

14 comments on “A very silly point about movies

  1. Is Star Wars a Western tho? It’s basically a homage to Flash Gordon with a dollop of Eastern mysticism thrown in, because mysterious Oriental wisdom was cool in the 70’s. (Mercifully, Lucas didn’t include Jedi karate until the hilarious Yoda-Dooku fight in the prequels)

    Was Flash Gordon a Western then? I wouldn’t think so. I reckon planetary romance as a genre is more of a spiritual successor to Arthurian legend.

    Sci Fi can definitely be Western though. My favourite was Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

  2. I have never understood why we have an entire cinematic genre devoted to a relatively unimportant period of of world history.

    The creation of the United States postal service is more historically important than stories of a bunch of idiots shooting each other with implausible levels of accuracy.

  3. At risk of revealing my excessive sci-fi geekery, the fabled (cancelled too soon, which is often good for a series’ reputation) Firefly was so blatantly a post-Civil War Western, with spaceships replacing wagon trains… (SS2 beat me to it while I was typing, damn him)

    Like Tim I’m not sure the genre is dead – it’s just resting with the stories exploring multiple outlets. It’s a good one for isolation and lawlessness – “We’re a week’s ride – I mean, hyperdrive – from law here, stranger.” It’s a good genre for the little guy being oppressed by Big Money.

    Are the Mad Max movies Westerns, for instance? They certainly could be remade explicitly to be such…

    And, for instance, we’ve had series like Deadwood (well played in general, but Ian McShane was outstanding – and it reflected the misery and mud of the times…), the surprisingly good remake of “3:10 to Yuma”… the Western itself may be less explored but good ones still emerge.

    Going back further… one forgotten, overlooked gem is a Peter Hyams film starring Sean Connery, from 1980 or so: “Outland” took “High Noon” and set it on a mining station on a moon of Jupiter. Remarkably well done, I thought, as it ramped up the tension as the hired killers coming to murder the Marshall were due to arrive on the weekly steam train – I mean shuttlecraft – and the mine crew averted their eyes and left Connery to his fate.

    Another, older, overlooked piece is “Last Man Standing”, which took “A Fistful of Dollars” (itself a remake of “Yojimbo”) and relocated it to the US-Mexican border during Prohibition/Depression – classic Western except they had cars and Thompsons, rather than horses and Winchesters, and early evidence that Bruce Willis could do more than comedy.

    More recently, we’ve had Tarantino give us the opening act of “Inglorious Basterds” (a pure and lovely homage to Sergio Leone, as the Bad Guy and his entourage approach the remote farm…) followed by “Django” and “The Hateful Eight”, and the Magnificent Seven remake is meant to be quite good (it’s still expensive on Amazon Prime last time I looked, evidently it’s popular enough that they’re milking it).

    Indeed, for a final digression and confirmation of Tim’s point, look at how Kurosawa’s filming a folk tale of brave men standing against criminals (The Seven Samurai) morphed from the pre-Tokugawa anarchy, to the Wild West (The Magnificent Seven) to deep space (Battle Beyond the Stars) to the back garden (A Bug’s Life)…

  4. I’ve always been puzzled by people who say they “don’t like sci-fi”.

    Most sci-fi is just a story set in the future.

    It’s like saying, “I don’t like films set in the past”.

    I’d have thought it depends on the story.

    I like a lot of sci-fi films. But Silent Running (which Kermode keeps banging on about as brilliant) is actually maudlin environmentalist shyte.

    Dark Star, made a couple of years later and for about a 1/10 of the budget is much better and features an existentialist discussion with a nuclear bomb.

  5. Jason Lynch – Battle Beyond the Stars

    Ha! So I’m not the only one who remembers John Boy Walton starring in a cheapo Star Wars knockoff. It was one of those C-movies that used to get sporadically shown as Saturday afternoon filler in the 80’s.

    AndrewC – Silent Running (which Kermode keeps banging on about as brilliant) is actually maudlin environmentalist shyte.

    Kermode is 63% Brylcreem and 100% Twat, so of course he’d like Silent Running.

    It was absolute garbage and nothing about it worked (“you mean, plants need light??!?!”) except the robots. Bruce Dern was good at playing an unlikeable weirdo, but not so good at not making you want to reach through the television and choke the life out of his ugly, stupid, horsey face.

    Re: DARK STAR. The sentient atomic bomb proved to be the hero of the piece, although he sadly missed one of the hippies.

  6. The first time I saw Silent Running I thought it was very sad and I cried at the end. My critical faculties at the time left much to be desired; I was seven.

  7. @Tim Newman

    Or Hammett’s “The Glass Key”, according to Kurosawa himself. Either way, tricky to trace a lineage of ideas, isn’t it?

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