"Cowboys and Aliens" is the best thing you'll see next summer

Illustration for article titled "Cowboys and Aliens" is the best thing you'll see next summer

Probably the most exciting thing we saw at Comic-Con today was a surprise chunk of footage from Jon Favreau's scifi western, Cowboys and Aliens. It was gritty and action-packed, plus there was a showdown between Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig.


Favreau, whose previous films were Iron Man and Iron Man 2, said they've only been shooting for a month, but he wanted to prep some great footage for Comic-Con. Holy crap did he deliver. He called the movie a "by the book Western," in the vein of John Ford, which will definitely be in 2D. (Why no 3D? He just doesn't think you can shoot a Western in digital.) And he said his scifi influences include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, and Predator. "We wanted it to look like practical effects, with minimal CGI," he added. And it really worked.

We saw several interlinked scenes that introduce our main characters.

The first clip opens with Zeke Johnson (Daniel Craig) riding his horse into a tiny old west town, accompanied by a scruffy dog. He looks wary, and his face is covered in grime. Seeing nobody around, he slips into a house and begins to clean up. Immediately, we notice that he has a bulky, steampunk-looking wristband on one arm; then he pulls aside his shirt to reveal a deep, bloody bullet wound. As he's cleaning that, the house's owner pokes a shotgun into his ear and he's forced to put his hands up.

The man says to Zeke, "Only two kinds of people get shot: Criminals and victims. Which one are you?"

"I don't know," Zeke replies.

Next time we see him, Zeke is in jail and a scruffy teenager in the next cell is spitting on him, saying, "I want to see you suffer for a long time." Finally, after a few more seconds of torment, Zeke gets up, grabs the kid by the scruff of the neck, and smashes him unconscious against the bars dividing their two cells. So Zeke is a tough character. And when the lawmen arrive, they tell him he's been charged with murder and he's being taken for a trial - chained to the snotty kid he knocked out.

The two of them have been bundled into an armored carriage when a large group of armed men ride out of the night and into town carrying torches. Their leader is Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), and he's a venomous bad guy who refuses to hear the pleas of his son, who turns out to be the snot-nosed kid who spat on Zeke.

Pointing at Zeke, Woodrow says, "That's the son of a bitch who stole my gold." He wants to snatch Zeke out of the carriage right that minute to find out where his gold is, but he's interrupted when the horizon begins to glimmer with lights. It's a very Close Encounters-esque looking UFO, which zooms toward the town, fragments into several ships which disappear, then reappear directly overhead, shooting blue lasers and blowing up the town house by house. Fires erupt from windows, people run screaming (including Sam Rockwell), and the jail carriage is knocked over. Zeke and the kid scramble out and we see Zeke's wristband has grown to cover his lower arm. It's also glowing blue. He aims it at the ships, and shoots out a beam of light that brings one down in a haze of dust and fire.


A hush falls over the town as everybody stares at the fallen ship, looking a little like a TIE fighter surrounded by mounds of displaced dirt. Woodrow is standing next to Zeke, who is still in a fighting stance, his arm outstretched. His wristband suddenly closes back up, becoming the small band we saw earlier. The two men exchange a significant glance, their faces lit by UFO fire, and the clip ended.

It was an amazing series of establishing scenes, and gave us a real taste of the film's pacing and style. And it was simply amazing - one of the most intriguing things I've seen all week at Con. I like the fact that it's Old West science fiction but not steampunk at all (except for the style of Zeke's wristband). It actually reminded me of what The Adventures of Briscoe County would have been if it were a drama: a perfect blend of cowboy justice and UFO weirdness.


Along with the rest of the crowd, I was left breathless and wondering how this would all play out. Will this be hard science fiction, or more fantastical like the Indiana Jones series? What will the aliens look like? Is Harrison Ford actually playing a bad guy? And Daniel Craig as a cowboy? Sign me the fuck up. Seriously - I predict that this film, based on a comic book by Scott Rosenberg, is going to be mindblowingly awesome when it comes out this time next year.



This post didn't even need to be this long, Annalee. You had me at "showdown between Harrison Ford & Daniel Craig!"

Either way though, thanks a bunch.