Author Topic: The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")  (Read 5346 times)

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Offline nacho

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Quote
Ron Moore, the man most responsible for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, is in a reimagining mood—and is reportedly in the early stages of developing a new take on the '60s western adventure The Wild, Wild West.

I loved WIld, Wild West when I was a kid (though it's unwatchable now -- especially after Brisco County stole its thunder).

A reimagining could be fun.  You have the sci-fi/fantasy thing going on (though not as over the top and horrible as the Will Smith movie).  Giving it a gritter, Deadwood flavor would be a wonderful way to go... Here's this super secret government agent operating above the law in the wild west. Give it just a slight turn of gritty realism and you can go down an interesting road (as opposed to the comic path that the movie took).

(Lost in the movie is that West's Moriarty was a maniac dwarf. Now...how would RDM handle that?)

« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 08:33:05 PM by nacho »

Offline RottingCorpse

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Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2010, 01:36:10 PM »
I'm putting on my producer/money man hat here.

Wasn't Firefly a sort of post-modern take on Wild, Wild West? They're certainly apples and oranges in many respects, but at their cores, both shows are sci-fi westerns.

I'm wondering if the audience is there for this? Firefly was nothing but quality, yet couldn't find it's audience. I wonder if even with all the sci-fi trappings, the western is still a viable genre anymore.

The flipside is that adding sci-fi elements seems a great way to keep the western relevant.

Again, though... Firefly was exceptional and barely lasted a season. (I again mention the problem of sci-fi production being cost prohibitive in the long run.)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 08:39:28 PM by RottingCorpse »

Offline nacho

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Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 01:46:50 PM »
You could argue both ways.  The sci-fi in Wild Wild West was the same as in The Avengers. It's more fantasy than sci-fi, and is hardly a major point of any story, and isn't universal to the series. Most episodes are straight up spy vs. spy stuff.  Ultimately, Wild Wild West is James Bond-inspired with some almost comic-book level supervillains.

The overt sci-fi in the movie is nothing like the show.  Same with Brisco County.

Certainly with those examples, and Firefly, I wouldn't call Wild Wild West a sci-fi western.

However... You could say that Wild Wild West is the grandfather of the sci-fi western.  It paved the way for the genre, but perhaps only in hindsight (and unintentionally).

Firefly suffered from outside influences, no? If it had been given a proper run, in the correct order, I bet it would have survived the first year.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 01:57:47 PM by nacho »

Offline RottingCorpse

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Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2010, 02:59:50 PM »
Two unrelated points before I continue:

1.) I fixed all the typos in my previous post, but I want to note that what I meant to say is "Firefly was nothing BUT quality."

2.) I just added Westworld to the top of my Netflix queue because this conversation brought it to mind. Also, I've never seen it and have been meaning to watch it for the past fifteen years. (And not to totally derail this thread, but I have the Cat People remake sitting on my DVD player as we speak. Do we have a thread or should I just post about it in the Inglourious Basterds thread?)

Carrying on . . .

I'm not sure why Firefly failed. Whedon claims the studio sabotaged it (and Dollhouse too) by giving is shitty time slots and not advertising properly. (Firefly was given the Friday night slot which pretty much kills your teenage demographic.) My understanding is that due to Buffy's success, Whedon had a great deal of creative freedom, but he pissed off the head of Fox Studios at the time (Rothman?) who got payback by all but burying Firefly. Whedon's got a reputation for being a bitch to work with.

I love the idea of a great sic-fi/fantasy western, but this seems to me a competitive response to the development of 'The Dark Tower' as a TV series. (I'd be interested in knowing if any company besides Moore's is involved in the 'Wild Wild West' reboot.)

My main point is that Westerns seem to be one of those genres that may for all intents and purposes die out. The romance with the old west isn't what it once was.  I think westerns were popular in the 40s and 50s because they were cheap to shoot. ("Let's just get some costumes and drive out to Death Valley for the day.") Now they're becoming almost an anachronism. The best comparison I can make is Vietnam movies. There was a slew of them for awhile, but now there are very few being made. Generally, people don't care anymore.

I think the idea of making "the final frontier' a western based one is awesome, but I seem to be in the minority. It's a hard sell.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 08:41:47 PM by RottingCorpse »

Offline nacho

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Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2010, 03:27:44 PM »
(2) OMG -- you've never seen Westworld?  And, of course, the ULTIMATE sci-fi western!  Accept no substitutes.

As for Cat People:  Wow... Is that worth a thread?  Watch it and decide.  I'd keep it separate since nobody appreciates the references in Inglorious Basterds, and they're muddled with The Crow, anyway.

Also remember that Firefly was aired out of order.  So what thin story-arc was there didn't make sense, nor did the carefully crafted character development.

That's what I think killed it, in combination with the time slot/advertising.

The western itself has faded, yes.  Though the themes are the same.  The "journeyman" sci-fi format -- still alive and well, thanks to BSG -- is something westerns created.  (And look at Caprica as the rancher format -- Bonanza, etc.) Sci-fi has aped westerns into the modern day (get ready for that feel with our small town cop hero in Walking Dead).

But as far as the western genre itself dying out...  I think there's still room for a last gasp.  Deadwood, as one example. Though to do it right in the modern day, you do need to combine it with something.  The sci-fi western, the Shakespearean western...

Vietnam movies are a different ball of wax.  Those represent a nation trying to heal.  Notice how claims that the 91 Gulf War (something often said by media, Bush, and others) undid the wounds of Vietnam.  There were lots of claims that the "victory" in 91 reversed our fortunes, etc.  You then see a decline in Vietnam movies.

More obviously, we've been fighting what is soon going to become a generational war since 1991. Our war movies are now focused on that war.  

American war movies, generally, have followed a pattern.  During WWII, you get propaganda movies (Shores of Tripoli, Bataan, Destination Tokyo, etc. etc).  After WWII, you get movies that focus more on personal issues (as far as the 50's and 60's could get away with) such as Attack, Iron Cross, The Caine Mutiny, Young Lions, etc.).

By the 70's, in an attempt to avoid Vietnam, WW2 films sort of reach the end of their thread. We're reduced to comedy and/or action.  Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, Kelly's Heroes, etc.

Vietnam films were being pitched in the 60's and Hollywood, famously, refused to make them and shut every project down. Until... The later 70's.  They just couldn't hold back the tide.  The healing process begins with Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now... All with a self-defensive fantastical element.  The 80's sees the boom of "authentic" Vietnam movies -- Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, etc.

The Vietnam movie era dwindles in the early 90's (Heaven on Earth the last truly passable film, 1992).  We get a brief resurgence of Spielberg history, and then we shift into our current war -- which is where we stand today. That, also, has seen movement from propaganda to defensive fantasy to social commentary.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 03:42:34 PM by nacho »

Offline nacho

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2010, 03:28:40 PM »
I split this off into a new thread...

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2010, 03:53:32 PM »
I haven't seen Deadwood, but everyone who's seen it gives it glowing reviews. Though is it still airing new episodes?

And I only saw Firefly on DVD, so I never experienced it with the episode reshuffle.

The PA movies/novel have indeed borrowed heavily from that "journeyman" tone you speak off, but I still think that's different too. There, the focus is on merely surviving. With westerns, there's always this aspect of making a way of life and protecting a way of life. (Hence their enormous popularity after WWII. I mean, Jesus, how much more overtly "We must protect the American way from the Reds, oops I mean Redskins," can you get?")

What Firefly did that was brilliant was that post-Civil War/reformation allegory. "The confederacy is dead! What am I going to do in this this new social order? Fuck it. Let's go west and make our own social order." In a way, I guess it is similar to that PA ideal, but without all the depressing death and destruction.

Maybe that's what I'm looking for: the romanticization (Is that a word?) of the old west. That idea of hope, and a new life worth fighting for. I mean, fuck isn't that what made Star Trek so great? "We're boldly going where no man has gone before. WE are the aliens, and while we come in peace, I won't hesitate to give you a Sheriff James T. Kirk ass-whuppin' if you varmints step out of line." Roddenberry got that, he understood that dream of space travel was not all that different from the dreams of the frontiersmen who settled and lived in the old west.

Man, when I think of what Firefly could have been if they'd have kept going. . .

Offline nacho

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2010, 04:18:32 PM »
Deadwood ended after three seasons.

And tell me this isn't asking to cancel a series.  The original airing order for Firefly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Firefly_episodes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Firefly_episodes#Broadcast

It's like they put them in a hat and drew randomly.

Westerns are not always about that aspect, RC!  The most popular westerns (on TV) are about outcasts fighting against the system.  Have Gun Will Travel has an anti-hero in the lead, a hired killer who only takes pity on women and children.  Maverick and Masterson are criminals.  All the drovers in Rawhide are CSA vets who can't fit in.

For every goodnik western, there's an anti-hero western.

For the films -- what would you say the true classics are?  Yes, you have your anti-communist cavalry vs. indians sub-genre, which were churned out by the truckload... But I bet you can't name a single one.  We walk away from the genre with the Eastwood collection -- a cold, calculating killer, or a vengeful ghost. 

And all those big names -- High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Searchers are the deep, dark struggles of bad men, or men tempted to be bad, or weak, or abandoned.

Think of the westerns that stand out in your mind from the era and tell me what you take away:  An anti-communist message, or a deeper social commentary?

But, yes, I also would like to see the romanticization of the west (a la Firefly).  And the Star Trek point (in addition to other "western" style sci-fi shows like both BSGs, Caprica, Buck Rogers, Lost in Space, and even Stargate to a degree) lead to a new (but related) question -- is sci-fi this generation's western?







Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2010, 05:00:08 PM »
I think sci-fi IS this generation's western. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but that makes Firefly's quick demise all the more depressing. I mean, shit, I can't recall any flaws or missteps that show made. (other than the aforementioned episode reshuffle.) If that can't work, what can?

I understand the whole Anti-hero thing. Even Mal became a guy on the run, right?

Missouri Breaks is one of my favorite westerns, which is about a train robber who falls in love with the daughter of the wrong rancher. It's totally depressing, but awesome too.

While I really want to articulate the difference between the western anti-hero and the PA anti-hero, because I think it's important (Though maybe its only important to me.), I'm having trouble. To me, it's a question of tone. Though I guess Robert Neville and Josie Wales aren't all that different. Zombies or Indians, weird mutant cult leader or corrupt sheriff, nuclear wasteland or Butte, Montana . . . it all fits the mold pretty nicely.

To me though, it has to be fun or audiences tune out, especially on TV.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 08:46:24 PM by RottingCorpse »

Offline nacho

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2010, 05:09:35 PM »
I actually hadn't drawn parallels with western anti-heroes and PA anti-heroes.

But, now -- of course!

And (as you point out with your examples) -- I don't see differences at all.  Mad Max as the reluctant gunfighter, eh? Forced to avenge his family, then unwillingly giving his services to those in need. Book of Eli is just Kung Fu all over again.

Offline nacho

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Re: Sci-fi Western Discussion
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2011, 08:32:37 PM »
Making this thread now just the generic wstern discussion. I hadn't heard of Hell on Wheels, but I grabbed the first few episodes and it's pretty awesome:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_on_Wheels_(TV_series)

It's certainly no Deadwood. But the setting is perfect... 1865, and following the mobile town that crept along the Union Pacific as it plowed across the country. The transcontinental railroad was called for by Congress in 1864 and, when the war ended, there was this four year period of absolute insanity. From the very top where land and bonds and money traded hands, down to the whores, murderers, migrant workers, and general ne'er-do-wells who worked on the construction crews and forcibly cleared out indian tribes and proper, settled towns alike. Just about everyone involved in the rush to cross the continent lived in a lawless, lunatic money-grab that makes the Gold Rush look like child's play.

Against that backdrop is a tried-and-true western trope -- the maverick Confederate unable to properly fit in. In this case, he's looking to avenge the murder of his wife by a gang of Union soldiers.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 08:36:53 PM by nacho »

Offline nacho

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Re: The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2012, 11:17:38 AM »
After reading an interview where Glen larson says he was trying to remake the Lone Ranger, except with a car instead of a horse, I'm now fully convinced that Knight Rider can go in the "sci-fi western" category.

Rewatching the titles with the western in mind makes it, of course, obvious... We open with the new lone ranger coming out of the desert, a "man with no name" intro monologue, followed by cowboy action.



Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2012, 02:43:28 PM »
I've been to the movie theater a lot lately, and keep seeing this trailer for the History Channel's first scripted miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys. I'm as excited for this as I am any other movie coming out this summer.. It premieres Memorial Day weekend, which means I have to find somebody with cable to live with for three days.


I won't mention my man crush on Kevin Costner or how much I love Dances with Wolves, Open Range, and Waterworld, because it's too embarrassing. Instead I'll direct your attention to the fact that this story is tailor made for cinema yet I can't think of any previous versions. I know there's an outdoor theatre show in Beckley, WV that tells the story, but I draw a blank on movies.

Anyway, history!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield-McCoy_feud

Offline nacho

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Re: The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2012, 08:16:58 PM »
Hatfields and McCoys!

So the opening scene is 20 miles outside of Elkins -- the Confederate retreat from Phillipi. And it's awesome. We need more sideshow Civil War shit shot on a huge budget.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2012, 08:44:48 PM by nacho »

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: The Modern Western Discussion (was "sci-fi western discussion")
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2012, 08:31:44 PM »
Ooo... I want to see...