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November 17, 2010

‘Cowboys & Aliens’ trailer: 3:10 to Yoda?

Posted in: Movies

Sci-fi westerns are dangerous territory for directors: Barry Sonnenfeld’s six-gun parody “Wild Wild West”  collected five Razzie Awards and Joss Whedon’s 26th century cowboy yarn “Serenity” met with tumbleweeds at the box office. But, based on the release Wednesday of his trailer for “Cowboys & Aliens,” Jon Favreau might be the white-hatted hero for the troubled mash-up genre.

Favreau has all the western essentials covered here. The trailer opens with a grimy, confused Daniel Craig waking under a bright blue Arizona sky to discover a mysterious metallic cuff on his wrist and a posse encircling  him. Craig is an amnesiac gunslinger, Olivia Wilde the town saloon-keeper and Harrison Ford a grizzled sheriff on Craig’s trail. “I want that man,” Ford hisses. “You give him to me now, or I’m gonna take him.” A stiff wind blows and, just when it seems John Wayne is about to stride through the saloon doors, the enemies arrive — in spaceships.

Harrison Ford, left, and Daniel Craig in "Cowboys & Aliens" (Universal)

The sight of Ford working some of his old Indiana Jones-style swagger may allay recent fears that the action star has lost his way professionally. And Favreau has a knack for reviving moribund careers — “Iron Man” helped give Robert Downey Jr. the kind of stardom his drug problems had always stymied.

This project has the backing of some of sci-fi’s heaviest hitters, including executive producer Steven Spielberg and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (“Star Trek“) and Damon Lindelof (“Lost“). Producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are working on another space western franchise from Stephen King‘s “Dark Tower” series.

But whether “Cowboys & Aliens” rides to box-office glory might have as much to do with next summer’s stiff competition as it will with any of the filmmakers’ creative choices. The movie is due next July, in the same busy blockbuster season bringing the second part of the “Harry Potter” finale and latest installments in the juggernaut “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers” franchises.

– Rebecca Keegan

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