Jon Favreau Shoots for Western Realism in Cowboys & Aliens
By Chris Kohler
“The title was the original thing that drew me to [the project],” Favreau said. “It was always a title (where) I thought, ‘The best version of this movie would be awesome.’”
Over the course of his career, the director says he has come to appreciate the value of a high concept.
“After Zathura, having a title that people couldn’t really pronounce and a movie that never bit in from a marketing standpoint, I’ve grown to appreciate something that’s memorable,” he said. “[We've] created a box in people’s minds called Cowboys & Aliens, and now we’re filling in that box.”
Comment: So director Favreau jettisoned the idea of cowboys and Indians as equal partners against the aliens because that wasn't "awesome" enough. His version of "Western realism" is one that renders Indians almost invisible. Isn't that special?
Someone on Facebook named Lisa commented that her daughter was an extra in the movie and Favreau followed the script regarding the Apache characters, or something like that. My response:
Not sure what you mean, Lisa. My point is that the Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel was roughly half cowboys and half Indians. Favreau eliminated the major focus on Indians because that wasn't interesting enough to him.
Lisa didn't know why I was being so judgmental, and said her daughter was well paid. My response to that:
I didn't say Favreau mistreated anyone. Unless you consider the elimination of several major roles for Indians "mistreatment."
It's the middle of the night [on Facebook] and we occasionally like to discuss Hollywood's failure to feature and cast Indians. Is there some reason we shouldn't judge Hollywood when it fails?
Actor David Midthunder has a small role in Cowboys and Aliens, so I added:
I'm glad people like David Midthunder got big paychecks for small roles. I'm sorry they didn't get huge paychecks for big roles. That's what they would've gotten--an impressive amount of fame and fortune--if Favreau had filmed the original graphic novel.
The reviews are in
I gather the critics mostly like Cowboys and Aliens:
Cowboys & Aliens
Cowboys & Aliens: Film Review
Review: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Brings the Bad-Ass, But Falls Short on the Mash-Up
But they seem to confirm that the Indians play a minor role in the movie. Sounds to me like the cowboys ride out to face the aliens...some Indians surround them...and the cowboys convince them to join the battle. After that, I suspect the Indians ride, whoop, and fire ineffectually in the background while the white characters provide all the heroic drama.
Imagine if Favreau had filmed the original graphic novel. The credits would read Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Adam Beach, and xxxxx [another Indian]. The Native actors would've vaulted into superstar-dom. Just as a Native actor would've done if he'd been cast as Jacob Black in Twilight. Or as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.
With Spielberg, Favreau, Ford, and Craig, Cowboys and Aliens was always likely to be a commercial success. Featuring Indians in it wouldn't have changed that. Instead, Favreau and company basically wrote them out. They thought the "best," most "awesome" story they could tell was about whites.
That's Hollywood prejudice at work for you. White people catering to white people because white people rule.
For more on Cowboys and Aliens, see Cowboys and Aliens Is No Joke and Noah Ringer = American Indian?!