Tarantino’s ‘Southern Western’ Django Unchained now has a trailer and it prompted at least one film writer (this one) to reach for the thesaurus. As Leonardo DiCaprio’s slimy Calvin Candie exclaims, Django “is a rambunctious sort, ain’t he?” (for the record, think ‘boisterous’ and ‘rowdy’, which certainly fits the tone of the piece).
It seems the humble Western is making a comeback. The Coen Brothers proved the genre still has healthy potential when they recruited the Dude and stormed the box-office with their grumpy and grimy remake of True Grit. Django will lose his chains and perpetrate a bit of the old ultra-violence in Tarantino’s interpretation of the genre. It’s a movie that seems to prefer a soundtrack of 70s funk in line with the filmmaker’s electric back-catalogue.
More dubious is the big-screen version of The Lone Ranger, where Johnny Depp’s Tonto will be put front and centre. It’ll arrive in cinemas next summer in a marketing storm befitting any project that comes from the Pirates of the Caribbean creative team.
Awe-inspiring stunt work and supernatural elements are on the menu, which might explain how Disney has earmarked a budget of Avatar-like proportions to the Western genre that used to be about a guy with a gun, a hat and a horse. Between the rumoured massive train wreck set pieces and the dead bird on Depp’s head in the first publicity still, there’s also plenty of material for pun-tastic headlines if the film becomes a disaster of John Carter proportions.
But things are looking good for the Western. Studio Boss will of course be keen to get a piece of the action and will no doubt be hearing pitches from other well-known directors looking to leave their own indelible marks on the Western genre.
The Studio Boss’ Marketing Chimp will lumber into the palatial studio office to read submissions to the boss:
“James Cameron wants to harness his filmmaking awesomeness to buy New Mexico and use lasers and complex scaffolding to recreate a holographic Monument Valley in a vast desert setting for a unique Western entry.
“The story will be another remake of Dances With Wolves – much like Avatar – but a lot of it will be filmed from above in fast-motion using advanced digital cameras fitted into the director’s own fleet of U-2 spy planes. Schwarzengger will star as the world-weary sheriff seeking love and a frontier adventure in this digital wilderness. The fast-motion footage will compensate for Arnie’s slower movements – it’s an age thing.
“Next up is Michael Bay. He wants to destroy the actual Monument Valley – he suggests this will make a great behind-the-scenes featurette for the DVD – and replace it with advanced alien rock monsters like that thing that Tim Allen fights in Galaxy Quest.
“In a piece of revisionist history, the rock monsters awaken after millennia of hibernation. They discover a wagonload of Winchester repeating rifles and side with the Native Americans as they take on a vicious gang of cowboys who hunt buffalo for sport and who really, really hate alien rock monsters. There’s room for a Shia LaBeouf cameo as a young gunfighter who falls in love with a girl rock.”
Studio Boss sighs. These projects sound very expensive and they seem to fall back on laser rock formations and U-2 spy planes when a real emotional core is what’s actually needed. Plus, he isn’t sure whether New Mexico is actually for sale for James Cameron’s shoot, or whether the US National Park Service would approve of the wholesale destruction of Monument Valley, regardless of Michael Bay’s artistic merit as a filmmaker and his extensive experience with enormous bangs. Are there more options?
“Terrence Malick has a suggestion as a tonal companion piece to Tree of Life,” the Marketing Chimp offers: “He plans a lengthy and thought-provoking piece of visual poetry that explores a cowboy, his hat and his horse through extreme close-ups only. A haunting voiceover will reveal the cowboy’s internal reflections on his past misdeeds, before he draws a breath to actually speak. Then it suddenly cuts to black.”
Well, Malick has never cared too much about appealing to a mainstream audience. Can Marketing Chimp help Studio Boss decide? He pulls a banana from his desk drawer for his simian servant, who replies: “Let’s give Jim Cameron a call. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to make a movie from the cockpit of a high-altitude covert surveillance aircraft.”
Studio Boss smiles: “So have I, Marketing Chimp; so have I.”