Cowboys Aliens 2011
Cowboys & Aliens is a 2011 American science fiction Western action film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, and Noah Ringer. The film is based on the 2006 Platinum Studios graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The plot revolves around an amnesiac outlaw (Craig), a wealthy cattleman (Ford), and a mysterious traveler (Wilde) who must ally to save a group of townspeople abducted by aliens. The screenplay was written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby, based on a screen story by the latter two along with Steve Oedekerk. The film was produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Kurtzman, Orci, and Rosenberg, with Steven Spielberg and Favreau serving as executive producers.
Cowboys Aliens 2011
The project began development in April 1997, when Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures bought film rights to a concept pitched by Rosenberg which he described as a graphic novel in development. After the graphic novel was published in 2006, development on the film was begun again, and Favreau signed on as director in September 2009. On a budget of $163 million, filming for Cowboys & Aliens began in June 2010, in New Mexico and California. Despite studio pressure to release the film in 3-D, Favreau chose to film traditionally and in anamorphic format (widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film) to further a "classic movie feel". Measures were taken to maintain a serious Western element despite the film's "inherently comic" title and premise. The film's aliens were designed to be "cool and captivating", with some details, such as a fungus that grows on their wounds, created to depict the creatures as frontiersmen facing adversity in an unfamiliar place.
Cowboys & Aliens premiered at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International and was released theatrically in the United States by Universal Pictures on July 29. The film was a financial success. Taking $174.8 million in box office receipts on a $163 million budget. Cowboys & Aliens received mixed reviews, with critics generally praising its acting and special effects, but criticizing the screenplay and tone.
Dolarhyde, Ella, and other townsfolk form a posse to track an injured alien that escaped from the downed ship. Meanwhile, Jake travels to an abandoned cabin and, in a flashback, recalls returning to it with stolen gold and then being abducted, along with a woman named Alice, by the aliens. His memories returning, Jake joins the posse. During the evening, they come upon a capsized paddle wheel steamboat that the aliens apparently dumped far from any large river. They camp inside it; during the night, the alien kills Meacham, who sacrifices himself to save Emmett, Taggart's grandson.
By morning, most of the posse has deserted, and Jake's former gang attacks the rest. Jake, who stole the gang's loot after their last heist, attempts to retake control but is foiled. The aliens attack again and abduct Ella. Jake jumps aboard the ship and attacks the alien pilot, causing the ship to crash in a river. The pilot survives the crash and attacks Ella, fatally wounding her, before Jake kills it with his wrist-blaster.
She also claims Jake holds the secret to the aliens' whereabouts and argues that they must defeat the aliens before the invaders exterminate all life on Earth. After taking medicine offered by the Apaches' medicine man, Jake's memory returns. He recalls watching Alice get vivisected and euthanized; he escaped by stealing the bracelet encasing his wrist. He also remembers the location of the aliens' base of operations: their landed mother ship.
With this knowledge, they plan to attack the alien base. Jake leaves to persuade his old gang to join the fight while Dolarhyde takes command of the original group and the Apaches. After the combined groups maneuver the aliens into a ground battle, Jake and Ella board the ship and free the captives, but Jake is captured. Dolarhyde rescues him, and both men escape from the ship after killing the alien responsible for Alice's death (identified as Jake left a distinctive scar on its eye in his original escape). The ship takes off as the remaining aliens flee Earth, but Ella stays on board to end the threat: she sacrifices herself by entering the ship's core and turning Jake's wrist weapon into a bomb; it detonates, obliterating the ship.
With the aliens gone, the rescued townsfolk begin remembering their pasts. Still a wanted man, Jake chooses to leave; the sheriff and Dolarhyde decide to claim he was killed in the invasion. The citizens intend to rebuild their town with the gold taken from the aliens.
Orci also said, "The comic has the themes of enemies uniting to fight a common enemy and has the setting of that specific time period, so we kept the inspiration from all of that. In terms of the specifics of the story and who these characters are, we wanted the audience to be surprised and to not feel like they've already seen everything if they were fans of the comic. So, while the themes and the setting and many of the elements are a great inspiration, the story is completely adapted and translated for live action." The aliens were loosely based on the Anunnaki gods of Zecharia Sitchin's interpretation of the Babylonian religion, who have a distinct interest in gold.
A scene in which Craig's character rides a horse alongside a ravine and jumps down it onto a spacecraft emulated many scenes in American Western films where cowboys rode along a moving train and jumped on it. Favreau said the scene referenced the one in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) where Indiana Jones chases a truck and noted that a similar scene existed in the film Stagecoach (1939), saying "We're constantly referencing back to our roots." Cowboys & Aliens also make multiple references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, such as the introduction to the aliens through the bright lights on their aircraft and an upturned paddle steamer in the middle of the desert. The film also "tease[s]" monster movies, and the scenes in the paddle steamer were a deliberate homage to Alien.
Scott Chambliss was hired as the production designer based on his work on Star Trek, produced by Orci and Kurtzman. The visual effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), represented by Roger Guyett and Eddie Pasquarello as visual effects supervisors. Under the supervision of Shane Mahan, Legacy Effects created practical puppet aliens and full scale alien speeders. New Deal Studios constructed a miniature of the paddle steamer that is seen upturned in the film. Kerner Optical built a miniature of the alien ship and bluescreen stand-ins. The film also featured visual effects by Fuel VFX, The Embassy, Ghost, and Shade VFX, with previsualization from Halon Entertainment.
The trick was to make [the aliens] interesting through their behavior and what happens to them, and that was something that District 9 did very well. You were drawn into their world a bit and their idiosyncrasies had an immediate impact: they ate cat food. But those details overwhelm certain design aspects, so I was striving to find some behavior that fit in well with the Western genre, where you have people in very arduous conditions fighting the elements. And I thought that the irony of all this was that the aliens turn up and it could be more exaggerated for them. They're frontiersmen in a way: traveling to another place and having to deal with all the adversities of the climate. And in our case, we played up the fact that they weren't comfortable in our world. There are flies all around them; they don't like the light; and when they were wounded and exposed, a strange fungus grows around them.
The use of anamorphic widescreen (rather than shooting full-frame "flat" and cropping later) gave ILM no extra room to re-frame shots; it was a challenge to show both nine-foot-tall aliens and smaller humans in the same space. Instead, Guyett said, they shot more areas in case portions of the shots were lost. In filming the gun battle between the cowboys and aliens, in which the aliens move at twice the speed of the humans, actors were required to ride through the scene on horseback and shoot at men in gray suits and three-foot-tall hats; they aimed at faces drawn by Jon Favreau on the top of the hats. A big challenge for ILM's texture artists was to show the aliens in both a dark cave environment and harsh sunlight. The creatures were rendered in high resolution for close-ups; dirt and wounds were added to the aliens to emphasize the injuries they sustained in battle. After Favreau requested that the aliens experience a very unpleasant biological reaction to being wounded on Earth, the texture team created a yellow fungus-like look on the scars of the aliens. To design the fungus, texture supervisor Martin Murphy searched the Internet for real pictures of mold and growth on trees and eventually designed a "fried egg pattern". The heads of the aliens were based on those of sea turtles, after Favreau encountered sea turtles during a trip to Hawaii.
At the suggestion of Steven Spielberg, an "über-alien" was also designed. It was unclear if the red scar Jake gives the über-alien after escaping vivisection would be enough of an identifier to distinguish it from other aliens, so the creature was redesigned with translucent, pale skin due to the lack of time spent outside. Favreau described the über-alien as more fleshy and anthropomorphic than the other aliens and Murphy commented, "There are some parts of him like his arm that you can see into. It's almost like glass or ice or gelatiny surface that blends into a dryer area. The [sic] there's pieces of him that are more like a soft-shell crab or shiny and wet."
In Cowboys & Aliens, Director Jon Favreau sought a plausible approach to how humans from the late 19th century could confront extraterrestrial beings armed with advanced weaponry. He said, "It was very well laid out, well planned, and there were a lot of discussions with a lot of actors who called me to task on things that seemed too convenient, so we made sure we earned each step." The director also sought to maintain a Western tone as aliens appeared in the film, saying, "It's very easy to just cut the string and then all of a sudden the action starts and you're in Independence Day." Favreau cited the works of John Ford and Sergio Leone as sources of inspiration as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Favreau also wanted the science-fiction element to stand on its own, referencing Alien, Predator, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He said of both genres, "It's about finding the intersection of those two genres . . . If you do it right, it honors both, and it becomes interesting and clever and a reinvention of two things that people understand the conventions of, instead of just a retread or remake or sequel or reboot of a film you've seen before." 041b061a72