Gene Roddenberry pitched his original TV series as ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’. Indeed, the five year mission of the Enterprise is a sexy and dangerous one and the crew find themselves at the peril of the unknown and the marauders of the cosmos. The later series would feature whole families hitching a ride to the next star system.
2015 – it predates the Old West by a few decades. As such, can we consider The Revenant a Western or not?
1977 – “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” Star Wars means different things to different people, but, undoubtedly, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is a callback to the gunslingers of the Old West.
1976 – A man loses his family, but gains another in the form of a ragtag group of followers. Eastwood gives his Man with No Name a name, and a reason to do the right thing.
1987 – Paul Verhoven’s acerbically violent and satirical sci-fi action film centres on a tragic hero, Murphy, a Detroit police officer mutilated and left for dead on a routine bust. He is imbued with prototype augmentations to become Robocop, new IP of the Omni Consumer Products corporation. He becomes the next line in law enforcement, and the film rides the line between the philosophy of Asimov’s robotic laws, and the excessive violent, swearing, and sexuality of the 1980s.
How does this relate to the Western genre then, is it more than just a sci-fi film? Well, more than anything, Murphy (played by Peter Weller) is the law officer in a town where crime runs riot, the Detroit police department struggle to keep order. His wife and son, who he used to entertain with an old gun slinging trick, leave him alone. He finds himself in a new world, trapped in a half-life, with only his partner…. to stand by him. As Robocop, he is a product, but what the film attempts is to look at what’s left of the man underneath
Around 1880, a struggling Californian community of families and miners are victims to the oppressive business ethics of company owner Coy LaHood. Charging through town on horseback, LaHood’s thugs leave a path of destruction. A dog belonging to an impressionable young girl, Megan Wheeler, is shot down in cold blood, leaving her alone to bury it in the woods. Afterwards, she prays for a miracle, while a stranger on a white horse rides into town. The stranger is a man of few words, but the six bullet holes in his back say more than words ever could. Clint Eastwood returns to form as the stoic gruff Preacher, who slowly warms to the mining community and vice versa.
1997 – Cop Land is a traditional Western in a contemporary world. James Mangold directs Sylvester Stallone in his most vulnerable role since First Blood, as a small town sheriff who finds the will to fight local outlaws after many years of moral indifference.