Then there's Firefly. It's unbelievably cool to watch bar-room brawls, cattle rustling and train robberies in space - why, when the same plots out West leave me cold? Blame the sci-fi gene deficiency again... on the other hand, some things about the earliest Westerns are off-putting, including the unthinking racism of the cowboy and injun roles. The constant send-ups of racism in Blazing Saddles prove that the older filmmakers had no excuse (although admittedly, along with the greatness there are some misfires in there too.) I'm wondering exactly how Cowboys and Aliens will work this one out.
The animated movie Rango stars Johnny Depp as a thespian chameleon who finds himself an unwelcome stranger in Dirt, a tumbleweed town populated by lizards and other desert-dwelling animals. The animation: realistic is the wrong word, for example, if you're describing the animation of a rattlesnake with an automatic pistol for a tail. Or a Mexican guitar-playing owl. Or for that matter a chameleon wearing a bright red shirt. A better word for the animation would be "awesome" and it serves the tone of the story very well.
Like the best Westerns* there is action, tragedy, comedy, romance and gratuitous riding across sunsets. Unlike the best Westerns, there is also a village of inbred water-rustlers who ride on bats, setting the stage for a Star Wars-style canyon chase.
I raised the ghost of Blazing Saddles for a reason: Rango is as much a tribute to this movie as to the real Westerns, from the themes of reality vs fiction to the heroine, a lizard cowgirl named "Beans."
* I will admit to liking High Noon if you ply me with enough cactus juice.