I grew up watching Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne movies. Saturday morning’s good guys rode by on horseback to catch villains stealing water rights, gold or silver. Our television showed these flights of fancy in black and white with an occasional trip to the theatre where our heroes were on the huge screen in full color.
Fox website had a list of their favorite 25 Western movies , most of which I’d have to agree with. I’ve seen all of them; some so many times I could tell you the next line before it was spoken.
One movie that I figured belonged on the list wasn’t there, a modern day western complete with cowboys and Indians. The movie was up for an Academy Award as Best Picture; you may have heard of it, Avatar .
The first time I watched it was the other night; I know, everyone in the world has seen the movie by now. The credits showed James Cameron as having written the story; but as it unfolded all I could see were my favorite old Westerns brought back to life. Okay, so the Indians were blue and lived on a different planet; but they rode bareback on horse-like critters and had campfires.
If you think about it, there isn’t much difference between good Sci-fi and the old Westerns as long as the story’s entertaining. Flying dragons that join with their riders via a pony tail and Leopard-dogs chasing through the forest might not fit the Western motif; still it’s not much of a leap from having a pack of wolves come out from the shadows of a patch of timber stalking the good guy while he makes his way to the abandoned mine where he can hide until his wounds heal.
I enjoyed Avatar for what it was, pure entertainment, beautiful scenery and lots of excitement. I ignored the environmental message; humans, usually white Anglo Saxons, always rape the planet with no regard for anything but the profit margin while killing off indigenous dwellers who love the planet as if it were their mother. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still went overboard on that theme; what a total waste of time and effort that was.
Gary Cooper would have fit right in as Jake Sully, taking down the last villain as the clock ticked toward High Noon. Never mind that Neytiri took out Quaritch with a couple of well placed arrows as Jake became a limp dishrag, his bio link having lost protection from the alien atmosphere; the good guys won and our hero walked away with the good looking woman at his side, a Sci-fi western all the way.