Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Westerns and Urban Fantasy

I'm not sure what McCandless is up to either!
We watched two seemingly incongruent movies this past weekend: El Dorado with John Wayne and *batteries not included.  When I say “we” I really mean “me”—the boys went in and out during *batteries not included somewhat interested, but not enough to make the entire movie, and El Dorado with all its shooting and bright-red blood isn’t a movie I’m willing to let the boys see just yet.

These rolled around in my head for sometime, itching and scratching and fighting with each other for some reason.  This morning, it occurred to me why: they’re essentially the same plot.

Yeah, I know—alien flying saucers who fix things vs. a John Wayne western don’t really seem to have much in common.

Except they do.

Well, pilgrim, what do you have to say for yourself?
Both feature a very similar antagonist.  In El Dorado Bart Jason (two first names = evil) is trying to muscle in on the McDonald’s (no, seriously) water rights so he can grow his cattle empire.  *batteries features Lacey, a New York developer who is trying to muscle in on the Riley’s cafĂ©/apartment building so that he can grow his real estate empire.  Both men have hired guns Nelson McLeod and Carlos (respectively) who bring in their respective gangs and act to bring things to a quick and violent end, and both have “strangers” who come to town and stand in opposition to Big Bads in the form of Cole Thornton (Wayne) and the “Fix-Its” (the flying saucers).

Even more parallels can be drawn between the two, as crews of colorful, funny, and sometimes broken characters work together or against each other for their various purposes.

The parallels aren’t perfect, and I was far more engaged in El Dorado than I was by *batteries not included.  That’s as much to do with the witty, cleverness of Leigh Brackett’s dialogue as it is my penchant for John Wayne films.  Still, saving the locals from the powerful and power-hungry cattle-baron/real estate developer translates fairly well.  This also suggests that when writing your own stories, you can easily draw from and adapt elements familiar to other genres.  Done well, it can be a compelling translation.

The movies are available on Netflix, so if you get the chance, give them a watch.

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