Although the online response to the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens seems to have been a primarily positive one, the preview has been receiving a slightly different reaction from audiences at multiplexes: uproarious laughter. The New York Times published a piece yesterday about the unexpected giggles and guffaws that came when the trailer screened before a midnight screening for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in Santa Monica. It seems that the straightforward title and mixing of genres have created some confusion as to what exactly this movie will be. Is Universal going to have a hard time selling it as a mainstream summer event movie?
Part of the problem seems to stem from a cultural tendency to look for irony even where there is none. Today’s moviegoers have seen movies built on ridiculous titles like Snakes on a Plane and Hot Tub Time Machine, and “Cowboys & Aliens” definitely sounds like it should belong in the same category. A title change might have been wise, but since the movie is based on a comic book, I’m assuming they did not want to… ahem… alienate the fans.
It might not even be so bad if the trailer simply had more humour in it, but Jon Favreau has promised that it will be true to the comic: that is, part standard western and part suspenseful alien invasion movie. Universal claims that they are not worried about the confusion created by the title, and that the trailer itself was created to defy expectations and establish a tone. What do you think, is there a problem here, or does Cowboys & Aliens still have what it takes to be a successful blockbuster? Did Favreau miss an opportunity to add in some comedic elements, or is he right to play it straight?