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Top 5 sci-fi westerns

Writer: Casey Chong



Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain a.k.a. The Gunslinger in "The Dark Tower".

The long-gestating movie adaptation of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" novel series is set to shoot its way into cinemas this August after ten years of development hell.

What really captured our attention with "The Dark Tower" is that it is adapted by Stephen King's series of books of the same name, and knowing King, his wide range of work - from horror to drama - hardly disappoints. After all, he is the imaginative author that brought us "It", "The Green Mile", "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Shining", to name a few.

If you're familiar with "The Shining", you will know that is somehow connected to "The Dark Tower" in a big way, as well as his other novels albeit in smaller easter egg forms.

Although known as Stephen King's magnum opus, "The Dark Tower" series is a difficult read indeed, so the simplified story and slightly altered version for the big screen is a much welcome to those who feel like they really want to get into the dystopic world but without reading the books.


Matthew McConaughey plays the movie's villain, The Man in Black.

What will draw in audiences even more so is the casting of the talented Idris Elba as the mysterious Gunslinger, and Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, Walter o'Dim, who is on the hunt for a boy (Jake Chambers) with The Shine. Walter needs the boy to find and destroy the Dark Tower, and in turn, the world.

Now, to coincide with the upcoming release, here are the top 5 sci-fi Westerns that have been made over the past decades until recent years.

5. "Outland" (1981)

Marshal William O'Niel (Sean Connery) takes down one of the suspects in "Outland".

Legendary Bond actor Sean Connery trades the style and swagger of his 007 role in favour for a more gritty and world-weary character as Marshal William O'Niel in "Outland". Directed by Peter Hyams, this sci-fi Western follows Connery's character uncovering a drug smuggling conspiracy at the mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons. The highlight of this movie is the "High Noon" influence towards the climactic finale. "High Noon" of course, refers to the 1952 Western classic by Fred Zinnemann where Gary Cooper's Marshal Will Kane is forced to stand off against the hired killers all by himself. In "Outland", Hyams even replicates Zinnemann's classic by including a countdown clock (a digital clock, instead of a wall clock) to indicate the time of the killers' arrival. "Outland" was a minor box-office success, with kudos towards Sean Connery's engaging performance and Peter Hyams' notable direction on delivering effective action set-pieces.

4. "The Book Of Eli" (2010)

Denzel Washington is the Man With No Name.

Denzel Washington plays a "Man With No Name"- like the lone drifter played by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy". Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the movie revolves around Washington's character roaming across the wasteland, whose sole purpose is to head West on a mission to deliver the titular book. However, things get complicated when he encounters a power-hungry figure named Carnegie (Gary Oldman). The direction by the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen) is slick and entertaining, with Denzel Washington reportedly performing all of his own stunts under the late Bruce Lee protege, Dan Inosanto. As a result, the action - such as the silhouette-inspired fight sequence where Denzel's lone character takes down a bunch of savages with a Bowie knife - is a spectacular piece of choreography.

3. "Back To The Future Part III" (1990)

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Emmett "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd) riding
the Old West way in "Back To The Future Part III".

The "Back To The Future" trilogy is highly regarded as one of the best movie franchises ever produced in Hollywood. Each instalment has its own unique charm starting with the '50s era in the first 1985 movie, followed by the futuristic era in the 1989 sequel. In "Back To The Future Part III", the third and final instalment of the series turns back the clock to 1885 where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels all the way with the DeLorean to rescue Doc (Christopher Lloyd) from getting killed by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Here, the biggest charm is Robert Zemeckis' loving homage to the classic Western genre complete with an old-fashioned love story between Christopher Lloyd's Doc and Mary Steenburgen's Clara Clayton and a wretched cowboy antagonist in the form of Thomas F. Wilson's Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. The result is a fun-filled adventure that meshes well with the franchise's trademark sci-fi elements.

2. "Serenity" (2005)

Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion, centre) in "Serenity".

Long before Joss Whedon was known by today's generation for his directorial efforts in "The Avengers" (2012) and "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" (2015), he first made his mark as a creator of some of the most influential TV series such as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel". Then, there was "Firefly", an acclaimed 2002 TV series that got cancelled after only 14 episodes. In 2005, he managed to revive his ill-fated series with a big-screen version titled "Serenity". The movie centres on a space crew led by Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion), who becomes the target of a top assassin known only as the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) for harbouring a wanted person named River Tam (Summer Glau). If you haven't watched a single episode of "Firefly", rest assured that "Serenity" works fine enough as a standalone feature. An interesting hybrid of Western, Chinese martial arts and Japanese samurai all wrapped up in a gritty sci-fi package, Whedon already proved himself as an accomplished genre stylist. In "Serenity", he shows great visual flair in the action department such as Summer Glau's balletic fight sequence and Chiwetel Ejiofor's slick swordplay skill. Despite the movie's fascinating blend of different genres, "Serenity" was, unfortunately, an underperformer at the box office.

1. "Westworld" (1973)

Yul Brynner as the deadly Gunslinger in "Westworld".

More than 40 years after "Westworld" premiered back in 1973, Michael Crichton's genre classic about the titular theme park gone wrong following a sudden malfunction, remains the finest example of a great sci-fi Western. The story itself, also written by Crichton himself, is ahead of its time back in the 1970s era with a notable social commentary involving the consequences of violence that remain as relevant as ever, even by today's standard. The central theme of "androids running amok" (in this case, Yul Brynner's cowboy robot character as The Gunslinger) has influenced many sci-fi classics such as Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", James Cameron's "The Terminator" and Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop". Yul Brynner's role is particularly a terrifying creation, thanks to his stone-cold appearance who stalks and shoots his guests with no mercy. In fact, his role, as well as the movie's overall thematic elements, were subsequently rewritten by Crichton himself by trading killer robots into killer dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park". "Westworld", of course, was recently remade into an acclaimed 10-episode HBO series late last year.

"The Dark Tower" opens in the cinemas nationwide on 3 August 2017.

Cinema Online, 30 July 2017


Related Movies:
The Dark Tower (03 Aug 2017)
It (07 Sep 2017)

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