BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM
I think it’s safe to assume that since “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a worldwide smash hit, about 90% of Norbertines have seen Marvel Studio’s latest gem. The humorous and endearing tale of five misfits becoming unexpected defenders of the innocent is good example of an entry in a subgenre known as “Space Westerns,” which variably combines Old West tropes with sci-fi aesthetics. If you loved Guardians, then these movies and TV shows could be up your alley.
Star Wars: George Lucas’ famous trilogy dabbles in this, especially with Han Solo, who is essentially an Old West gunslinger. The planet Tatooine is pretty much the Wild West of the Star Wars Universe; complete with deserts, little law enforcement, Tusken raiders taking the place of savage natives, crazy saloons (Mos Eisley cantina) and smugglers. The confrontation scene between Han and Greedo in the Mos Eisley cantina would not have felt out of place in the Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s “Dollar” Trilogy (“A Fistful of Dollars,” “For A Few Dollars More,” “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”).
Cowboy Bebop: Largely cited as one of the greatest anime series of all time, this 1998, 26 episode series is the perfect introduction into the wondrous world of Japanese animation. Set in the year 2071, the show follows the misadventures of four bounty hunters (the mysterious but cool Spike, the old ex-cop Jet, the femme fatale Faye Valentine and the wonderfully goofy computer-wiz Ed) who travel the stars in their spaceship Bebop. This masterpiece of television has received universal praise for its story, characters, gritty Western/film-noir style, animation, voice acting and riveting exploration of philosophical concepts (existentialism, loneliness and the past’s influence).
Firefly: Joss Whedon’s (“The Avengers,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) short-lived cult smash takes the “Space as the Wild West” metaphor to the max. It follows the adventures of a renegade crew on the spaceship Serenity as they live on the fringes of the “pioneer” space frontier. Features a juxtaposition of country music, spaceships, horses, revolver-like guns and a loner gunslinger protagonist. Only running for four months in 2002, the show sadly fell victim to severe executive meddling (some episodes were aired out of order) from its network FOX, resulting in its cancelation after 14 episodes. However, it has since gained universal critical acclaim and became a runaway hit on DVD. If you enjoyed the show, then check out the 2005 movie continuation “Serenity”.