Back in the summer, the History Channel's Ancient Aliens devoted an episode to hyping Cowboys & Aliens, a film about extraterrestrials invading the nineteenth-century American West from History's corporate cousin, Universal Studios. The cross-promotional opportunity proved less than fruitful, however, when Cowboys & Aliens flopped at the box office. Now we learn that Universal knew it was terrible and foisted it on the public anyway.
At the Savannah Film Festival, Universal's head Ron Meyer said:
Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough... All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it… Cowboys & Aliens didn’t deserve better. … We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we’re all guilty of it. I have to take first responsibility because I’m part of it, but we all did a mediocre job and we paid the price for it. It happens. They’re talented people. Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.
The only lasting legacy of Cowboys & Aliens appears to be the episode of Ancient Aliens, now in perpetual rotation on the History Channel. The amount of cynicism involved in purposely promoting a "crappy" movie, subverting a documentary series to hype a "mediocre" product is disheartening.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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