MacLaren will undoubtedly be awesome for ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking,’ but she also deserves so much better.
Award-winning director Michelle MacLaren will be in charge of a new Chris Pratt movie very soon. According to The Tracking Board, an adaptation of Cowboy Ninja Viking will be coming to big screens courtesy of Universal, and MacLaren will be at the helm.
Cowboy Ninja Viking will be based on the eponymous Image Comics series conceived by writer A. J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo. The comics follow a counterintelligence unit of patients with a dissociative identity disorder. Individual agents are known as Triplets, due to the three personas in their heads which are — you guessed it — a cowboy, a ninja, and a Viking. Pratt will play one of these guys.
That synopsis honestly sounds problematic already. There’s a high chance that mental illness will be used as a plot device to create the new bunch of villains or antiheroes, and commentary and sensitivity will be severely lacking. Movies have done it before, even though it’s a tired, uncomfortable trope to rehash. We don’t need another Split. But Cowboy Ninja Viking might end up being just that anyway.
The Cowboy Ninja Viking writers leave plenty to be desired as well. Craig Mazin penned the latest draft of the script. That’s the same writer who worked on The Hangover II — yeah, one of a ton of movies that exoticizes, stereotypes and offends in the name of so-called ‘comedy.’ Zombieland and Deadpool scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese brought the first draft of Cowboy Ninja Viking to life. Wernick and Reese have a better track record with commercially successful movies. However, this list of writers sets a strong overall precedent for the kind of movie Cowboy Ninja Viking could end up being; crude, violent and frustratingly male-centric.
Which, after having been a part of so many male-dominated shows for years, MacLaren would still be able to spin into something good anyway. Having directed a slew of episodes of aggressively male-dominated shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Westworld — to name a few — MacLaren is a maestro at her craft. It’s the reason fans all cheered when MacLaren was initially tapped to direct Wonder Woman for Warner Bros. She eventually exited the DCEU due to creative differences, and Patty Jenkins went on to helm the empowering woman-led juggernaut that captivated audiences last year.
So, Cowboy Ninja Viking is both a noteworthy move for MacLaren and yet something so… underwhelming.
And to be clear, this is no dig at Chris Pratt. He has proven himself to be more than capable of leading giant franchises with charisma and fluency that’s unique and refreshing. Guardians of the Galaxy is a big enough hit for me to forego delving too deep into it, but would Jurassic World have worked as well as it did without Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard? Some would argue that the Jurassic World conceit doesn’t work at all, but I certainly enjoyed the film through the formula, mostly because of Pratt and the rest of the cast.
MacLaren still deserves better, though. She deserved so much more than to be left off the list of directors for the final season of Game of Thrones, and she merits more in the film world. Moreover, I’m frankly wondering just what she sees in such a run-of-the-mill project (to want to direct it), but I’m no mind-reader, and it’s a huge opportunity to work for Universal anyway. Regardless, going from the anticipation of helming the first live-action solo Wonder Woman movie to something so generic is just a disappointing turn of events.
In the end, we’ll have faith in MacLaren, but that can only go so far if she doesn’t get better projects. Cowboy Ninja Viking can be expected to hit cinemas on June 28, 2019.