Josh Hartnett to Star in Post-Apocalyptic Western

Despite all the attempts at a comeback, the western genre will never be as popular as it was half a century ago. But could the genre appeal more to 21st century moviegoers by being set in some post-apocalyptic future rather than the dusty, tumbleweed-ridden past? It’s an idea that’s been thought of before, and now it’s being thought of again by many in Hollywood.

In a way, the upcoming adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is like a western, and January’s “The Book of Eli” is even moreso. Now Variety reports of another near-future western called “Gunslinger.” Josh Hartnett will star as one of two brothers seeking revenge on a gang that killed their parents. French filmmaker Chris Nahon (“Blood: The Last Vampire“) will be at the helm when “Gunslinger” shoots in Canada next year.

Let’s just forget the fact they need to re-title the film, as it falls too close to Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” books, which are also headed for the big screen someday. The real concern is that even a future-set western can be a tough sell.

Space westerns, such as those which remake classic westerns like “High Noon,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Searchers” as “Outland,” “Battle Beyond the Stars” and a subplot of the “Star Wars” trilogy, respectively, can be successful.

But Earth-based sci-fi westerns just make me think of Kevin Costner’s post-apocalyptic turkey “The Postman” and Barry Sonnenfeld’s steampunk wannabe “Wild Wild West,” which was set in the OLD west but had futuristic elements.

“Gunslinger” is being described as a unique story of what happens when “the lawlessness of the Old West returns… but with better weapons.” Of course, that could be the case with most post-apocalyptic films, from “Mad Max” to “Terminator Salvation.” So we’ll just have to wait and see if this will indeed be a fresh and accessible approach to the genre or something familiar and unappealing.

Are you more willing to see a western if it’s set in the future? Do you like the idea of Josh Hartnett as a post-apocalyptic cowboy?