Of course I'm leaving a few of them out (apologies to the Texas Rangers fans out there), and it's also worth noting that not all of them were successful or popular. Some of them were downright disastrous. But they were made when Unforgiven supposedly shot them down, and they were clearly popular or interesting enough to warrant a few more remakes and revivals. The Lone Ranger is set to call on Silver, the Coen Bros are re-hiring Rooster Cogburn, and Gerard Butler will reportedly try to duck the noose in The Hanging Tale. On the graphic novel end, you'll have Jonah Hex wrecking bloody havoc, and Preacher may finally go to Texas. Today, Variety is reporting that Roy Rogers may rise from the dead for a new film trilogy. It won't be a biopic, nor a traditional Western, but be some kind of "family-fantasy adventure" that will use the characters of Rogers, Dale Evans, and Trigger, capitalizing (their words, not mine) on their iconic status, and introducing them to a new generation.
It strikes me as a rather strange idea (I mean, Roy Rogers was Roy Rogers -- can you actually hire a replacement?) but hey, that whole Star Trek reboot was pretty crazy too, and that worked ok. I certainly think there's a chance to lure in the smaller set. Kids still love Woody in Toy Story and still dress up as him and Jessie for Disney parks and Halloween, so introducing their live action equivalent might just be a huge success.
But I'm more curious in the appeal this genre is holding for adults. I've lost track of how many Friday nights has seen frantic Tweeting about Sergio Leone and his successors. It seems as though a lot of people are watching Fistful of Dollars or Once Upon a Time in the West for the first time, or rediscovering a genre they dismissed in their youth. I'm certainly one of them, and it's a bit weird to see a personal interest (some might call it a new obsession, I call it research) be part of a larger zeitgeist.
Maybe it's a result of so many homages from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon, and Gore Verbinski. Perhaps it's just adults just want their fairy tales back. That is what Leone called his films (I'm quoting Once Upon a Time in Italy -- again, research!) and I certainly get the appeal of spurs and squints the way I never have before. There's a lot of appeal about that mythical, lawless society that may or may not have existed as we see it onscreen -- which is why it's shamelessly borrowed for greater myths of science fiction and martial art movies.
Maybe the Western isn't having a renaissance. Maybe it just never left. After all ... you shoot to kill a man, you better aim for the heart.