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Western Movie Critiquing

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As everyone plainly knows, there are certain characteristics that separate the western film genre from any other. The basis for westerns lie in the past, and typically constitute some form of our American history. Although many westerns are similar in some way or another, no two are identical. In this paper, we will break down various topics and use them to compare two films of this nature: Tombstone and Shane.

Since the 'wild wild west' was such a large frontier of land, both movies were able to be set there, while still being in separate regions and states. Tombstone was filmed in the actual town of Tombstone, Arizona. Since it is based on real events from the life of Wyatt Earp, the actual location was used. However the environment for Shane is that of the legendary frontier, filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with its gray-blue Grand Tetons as a backdrop.

The themes of both these films varied a bit from each other. In both cases, you have the age-old story of the duel between good and evil, the advent of civilization (with families, law and order, and settlers). Tombstone portrayed the battle for peace with law enforcers and justice who battle the 'red-sashed' cowboys that make living in Tombstone difficult. Shane focused on a land dispute conflict between homesteaders and cattle baron, with roaming cattlemen, gunslingers, and a young boy growing up in the mix of it all. In both movies, law, order and peace were the ideals fought for throughout the story. Tones for these movies also differed. Where Tombstone was primarily intense action scenes, upbeat fights, and constantly kept your attention, Shane on the other hand seemed to have a much more laid back approach. Although emotions were hot and relationships were ugly, there was much less action than what could have been anticipated in a typical western.

Because of its being a much newer film, Tombstone obviously had better camera work than Shane. The action in Tombstone had short, quick scenes that showed a variety of locations and angles. Shane seemed to have longer camera shots with less splicing and editing. This was probably a result of Shane being filmed during the 1950's before the new modern camera techniques became involved.

The choice and use of music was similar in both films. While they both had the exciting tunes surface during the fight scenes, or to elude that something was about to happen, the movie Shane had music appear too soon as to almost give away the element of surprise. It seemed as if in both films the heroes and the villains had there own theme song.

Violence has always been a common characteristic of westerns. So naturally, these two films both included it. However in Tombstone, violence was the resolution to every problem. Whether punches were thrown, or guns were fired, fighting happened constantly through the movie. Shane on the other hand had both tactics entwined in the story. The hero, Shane was attempting to leave behind a past full of violence, and so he relied more on calm thinking and self-control before violent actions were taken. The father, Joe wanted to fight for his land, and the bad cattle herders were ready to fight him back. They continually antagonized Joe, Shane and the other homesteaders into war. It isn't until the end of the story when



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