The mix is about 2/3 Western and 1/3 alien invasion. Since aliens are a big deal right now, it's notable that Favreau went with 2/3 Western. The last big Western was 'Unforgiven' with Clint Eastwood in 1992. This may be why 'Cowboys & Aliens' is successful - we all expect aliens, but it's hard to pull off a Western.
According to movie forums, 'Cowboys & Aliens' was a huge hit at its Comic-Con world premiere. Now it looks like this new movie release from Universal is going to strike gold at the box office. It may even be a big draw to older audiences who enjoy a good western. Mature stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are also a good draw for the older crowd.
The producers, executive producers, and writers are a real Hollywood 'dream team.' The intelligence level of this film is so high that it looks like Favreau deserves the true credit for keeping the movie true to both the alien and Western genres. A darned good western yarn is being told before the aliens fall from the skies. Then again, Westerns have traditionally stuck close to tradition AND allowed a generous space for side stories.
As any fan of Westerns knows, the start of every good Western involves a stranger on a horse, and he's coming into town. Craig plays the stranger. He wakes up in the middle of the desert with an odd looking shackle on his wrist and has no idea how it got there. When three strangers look like they're ready to take advantage of Craig's plight, Craig dispatches the strangers and we learn that Craig is one tough guy.
Absolution is the name of the town that Craig chooses as the place to ride into. Colonel Dolarhyde, played by Ford, is the nasty cattle baron who rules Absolution. Bitterness and a fierce power emanates from Ford. It seems like he's looking for a fight.
When Craig challenges Dolarhyde's son, played by Paul Dano, it looks like Dolarhyde has found his fight. Of course there are some other people in town. Clancy Brown plays the preacher, Sam Rockwell is the saloon-keeper, his wife is played by Ana de la Requera, Adam Beach is the colonel's cowhand, and Keith Carradine plays the sheriff - and does a great job of evoking the memory of his famous grandfather.