Cowboys & Aliens
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins
Release Date: July 29, 2011
PLOT: A gunslinger (Craig) and a tyrant (Ford) have to settle their differences in Arizona, 1873, as aliens have come to town looking to destroy the place.
WHO’S IT FOR? If gunslingers are enough, then see this movie. If the concept of these two things sounds too exciting to pass up, then get on board this semi-slow ride.
EXPECTATIONS: I avoid trailers. The idea of 007 and Indiana Jones working together to stop alien invaders is a ride I’d sing up for.
Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan: It’s a great start. Jake doesn’t know who he is or why he has a super-futuristic weapon on his wrist. Once we learn he’s a wanted man it’s even more intriguing, but then Craig is trying to wear two cowboy hats; “I care” and “I don’t care.” I end up not really feeling either. His physical presence remains the best part of his performance.
Harrison Ford as Woodrow Dolarhyde: He’s the evil town tyrant who allows his super annoying son (Dano) to run around town doing anything he wants. I don’t understand why you bother making this guy evil. It seems unless he’s playing Dr. Jones, Ford is only capable of gruff (Extraordinary Measures, Morning Glory). What’s odd is, this guy is only enjoyable to watch when he shows a little heart, so why not focus the character on that?
Olivia Wilde as Ella Swenson: It appears they decided the main focus of this character is to stand still, say little, and look hot. Yes, Wilde easily accomplishes the hot part, but the rest is obviously boring. The film drags whenever she speaks, and she eventually ends up speaking a lot.
Rest of Cast: Sam Rockwell is given very little as Doc, but once again he gets more out of it than other actors would. Dano plays the expectant child, but he also overdoes the weaselly wimp thing to the point that the only time you’re happy he’s on screen is when he’s being hurt. Adam Beach plays a Native American who doesn’t bring much, but this story is supposed to pull at the heart strings.
TALKING: The film starts with a “less is more” approach with the dialogue and they should have maintained that. Every time the film explains characters or story the movie slows. Even when they insert flashbacks, it seems clunky.
SIGHTS: I thought the first time the aliens approach it was visually mysterious and exciting. The aliens themselves don’t look all that impressive besides some inner-arms that easily make you think of Alien. Craig definitely looks like a cowboy and the rest fit right in.
SOUNDS: The sound effects do pop, especially from the wrist weapon that Jake picked up along the way. There is some basic saloon music with violin and piano, but it’s nothing that doesn’t feel lifted from another Western. The angelic musical score at the end of Ella’s climax is a bit much.
BEST SCENE: It’s never a good sign when the best scene is the first, but that’s the case here. Jake gets attacked by three guys, and we get a sense of what the man is capable of.
ENDING: I wasn’t emotionally attached to anyone’s story. I didn’t care who lived and died. Jake’s ending does fit well with the character. Apparently others are given a new lease on life after surviving the alien attack.
QUESTIONS: We’re told the aliens don’t see to well in the daylight. Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be the case in the final battle. Also, the aliens are just miners trying to make a living, right? And if they don’t think much of humans, why are they studying them to find a weakness? Specially, why would the aliens rush Jake without a weapon? You know, one of those fancy wrist weapons? If only they had access to things like that.
REWATCHABILITY: Nah. I didn’t even stick around to see if there was anything after the credits.
Cowboys & Aliens, oh my! It’s movie mash-up time. Who knows what the future holds? Werewolves and businessmen. Ninjas and Soccer moms. The basic possibilities are endless. Maybe basic is the key word there. Cowboys & Aliens is a great title, and seems like a good idea, but it’s pretty basic.
Perhaps better titles would be Cowboys, a Really Cool Laser Gun … and Then Some Aliens or maybe Cowboys, Indians and Then Some Aliens. But I guess Indians are used to getting left out. When you say Cowboys & Aliens it’s like BAM! & BAM! but that’s not how the film feels. It’s an ordinary Western, with some other stuff thrown in.
They establish Craig as our anti-hero, then introduce the badder Ford, only to then give us the baddest (I guess) aliens. It leaves me not really rooting for characters but instead concepts. Like, given the choice, I’d rather have cowboys beat up aliens. I never cared who lived and who died.
It’s one of those summer blockbusters that goes through the motions. It technically gives us cowboys and then some aliens, but never Cowboys! and Aliens!. Yes, there’s a difference.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10