Cinema Review: Cowboys & Aliens
On General Release at UK Cinemas from Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Yes, it sounds ridiculous… in fact, more like absolutely ludicrous, but nonetheless it seems like a great, fun idea for a movie. Gunslingin’, tobacco chewin’ cowboys in battle against the intergalactic, little green men who have come to take over the planet, apart from that fact that they’re not green and they certainly are not little. Will the combination of James Bond and Indiana Jones save the Wild West?
The story revolves around a nameless man (Daniel Craig) who wakes up in the harsh, arid desert landscape, injured, with no memory (similar to Jason Bourne) and nothing but the rags on his back and a mysterious metallic device around his arm. Wandering into the small town of Absolution, he comes across a beautiful mysterious woman, Ella (Olivia Wilde), who realises that there is something very different and fascinating about him. After a violent altercation with the lawmen of Absolution, it’s his meeting with Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), the ‘owner’ of the town, when things come to a head.
He instantly recognises the nameless stranger and it’s none other than the man who stole his gold, the infamous bandit, Jake Lonergan, and he has a huge debt to pay. That however turns out to be small potatoes when the mystifying lights in the clear night sky reveal themselves to be crafts from another world and attack Absolution, intent on destroying the town and abducting the inhabitants in the process. Can Lonergan and Dolarhyde put their differences aside and unite to fight a common enemy? (I think we already know the answer to that question… or do we?)
The names behind this film are huge. Obviously it wasn’t enough to have the great Harrison Ford (Morning Glory) and Daniel Craig (Defiance) as the leading men and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) at the helm. Of course not, Steven Spielberg himself is an Executive Producer, Ron Howard (who directed Angels & Demons) served as a producer, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who both served as producers for Transformers and it’s sequel Revenge of the Fallen) also are credited as being producers in addition to being two of five writers involved with the screenplay from the screen story stage. This is where the first of many problems arise! Simply put, too many chiefs…
As the leads, Craig and Ford do their best to entertain, (trying to alleviate the pretence that this is a character driven movie) attempting to mimic stereotypical cowboy characteristics along with the badass attitudes their characters demand, but in truth they are never really stretched to any limit. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) plays a pivotal role but not before blatantly being used as the eye-candy. Excellent actors such as Sam Rockwell (Moon) as Doc and Paul Dano (There Will be Blood) as Woodrow’s son, Percy; do their very best but frankly are wasted due to an extremely underwhelming script. This also, unfortunately, applies to most of the cast – grossly underused.
Cowboys & Aliens is one of those movies that the sceptic may feel should have been a lot worse than it really was and where those who were looking forward to the movie may feel unfortunately it should have been a hell of a lot better and may feel a little cheated.
Apart from the inspired backdrop of the Wild West, there is nothing that really sets Cowboys & Aliens apart from the archetypical alien invasion movie such as Independence Day or War of the Worlds. This is very much like the standard Hollywood Blockbuster… all visual and not enough soul and what makes it worse is that it seems to be tricking the viewer into thinking that this is a film with depth. The fact is, this is an action movie with extra-terrestrials …nothing more, nothing less.
The only factor that saves this movie from true mediocrity is the last half an hour, where director Favreau is at his best. Simply put, when the cowboys and aliens go at each other full throttle, combining this with the visual effects from ILM, the action looks very impressive. This leaves a distinct feeling of what could have been. There is however, a distinct positive… it’s a lot better than Skyline.
FMV Rating **1/2