Cowboys & Aliens
When I first read the news that a film title COWBOYS & ALIENS was being made, I felt campy glee bubbling up inside me. Then I read IRON MAN director Jon Favreau was on board and none other than James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) were cast as the leads, upping my enthusiasm level ten fold. As the opening date neared, the trailers weren’t wowing me and I suddenly found myself indifferent. So which emotion was correct? Unfortunately, even my indifference ended up feeling a little disappointed.
The film opens strong, as a stranger (Craig) with no memory wakes up in the desert bleeding, half naked wearing a complex foreign object around his wrist. Three wandering cowboys come along ready to rob and kill our stranger before Craig goes into typical Bond as a Cowboy mode kicking everyone’s tail in energetically clever fashion. After entering the small town of Absolution, he discovers he is a wanted man. But before he can be taken prisoner, alien ships attack taking many of the town’s people hostage. Now a search team led by this mysterious stranger and mean tycoon Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford) set out to find their loved ones and defeat this unidentified terror.
The actors all play their parts fine despite the poor script and direction. Paul Dano gives perhaps the most standout performance as the spoiled son to Ford’s character but is terribly underutilized while Sam Rockwell is nearly obsolete. While I was happy to see Ford back in the saddle again so to speak after so many duds, this will not be the pony to mend his losing streak. This is not his fault as he had some nice moments and should definitely be cast again in a straight western and possibly a bad guy role. Craig is excellent as an action hero, combining tough confidence and likability without ever saying a word – which is a good thing since his character speaks about as much as the horses.
I had high hopes after the first act came to an end, as every clip I had seen from the trailers had already passed. But I now understand why the studio advertised only those parts, because what followed was an underdeveloped bore-fest. The action was about as exciting a kid’s carrousel ride. However, the real losers were the characters with not near enough development for the audience to really care. This in turn created character deaths and reunions emotionless despite the fact the misguided direction attempted to milk it up in cliché soap opera fashion.
When making a film titled COWBOYS & ALIENS, try not to take yourself too seriously and have fun with it. The film was funny but should have been funnier and campier. Make it a satire, winking at the camera, paying homage to old westerns and sci-fi films, be creative, ridiculous and own the silly. I don’t know, maybe this is all bad advice but I am confident about one thing, COWBOYS AND ALIENS as it is, isn’t good enough.