Cowboys & Aliens Review
By Bret Dorman
With a title like Cowboys & Aliens you can go one of two ways:
Take the materiel super seriously. Make a legit Western Vs a legit Sci-Fi.
Take the movie not seriously at all. Make a silly Western Vs a silly Sci-Fi.
I was all for the first approach, which the movie actually ended up taking. Then I saw it… They got half right at least…
The Story: Jake Lonergan (the steely eyed Daniel Craig) wakes up knowin’ nuthin’ ’bout nuthin’. Except that he has some sort of contraption on his arm. After some funny business in town a bunch of weird things attack and kidnap the son of Woodrow Dolarhyde (the mumbly Harrison Ford). Together they team up with a motley crew of unlikely heroes to fight these… Aliens. Also, Olivia Wilde is pretty.
I left the theater with relatively positive feelings about Cowboys & Aliens, but the more I think about it the more stupid I think it is. There’s just too much in this movie that doesn’t make sense or just doesn’t seem to fit.
I will say one thing. They nailed the badass Western part down. Lonergan and Dolarhyde are just two miserable people who mumble and grumble and stare each other down. They rely on cool moments, badass one liners, and powerful screen presences to get their points across. It was surprising.
But for most people, their biggest complaint with the movie Super 8 earlier this summer was that they could have just done without the alien. I felt the same way about this. I could have just taken a badass Western and left the silly sci-fi at home. I get that anytime the aliens show it it automatically ups the intensity by a couple of points, but it also undermined the subtleness of Craig and Ford, who were doing just fine without it.
The action scenes play out more like spectacles and there is a real lack of fun. When the alien stuff happens it would be better to play it up I think than to play it straight. I wouldn’t have minded the jarring changes in tone, the movie is called Cowboys & Aliens after all.
In Conclusion: The First act is awesome because it sets up Craig and Ford as two straight up Western badasses (which to me is more surprising than anything). The Second act is alright because it lets these Western badasses fight some things but the third act is a mess which asks us to care too much for these characters and wraps everything up by leaving us with answers to questions better left not only unsolved, but unasked.
Final Grade: B-