A year or so ago I heard that Jon Favreau’s next project was named Cowboys & Aliens, my brain summoned up an image of a CGI intense, Pixar-like kids movie in the vein of Mars needs Moms. This was well before any trailers or teaser posters. The title didn’t convey to me at all a high-concept action thriller. When they released the first teaser I was taken aback. OK, so this IS going to be an intense, dramatic and very action-y thrill ride. OK, cool. Sounds great, but I still didn’t think the title fit. It just seemed too damn jokey.
I don’t need to set up this movie very much. Have you read the title? Well, now you know the entire plot. It’s that simple — some cowboys fight some aliens. A formerly abducted cowpoke (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert with no memory and a strange metal bracelet attached to his arm. After beating a couple unfortunate wanderers to death with his bare hands, he makes his way to the nearest town.
In town we learn the amnesiac’s name is Lonergan and before long he tussles with various hooligans and badges and gets himself locked up. The titular aliens eventually slash onto the scene plucking townsfolk from the streets like grapes from a vine. Harrison Ford, the town hefty heft who’s son was one of the grapes, leads a group out to find and return the missing people.
OK, here’s the thing. The movie does a few things very well. I don’t want to describe the aliens to you — that’s half the fun, waiting and anticipating what they look like. But they do look pretty awesome. So good, that I almost wish they were in a different movie.
And the movie does bring a shit-ton of amazing acting. Sam Rockwell outperforms the lines he’s given in just about every way imaginable. Harrison Ford brings a enormous amount of depth to this otherwise puddle-deep stereotypical western kingpin. I’d love to have seen both of those characters in an actual western, something like ‘The Unforgiven’ or ‘Tombstone’. Even though Olivia Wilde doesn’t bring a whole lot of acting to the table, the wide eyed deer-in-the-headlights act works for her here.
I think the problems lie in the fact that Favreau and company don’t bring anything new to the genre’s they’re abusing here. The western bits play like typical Hollywood westerns — the sets, the costumes the stereotypes are all the same. Same with the aliens, they’ve been done before and better. Maybe this movie will play better to the casual film fan, one who hasn’t seen this movie every summer played out with different actors in different locales.
This was probably an idea everyone felt should really blow the fans out of their seats. But C&A never sets itself apart from the competition in any meaningful way. I don’t know if they even wanted to. This could have been better, much better if it simply chose to be one thing or the other instead of doing both just… OK. But I guess that’s not possible when you name your film Cowboys & Aliens.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more