When I first heard of Cowboys & Aliens I have to admit I was a tad excited, I have a soft spot for uniquely far-fetched entertainment. Daniel Craig & Harrison Ford as Cowboys? Oh yeah! Olivia Wilde? Awesome. Aliens? Hot Damn! However it’s important to approach any film with an open mind, no expectations, let the story unfold before you and enjoy it. Unfortunately I’d seen this film before, it’s just another standard Hollywood Western albeit with Aliens. That’s right, it’s a serious movie.
A cowboy (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the wilderness, shoeless, hatless, weaponless, nameless, and with a strange metal bracelet attached to his arm. It’s a clever start, intriguing, and Craig is perfect as the brooding hero in search of his name and purpose. He comes across a small town where the promise of mining riches failed to come true and where the local sherif put his face to a wanted poster. He’s fingered as an outlaw named Jake Lonergan who stole from the town’s wealthiest citizen Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). But before anything can happen the town is attacked by Aliens and much of the townsfolk are kidnapped.
It’s here that Jake’s bracelet comes to life, it’s actually a futuristic weapon, and it allows him to shoot down one of the UFO’s. He’s then roped into helping Ella Swanson (Olivia Wilde) and the remaining townspeople lead by Dolarhyde to track down their friends and family. It’s a good start, there’s mystery, things to discover and learn, and the beginnings of some decent characters and conflicts. Unfortunately, that’s it, I really felt like the movie never moved past this beginning no matter what developed.
If you’re going to call a movie Cowboys & Aliens and advertise it as a fun action movie you really need to deliver on your promise. Perhaps I am victim of good advertising, but on reflection there really isn’t an excuse for the miscalculation here. I know the truth of it, they just want to motivate people to part with their cash, but making money isn’t as simple as that and audiences usually punish deception. It’s not entirely lost as there is plenty here to enjoy, it’s just there is a list of faults longer than Harrison Ford’s career.
I can’t really write about the great acting, it’s merely competent. I can’t write about the great script, it’s just a regurgitation of previous Westerns with Aliens replacing the traditional enemy. I can’t write about the wonderful screenplay, although it’s the films strongest component it’s doesn’t match the awe the film should impose. I suspect the likes of Ford, Craig, and Wilde know what’s going on because they merely go through the motions, it’s only the ever impressive Sam Rockwell as the Doc who brings any life to the story.
Director Jon Favreau is no stranger to the lighter side of action films directing the very successful Ironman, but perhaps he merely lucked on a good script and Robert Downey Junior because the flair of the film is noticeably missing here. He’s certainly competent as a Director, but he’s really missed the mark with the tone of this production.
In the end, this is a wait for DVD kind of film. It’s more about scares than humour and while you receive the promised showdown between the Cowboys and Aliens, it’s really nothing worth noting. There are things to enjoy here true, but I doubt you couldn’t get more enjoyment from another film.