Cowboys & Aliens is the latest Summer film adaptation of a comic book/graphic novel. The talent involved in the film is a combination of huge movie series veterans and writers of some of television’s biggest shows of the past ten years. Iron Man/Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau is behind the camera. It’s written by Damon Lindelof one of the men behind TV’s LOST. It’s also written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, men behind the Star Trek reboot, Fringe and Alias plus a few other writers making the film one of the most writer credited movies ever. And that’s just the men off screen. On screen you get Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond. You get Olivia Wilde from Tron: Legacy and House. You get Sam Rockwell who previously worked with Favreau on Iron Man 2. And oh yeah Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself Harrison Ford.
1873 Arizona, a stranger (Craig) wakes up confused. He’s not sure where he is or even who he is and he has a odd metal bracelet on his arm. After he finds himself surrounded by a few men, he makes his escape and makes his way to a small town. In the small town, a young man (Paul Dano) is running his mouth shooting off his gun. The stranger finds himself in more trouble when he confronts the young man. The stranger doesn’t know who the young man is and there’s more shooting. When a local law officer gets shot, the young man is arrested and the stranger is looked upon as a hero.
At the bar, the stranger is given free booze and is approached by a beautiful woman named Ella (Wilde). When he wants to just be left alone, she seems confused that he doesn’t remember what is really going on.
When Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) hears of his son’s arrest, he storms into town. Dolarhyde “owns” the town and wants to know just who made the mistake of arresting his son. Meanwhile the local law puts together who the stranger is, a man named Jake Lonergan, a man wanted for stealing gold and murdering his “whore” girlfriend.
Dolarhyde wants his son set free, but soon sees Jake, a man who stole from him. But as you expect in a western movie set in the late 1800’s in Arizona, aliens attack. Of course the locals don’t know what they are, but when they start dying or get picked up by the alien ships, all other grudges get dropped and they combine forces to retrieve their people.
The film goes more into the story from there, but that’s all you really need to know. With ALL the talent behind the movie you would expect an epic blockbuster that changes the game and shatters genres. What you get is a western that you wish didn’t have aliens in it. The movie is good, but that’s the problem, it’s just good. Cowboys & Aliens should be great. The director is a proven hit maker. Craig and Ford have been in films that have made a gazillion dollars. And the writing talent behind it shouldn’t have left us with a script of clichés and boring words.
Daniel Craig is very good in it. He plays the stranger/Jake very well and is no doubt the star of the film. Olivia Wilde is good in it and her character has a nice little twist (and let’s not forget her amazing eyes in it). Sam Rockwell as Doc gives a good performance as does Paul Dano and Keith Carradine. The issue might be Harrison Ford. As the grizzled war vet, Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde is clichéd from head to toe. Maybe it’s the writing or the character itself, but Ford deserves better.
One of the flaws of Cowboys & Aliens is the pacing. The film seems to drag in certain points, but does lead up to a strong conclusion. We do get to know a little bit of back story on Daniel Craig’s Jake and maybe that’s why it drags a bit. The film looks great on the big screen like all westerns because of the beautiful scenery, but maybe it should have just been a western about cowboys minus the aliens.
The attempt to combine genres is a half way decent one. Cowboys and aliens can be put together, but maybe it needs to stay in space and not the old west. Space cowboys like Malcolm Reynolds and his crew of the Serenity, show it can work (that’s a Firefly reference people, the greatest cancelled TV show of all time).
The biggest problem with Cowboys & Aliens is its expectations. The film is good, it’s worth seeing on the big screen, but it should be loved, it should be great and epic and every other popular buzz word out today. The actors, the crew, the writers are all phenomenally talented people that just didn’t make a film that lives up to expectations. It should be one of the biggest films of the year, but unfortunately it’s one of the biggest disappointments and I absolutely hate saying that. A good film that simply needed to be great.