The western desert in ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ is more beautiful than ever before, outshining even the cinematography of the master of American desert westerns, John Ford. That may be the best thing going for this film. The ever sullen, brooding, pensive Daniel Craig, out of James Bond’s tuxedo (though still in the same character), and in a skin tight plaid shirt with necessarily rolled-up sleeves, and even tighter vest is yet more eye candy. This time, the man without a name doesn’t even know what it is, as he is suffering from amnesia. Harrison Ford also holds his own as the powerful town boss who at first wants to kill our hero, but needs must ride along side him to rid the world, or at least New Mexico, of aliens. And why not? If aliens taught the Egyptians and Mayans how to build pyramids, indeed, if they cross-pollinated with nascent humans, why not continue their visitations during all historical periods anywhere on earth? Why show up only thousands of years later at Roswell? How about Renaissance aliens or Ming Dynasty aliens? Aliens at the Crusades, fighting with or against the Nazis, high among hippies during the summer of love? Somebody, stop me!
Why the aliens are in the wild west in ‘C&A’ is not satisfactorily explained. Actually, it was only explained in one very short sentence muttered right after a joke while the audience was laughing. I asked my neighbors in the theater what Olivia Wilde said which would have clarified the fundamental premise of the film and no one knew. Also, why people were being abducted by the aliens defies logic in the face of the aliens’ behavior. I can’t give too much away, but the bloodbath during the intense action sequences shows aliens have no problem figuring out how to subdue cowboys and their womenfolk. The stereotyped characters seen in all westerns were played by vastly overqualified actors: Ford as the powerful rancher, Clancy Brown as the wise preacher, Sam Rockwell as the bespectacled intellectual who never shot a gun, Paul Dano as the spoiled and dangerous rich man’s son, Keith Carradine as the Sheriff. Unfortunately, the characters behaved as expected; no surprises for the audience or creativity for this cast. Dash nabbit! The whole script was as structurally cohesive as a straw pig pen in the rainy season. Can somebody explain why the riverboat was moved 500 miles? Them pesky aliens had to do it for some mysterious alien reason or the did these sloppy scriptwriters just need the characters to find some shelter from the rain?
If storyline makes no difference to you, if you want some fast gun slinging, bar room fights, alien rampages, fast human-roping from an alien craft, and little rubbery alien hands coming out of their chests to go all touchy feely, ‘C&A’ delivers. And if enough people go see it, maybe a sequel will be made and make sense in flashbacks out of the mish mash of this first attempt.
Cowboys and Aliens
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman…
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Keith Carradine
Time: 118 min.
Opening on July 29 at the AMC Van Ness, the Century Centre 9 and the Presidio in San Francisco