Genre: Western, Sci-Fi
Opens locally Friday, July 29th, 2011 (check for showtimes)
Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach
Directed by Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man, Iron Man 2)
You have to give credit to those behind the new film “Cowboys & Aliens,” for their attempt at originality. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a really good Western, and rarely (if ever) have we seen the genre cross streams with futuristic science fiction quite like this. “Cowboys & Aliens” is a mash-up of the two genres, doing justice to both of them without ever becoming campy. Unfortunately, the end result feels exactly that: All mashed up, proving that if you combine a B-Movie Western with a B-Movie Sci-Fi flick, the result doesn’t produce an A-caliber film.
The premise is quite familiar, yet we’ve never seen all of these plot elements present in the same film. It’s the Old West, and our hero/anti-hero cowboy played by Daniel Craig (James Bond,) wakes up lost and wounded, with no memories of where he was or who he was. He has on him a metal wrist band, which he believes to be a cuff of some kind, but we as viewers know that it looks to advanced for the time period. As he wanders into a nearby town, there is normal cowboy movie stuff going on…the town has one beautiful belle, a simple bar owner is being harrassed by a local punk, and the town Sheriff steps in to avoid trouble. It appears to be your typical Western…that is, until an alien spaceship appears on the scene and attacks.
I was surprised how genuine and serious filmmaker Jon Favreau keeps things grounded. With his bigger hits in the past, Elf and the Iron Mans, there was definitely a comic flair and a sense of fun infused in the film. Going into a movie called “Cowboys & Aliens,” it already lends itself to kind of a tongue-in-cheek, cheese-appeal. But “Cowboys & Aliens” takes itself very seriously, even if we cannot. It has some lighter moments and sharp one-liners, but this is not a movie making fun of Westerns or Alian Invasion films. This is a movie that desperately wants to be both.
On the acting front, Daniel Craig does a great job as does a cast of supporting characters. However, Harrison Ford plays on old codger, a grumbly and angry man that is one beat away from the last character he played in 2010’s “Morning Glory.” Harrison Ford used to represent fun at the movies, with Han Solo, Indiana Jones, etc. What happened to him? He does not seem to be having any fun anymore, and he has the unique ability to radiate irritation through the screen…almost to the point where you get the feeling that acting at all is a huge annoyance to him.
The writing team on “Cowboys & Aliens” (too many to name) does include the likes of Damon Lindelof, creator of TV’s Lost, and Robert Orci, responsible for the most recent “Star Trek” screenplay as well as a writer on Alias & Fringe. These two definitely have been involved with some of the best sci-fi to have been created in recent years. The problem here is that by crossing genres, they stay true to neither one. Some elements work, some don’t, and ultimately you are left with a forgettable entry into both the Western and Sci-Fi genres.
As a summer popcorn flick, I’ve seen worse. To say that I haven’t seen many better this summer isn’t a compliment meant for “Cowboys & Aliens,” it’s more of a knock towards this summer’s batch of blockbusters.