Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens

August 10, 2011

By MIRANDA FORESMAN

This year’s summer movies are made of comic books, big names, and huge budgets. Cowboys & Aliens has the proper ingredients, but, alas, the end result feels way over-baked.

Inspired by a graphic novel, Cowboys & Aliens has the appearance of a movie that had about a dozen too many puppeteers trying to coordinate the errant plot lines that zig-zag within. With Jon Favreau directing and producing, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg also help produce—along with 13 other named producers, co-producers, associate producers, etc. That’s 16 opinions splashed across a silver screen. The effect is deafening. Can the all-star cast save this mission? Not so much.

Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, the movie has the big-name attraction; however, Hollywood stars do not a good film make. The situation is regrettable really—Indiana Jones and James Bond couldn’t get together and make a great action flick. Daniel Craig is slightly mesmerizing as Jake Lonergan, the cowboy miscreant without his memory, but I think that’s just Daniel Craig, not necessarily good cinematic material shining through.

Harrison Ford is forced to portray every Western-specific mean old white guy role—that of grumpy patriarch, racist turned compassionate, and greedy money-bags turned generous. His character, Colonel Dolarhyde, is predictable and flat. Ford even seems pained by his performance.

Olivia Wilde, pretty as she is, cannot carry her character convincingly. Granted, hers is the most nonsensical character to inhabit, but still. Her most redeeming scene? The one where she steps out of fire sans clothing. I am deeply sorry to report that even that frame is lackluster. Her look in Cowboys & Aliens is downright creepy. Someone had to work very hard to make Ms. Wilde appear this unpleasant.

Speaking of unpleasant, the aliens we are forewarned about in the title? Those are stolen from Ridley Scott circa 1979 with Spielberg-style E.T hands implanted in the face cavity for variety. In over thirty years, no one has dared to create a more screen-worthy alien? NASA should fire up the space shuttle program again. My conjecture is that the cowboys in Cowboys & Aliens were so finessed that the aliens got totally overlooked.

The elephant in the theater of course is that someone over the age of twelve dreamed this film concept up and then proceeded to make a movie out of it. Cowboy town in the 1800s invaded by aliens who are taking people, not killing them, just capturing them to look into their eyes. Throw in some crooks and gold, and ta-da! Hollywood masterpiece, right? This from the fellow who made Iron Man and Iron Man 2.

Cowboys & Aliens has been in wide release for about 12 days now, and I see it coming to DVD around holiday time. I have no doubt that all 16 producers had a blast while making it, I just lament the two hours I spent taking it all in.

CalCoastNews film critic Miranda Foresman lives in Arroyo Grande where she has seen cowboys, but no aliens.

 


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11 Comments

  1. Thanks for sparing me $58.80. I’ll just wait to spend $1.20 through Redbox or Netflix.

    I know Mrs. Foresman is a wonderful film critic who is not swayed by Hollywood to write positive reviews when the movie is actually horrid. Additionally, Mrs. Foresman is highly intelligent and educated in literature and movies.

    Just remember that everyone enjoys different things so even if you don’t agree with Mrs. Foresman critiques doesn’t make her critiques erroneous.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
    • r0y says:

      I do not believe I was calling her critique erroneous; more akin to someone reviewing “Fast and Furious” and then bemoaning the fact that the dialogue was lacking…

      There are many settings for the bar. Some movies are pretty obvious to have a lower setting than others. It’s always a joy when I set a bar lower for a movie, say Iron Man, and come out going: wow!

      It’s like wine, you can buy a bottle of $100 wine and it can be good, or OK. Or you can get a $15 bottle and be pleasantly surprised. Why? Because you know it is a $15 bottle, and you’re likely not expecting the $100 taste.

      I appreciate the review, nonetheless; I would have approached it differently is all.

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. choprzrul says:

    Went to the Regal plex in Arroyo Grande with my wife yesterday afternoon to watch this movie @ 1:45. At the ticket window we were told that the movie would have spanish subtitles, but that the language would be English.

    WTF? I hate watching a movie or television with words on the screen. I don’t even like news with the ticker on the bottom. Since Regal’s matinée times stop at 4:00pm, that leaves us with ZERO options to watch that movie during the day at a decent price.

    I think that it is kind of racist to not have matinée pricing available because I speak English.

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • r0y says:

      It is probably not racism, but more likely free enterprise. If I ran a theater and enough spanish-speaking people expressed an interest, or I wanted to test the waters (see if it attracted more sales), I’d do the same.

      Also, the 4:00 o’clock hour showings are also matinee, as I saw the 4:15(?) or 4:00(?) showing at matinee price. I probably would have tried to sit through it, and if it bothered me, asked for a raincheck or refund (which they clearly state in the preview “spam” when closed-captions or subtitles are used).

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • nycam says:

      Actually, watching the movie dubbed into Spanish would have been a treat. The ¡enthusiasm! of the translation actors can make the film (a surprise comedy) ¡Muy Rico! But I agree, subtitles can be as annoying as watching a tv with closed captioning permanently on, for those of us fortunate to be able to hear.

      Yeah, and as far as racism because it is in another language? Multiple languages are a sign of the times. Look at most packaging today; English, Spanish (some French) but predominantly large colorful pictures for the illiterate. That’s a reflection of who the product marketing people think they need to appeal to.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  3. r0y says:

    I saw this thing twice… once when a friend came into town, and once because it was my son’s 12th birthday and he wanted to see it.

    I liked it. I did not set the bar too high, nor was I expecting Hamlet. That said, I read the title, saw the previews and the movie delivered exactly as advertised. How this could take a reviewer by surprise simply amazes me. Either the reviewer needs “creds” somewhere or she simple did not understand that excellent plots and character development are not likely to come from such a juxtaposed arrangement of cowboys and aliens.

    Yes, Ford’s role was typical; but anyone watching anything in entertainment is used to that. Especially when they go to comics for ideas.

    I’d give this a solid 7 out of 10, or better, but with the caveat that one is going to see a film about cowboys and aliens… in case that slipped by you.

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
    • deedub says:

      You are a good Father to subject yourself to this twice. Who’s to say that aliens could not have visited in the late nineteenth century, or in ancient times, or today? All I ask is if you are going to reach for a concept like this, Give it a sense of possibility. I think this movie was so corny that it should have been completely animated. Harrison Ford sold out to accept a role in this turkey.

      (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
      • r0y says:

        I don’t know if Ford sold out, rather he could just be testing the waters to do some future Western films. Apart from the cliche of his role, he had the walk, the gravely voice, etc. down to a tee!

        I hope Hollywood makes a couple westerns soon… remember Pale Rider? Came out of nowhere, and showed that westerns could still be made in modern times. Tombstone? Lots of them! I hope to see Ford in one soon.

        (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  4. kellygirl says:

    I didn’t particularly care for the movie either. Interesting idea, but a bit too dark.

    However, I did want to just say how much I enjoy these reviews by Ms. Foresman. I don’t know her personally, but her reviews are always spot-on and intelligent. Thanks to CalCoast for posting her stuff.

    (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  5. deedub says:

    If I hadn’t already spent the $, I would have walked out. If I had rented it from Netflix, I would have sent it back without seeing it through. Fresh concept, yes, but come on, the aliens abduct the humans with a lasso. Very high on the cheese factor scale. I really enjoy a good alien movie, but it has to be at least somewhat believable. Based on the trailers, I’m looking forward to Apollo 18. Don’t waste your hard-earned money on this one if you haven’t already.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  6. danika says:

    I thought the movie was fresh in concept. C’mon, cowboys and ALIENS???!!! I don’t regret the 2 hour committment I made, the cash I forked out, or the fact I got to emerge myself in a total lack of reality for that time span. I give it 3 of 5 stars. The special effects were believable.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down

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