Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens
August 10, 2011
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.