Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Around the fourth or fifth instance that I checked the time during Cowboys & Aliens, Jon Favreau’s new, impossibly dull cross-genre action flick, I began to ponder where it all went wrong.

It wasn’t when dirty, aimless cowboy, Jake (Daniel Craig) woke up in an isolated field, unaware of where he was or why a large metal contraption was stuck around his wrist. It wasn’t when Jake rolled into a nameless town and made nice with the preacher. And although it annoyed me, I didn’t lose patience when the town screw-up Percy (Paul Dano) decided to drunkenly shoot up the town for no reason. And by shoot, I mean fire roughly 11 bullets… from a six-shooter… without reloading.

No. I lost all patience in Cowboys & Aliens soon after the town was attacked by the titular beings for the first time. With Jake and Percy shackled together in the back of a carriage, and the whole town standing idly as Percy’s gruff father (Harrison Ford) orders the Sherriff to release his son, aliens soon cast down on the town. They blow shit up, they nab people like a kid scooping up a stuffed animal with a metal claw, they kill, they mame, and then they’re gone.

Now, Cowboys & Aliens takes place a few years after the Civil War, and as far as I know, the word “aliens” didn’t even exist back then. So, is it fair to assume that if the word didn’t exist, the very notion of beings from other worlds didn’t exist either? Accepting all that, wouldn’t you be a little goddamn surprised if your town was randomly attacked by flying metal ships? Wouldn’t you, you know, have a discussion about it? No? How about if you fought a massive, slimy creature whose arms protrude through its chest?

Apparently the characters in Cowboys & Aliens have seen it all before, as not one single person mentions the aliens or their attacks. There’s no “what the hell was that?” “what the hell are those?” Nothing. It isn’t until the group is attacked for the third time that they finally have a conversation about what they’re fighting. And that conversation is so laughably convenient, it’s as if the five screenwriters all just threw up their hands and said, “fine, let’s just go with that”. The conversation is revealed in such a way that any feasible question the townspeople have about the aliens is dutifully (and accurately) answered. Gee, how expedient.

Now, you could take my grumbling as being nitpicky. So let’s move beyond the annoyances and plot holes. Cowboys & Aliens, more than any blockbuster of recent memory, is one of the most boring big-budget movies I’ve ever seen. At 118 minutes, it drags on and on and on and on. It’s a never-ending cycle of nonstop chatter, uninteresting action sequence, chatter, lame flashback, Harrison Ford grunting, chatter, action sequence, and so on.

This is a shame, because given the talented call sheet (Craig, Dano, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine) and the capable crew, Cowboys & Aliens probably should’ve worked. Or at least worked better. And believe me, I’m not alone. At my showing I counted a total of eight walkouts. I’ve never walked out of a movie in my life, but I was damn close here. Based solely on boredom alone, I’d be likely to recommend any movie currently in theatres over this useless drivel. D-


  1. My expectations were pretty low (my friend and fellow blogger had to pretty much talk me into seeing it), so maybe that's why I kind of enjoyed it. I did find Dano particularly annoying. I don't like him in general (and what's with his penchant for westerns?). There were definitely some problems. Olivia Wilde is nothing more than eye candy in my opinion. She's sort of what Megan Fox was back around the time of Transformers 2/Jennifer's Body, in terms of hype vs. acting ability anyway. And I found it odd that Harrison Ford was essentially introduced as a villain, an asshole at the very least, and somehow just ended up being a swell guy that consoles Daniel Craig by the end.

  2. I compeltely agree of most everything you said. Dano is annoying to me, which is probably why he was so good in There Will Be Blood. And I didn't get the arc of Ford's character at all. But, I didn't really get the movie either. People (us regular folk and professional critics alike) mostly seem to like it. Beyond me.

  3. Nice review. When you go to see a movie called 'Cowboys and Aliens,' you don't expect high art, and that's fine by us. But if the film itself has problems with taking itself too seriously, that spells trouble, mainly because when you have five writers that's never a good sign. Still somewhat fun entertainment. Check out my review when you can!

  4. One of the most boring big budget movies you've ever seen? I suppose you enjoyed Thor? The only thing keeping me awake in that one was the soundtrack. You have to admit there's something to be said for eye candy. Throughout Cowboys and Aliens there was at least something to watch onscreen. Olivia Wilde. She of the perfect complexion, perfect hair, perfect teeth. Now if we could just find the perfect film for her!

  5. Dude (or dudette), I HATED Thor, but at least the characters in that movie acknolodeged that beings from another planet had overrun their country.

    As far as eye candy goes... if great eye candy equated to a great (or bearable) film, then pornos would garner a lot of Oscar nominations. I see your point, but this flick was just an all out bust.

    (And for the record, Olive Wilde is quite nice, but I'd take Natalie Portman any day)

  6. Replies
    1. Didn't really work for me. But I'm glad you liked it.