Cowboys & Aliens (2011) – Brings both the Pew Pew and the QQ.
I find myself reviewing my third western. You know, when I agreed to start doing dual movie reviews with The Fat Man, I never expected we’d have to count ten paces and draw so often. And while Rango brought the weird in a good way, Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t seem to know what to do with such a bizarre concept. Does it swing for the fences, bring on the humor and dare to be a little cheesy? Does it go completely high brow and take the idea that aliens first made contact with Earth back in the Wild Wild West? Sadly, it takes too little from column A, some of column B, and then adds a whole heapin’ helping of suck.
Maybe the problem isn’t so much the script, but rather its in the casting. Daniel Craig did a decent enough job as Bond, James Bond, but a stoic international man of mystery that randomly lashes out at people doesn’t work so well in this setting. They’re supposed to be tall, dark, and handsome. Not dry with no hint of charisma — or blond! Worse is Harrison Ford sleepwalking through yet another role. While he may have complained once he ‘already is working around the clock,’ I really question the sanity of his zealous fans holding on to their Star Wars miniatures that remain in boxes. Maybe he might have been interesting as Indiana Jones, but he seems like he’s fallen so far asleep behind the wheel, he might as well be henceforth known as Zombie Harrison Ford. Here, he barks out a few lines, behaves like a curmudgeon, and bores the ever living shit out of me.
The worst offender, however, is Olivia Wilde. Not satisfied with just doing medical differentiations on House, she apparently decided she wanted to star in approximately 73 movies in the last eighteen months. She whispers most of her, completely laugh inducing lines that only point toward the inevitable revelation that her character isn’t of this world either. No kidding! The fact that she doesn’t fit in from the very first time we see her didn’t clue anyone in? And while I am not normally in the habit of spoiling things, I’m going to go ahead and tell you when her character dies I cheered. But then, she came right back to life. Damn it!
I guess it really all goes back to the overriding problem this movie faces. It’s called Cowboys & Aliens and in it are just that. There’s no real advanced plot other than, “Hey, these Aliens are here kidnapping our kin, let’s go get ‘em!” So the bland characters move from set piece to set piece, exchange some gunfire, and until they start teaming up with one another, are unable to even come close to besting one bad guy.
While some of the side characters, most noticeably Paul Dano playing a drunken mess of a rich boy son and Sam Rockwell playing the role of Doc (guess what he does?) did keep my interest. I really ought to say they kept me from completely falling asleep. Westerns certainly move at their own pace, but with nothing other than some pretty landscape and a couple of rare moments, I had a hard time caring one bit about this silly stupid movie.
I don’t remember having this set of plastic figures as a kid, but I’m sure it would have been awesome! Cowboys on horses with winchester rifle and 6-shooters, aliens in little space craft with cool blasters. Oh the battles little Fat Man would have had!! This roughly described the “OH YES!” reaction to the trailers and even just the idea of Cowboys & Aliens, but like most ideas out of Hollywood, someone ruined it like a child ruined by hippie parents.
There’s not a lot to spoil plot-wise – once again, the trailers pretty much finish all but the last 5 minutes of the film. Daniel Craig is a tight-pants (VERY TIGHT) wearing cowboy who doesn’t know who he is or where he came from (but he just has to remember…). He wanders in to town and immediately starts kicking locals around Bond style. He teams up with a bumbling Sam Rockwell, gruff Harrison Ford (minus his pretty pretty earring), and a mysterious Olivia Wilde who knows exactly what is going on, but refuses to tell anybody. Suck it, Olivia, here’s what’s going on – aliens are taking people and they need to be stopped! Was that so hard? The majority of the film pretty much covers the “stopped” portion.
I hated this movie. I had delicious beer to drink while hating it, and I still hated it! I had trouble putting my finger on it, but I think it can be summed up with stupid plot, bad acting, and bad aliens. The entire film had a single idea of “We gonna find them aliens and we gonna KILL ‘EM!” No side plots, no intricacies of character. Once Daniel Craig remembered everything, all mystery was put aside. The trailer promised nudity, but there was none… unless you’re really in to shoulders. There were a lot of sexy nude shoulders. Ford and Craig should have been a joy to watch, but they weren’t. Even usually fun Paul Dano seemed out of touch with his role, just whining and wandering across each frame. Actors need to be directed – they can’t be left to their own devices – and there was a genuine lack of any direction. It’s not like they had good dialog (you just have to remember…) to work with, but Ford salvaged the Star Wars cheese writing somehow. Does that make George Lucas a good director, or has Ford just gotten feeble minded?
The aliens need their own little paragraph. After all, they came all the way to the wrong time period only to be beaten by apes with sticks and little pebbles. Super 8, while a good film, had a pretty disappointing alien. He was a terrifying beast compared the the weird space-frogs in C&A. Ooo, they’re going to get me with their teeny hands! What does it take to get a good alien? I understand that you had to show the aliens pretty early in order to get the story moving, but they’ve gotta be impressive in that case. If I can’t describe anything other than “tiny hands that may grab at you in very close quarters,” you failed at Alien Design 101. There’s a new The Thing coming out this fall and I can only hope it keeps in line with John Carpenter’s unsettling masterpiece.
Awesome title and weak execution take what could have been a fun, light-hearted romp into an over-serious film that threatens to bore you to death. And probe your dead body to see if it you’ve got any money left.
The Fat Man gives this movie: