Best Movies of All Time + [Steven Spielberg]

COWBOYS & ALIENS

COWBOYS & ALIENS-13

"I need to know where you came from."
-- Ella Swenson

Cowboys & Aliens is a 2011 sci-fi action film directed by Jon Favreau that centers around a 19th-century battle between humans and invading aliens. The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking in the middle of the desert with no recollection of his past and a mysterious metal bracelet attached to his wrist. He makes his way to the small town of Absolution, where he somewhat inadvertently helps a young hot-shot named Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano) into finding trouble with the law. This causes the local sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) to recognize Lonergan as a wanted criminal, and it sets Percy's father Woodrow (Harrison Ford) quickly against him. Just as Taggart is sending Percy and Lonergan to federal marshals and Woodrow attempts to take custody of their lives, mysterious lights in the sky begin to attack the small town, kidnapping a number of the people - including Percy and the sheriff - there. Convinced that demons have set into the town, Woodrow and Lonergan take a rag-tag group of survivors into the desert to find the creatures and save their kin. With the help of a young woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) who knows more than meets the eye, the group plans their attack against the creatures in the hopes of ridding the menace once and for all.

If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you'll know that I was drinking from the Cowboys & Aliens Kool-Aid since I first saw the trailers last year. I placed it as my second most anticipated film of the 2011 summer because, as I stated in that post, "there's something about the concept of aliens mixing with the Old West that's entirely intriguing." And considering the film has a line-up of producers that includes Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, you'd have to think that there could be something about this film, especially when their excitement is so palpable.

Suffice it to say, I was a little let down by the final product that Cowboys & Aliens placed on the screen. While it's not a terrible movie by any means, there just wasn't enough to keep me entirely intrigued throughout the entire film. (To be fair, I did see this at a midnight showing after an extremely long day, so fatigue and exhaustion could be playing a bit into this review). Now, there wasn't a huge issue with the level of acting. I thought it fit well with this particular film even if certain members of the cast found it commonplace to overact during the entire film. Our two leads - Craig and Ford - are the most guilty of this particular crime, but we've also got some lesser characters who ham it up during their time on-screen (look for the usually brilliant Dano to fall into that category this time around). Still, it's not bad enough to make you cringe, but I just thought the acting could have been a tad bit better.

The real issue with the film is the storyline. I know that I can't really bash it too much considering this is literally a film about cowboys fighting aliens, but if you want your audience to suspend their disbelief, you need to throw them enough to do just that. The biggest problem was the that story was entirely predictable. At every moment, you knew which direction it was headed, and who was going to go where. If your audience can start guessing (correctly) what's going to happen next, you'll quickly lose their focus and concentration. For me, Cowboys & Aliens nearly fell into that particular trap, offering little to no sensible storyline for me to follow. Because the acting itself was suspect, that left little on which to cling.

I do have to say that the special effects and action sequences were relatively well-crafted. It's a fun idea to pit these two adversaries against one another and see how it might unfold. I also have to give credit to the filmmakers for creating an original creature to throw at the humans. It's a multi-faceted beast that can strike in a number of ways, adding to its overall effectiveness. So kudos there, good sirs.

At the end of the day, you really can't take Cowboys & Aliens for more than its title suggests: it's a movie about cowboys fighting aliens. If you go into the film expecting something brilliant, you'll surely be disappointed. However, if you go in just wanting a fun, popcorn-munching time, then you'll probably be set. It's a film that doesn't require any thinking whatsoever, so just shut your brain off and let the film entertain you on a purely superficial level.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C
Thumbs Sideways