Cowboys & Aliens
starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde
directed by Jon Favreau
screenplay by Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby
I get the feeling that Hollywood, at least for a lucky few, is a like a giant playground in which filmmakers get to play in sandboxes of their own making. There's no greater evidence of this than to sit down and watch Cowboys & Aliens. Between this and superhero movies like Daredevil and Iron Man, it seems Jon Favreau has a knack for convincing studios to give him big bags of money so he can run off and play dress-up with friends and film icons.
The very title, Cowboys & Aliens, quite literally tells you everything you need to know about this movie. There are cowboys, and they fight aliens. If you attempt to watch this movie in order to glean anything beyond that, you're not only wasting your time, you really ought to seek psychiatric help because you'd have to be crazy to think the movie is anything other than pure B-movie fare with an A-list budget.
Based on a graphic novel that was actually pitched as a movie originally, the movie revolves are Daniel Craig as a cowboy with no memory and a strange metal bracelet locked around his wrist. When he gets into the dustbowl town of Absolution, he learns his name is Jake and he's a wanted man who has run afoul of a cattle barren. As things go downhill for Jake, it gets worse for everyone when the aliens attack and abduct random townsfolk. After that, it's up to everyoen to band together and track down the aliens and save the day.
As far as the plot goes, the movie is what you'd expect from your usual summer fare. Lots of things blowing up, lots of fights, a lot of machismo and one-liners, and a scant amount of character development. Everyone in the movie seems to play to their typecasts: Daniel Craig plays it cool and mysterious, Harrison Ford is gruff and confrontational, Olivia Wilde is hot, and Sam Rockwell is quirky. Beyond that, everyone is driven purely with fighting aliens.
As for the little green men, they aren't that little--or green. They actually reminded me a bit of the alien villain from Men In Black, kind of buggy and reptilian at the same time. It's their motivation that struck me as a tad original in an alien invasion movie, and totally befitting a western. I won't spoil it beyond that, but if you saw it then you know what I mean.
The action scenes, especially the big showdown at the end, is where I had the biggest problem with the movie. I mean aside from the fancy bracelet Jakes wears, which is actually an alien weapon, the humans are severely outmatched and inexplicably put up a serious fight against the aliens. I mean, I'm really surprised an alien force wouldn't zap the humans into oblivion the moment they posed any kind of serious threat. Instead, they keep toying with them almost, like they still don't believe the humans can do any damage, despite doling a lot of it through their encounters.
Bah, I over-analyze. Unlike a preposterous film like Transformers or Cloverfield, this movie had a likeability to it, and I dare say a little heart. More heart than those other films, at any rate. Thanks to the on-screen presence of the lead actors, the movie avoids tripping into total farce. I just don't know if the movie is worth watching more than once, but I would recommend fans of weird westerns and alien invasion flicks see it ... once.