Aug 31 2011 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
Cowboys & Aliens
COWBOYS & Aliens plays out in the Old West of Arizona, 1873, and sees Daniel Craig play Jake, a stranger with no memory of his past who stumbles into the town of Absolution.
He quickly realises he isn’t welcome among locals, led by the iron-fisted Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), but that becomes the least of his worries when aliens attack from the sky.
Movie mash-ups. We’ve had Freddy vs Jason, King Kong vs Godzilla, AVP: Alien vs Predator and, erm, Kramer vs Kramer.
And in Cowboys & Aliens we have Bond and Indiana Jones teaming up to take down E.T... what’s not to like?
Turns out, a decent bit. Don’t get me wrong, Cowboys & Aliens is exciting enough with some impressive scenes but when the credits rolled I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed.
Iron Man director Jon Favreau seemingly left that Marvel franchise to helm this movie and he brings his action chops with him, but loses the sense of fun and witty banter that could’ve given Cowboys & Aliens a real boost.
Aside from early scenes where Jake beats down Paul Dano’s wimpy Percy, the film is a humourless affair.
This is best summed up by Craig and Ford’s performances. They spend most of the movie trying to ‘out-gruff’ each other and barely crack a smile.
007 and Indiana may have shown little mercy at times, and Craig’s early cold takedown of three men in Cowboys & Aliens is typical of his new-age Bond, but they packed plenty of charm too.
Six writers, led by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Transformers), were on the script and the biggest mistake they make is to shoehorn in too many characters.
They should’ve concentrated more on developing the dynamic between Jake and Dolarhyde. Ford in particular gets short-changed with an uninteresting lead character.
What the writing team do well, though, is create a great role for Olivia Wilde (Ella). About two-thirds in her character takes an unexpected, exciting shift and she’s the best thing in the film.
Favreau and cinematographer Matthew Libatique also deserve credit for utilising the New Mexico locations to the fullest.
Lush green landscapes and blue skies mesh well with the dark, autumnal colours and sandy surfaces synonymous with the western genre.
A green hue is used during Jake’s flashbacks and Favreau features a few alien point-of-view camera shots to remind us we’re in sci-fi territory too.
And the two genres combine well for the most part. It opens with a man with no name arriving in town and causing a stir with locals... so far, so western.
But then the opening alien attack hits, with War of the Worlds-style tentacled terror sweeping down on Absolution and from there the fusion of genres never feels too jarring, culminating in an entertaining, albeit slightly cluttered, climax.
Cowboys & Aliens has too many flaws to stand out among the summer blockbuster fare and not enough sparks or barbs fly between Craig and Ford.
Which makes me wonder... Bond vs Indiana, now that would be a movie!
Rating - 6 out of 10.