Monday, July 8, 2013

Cowboys And Aliens!

I have to say when I first saw Cowboys and Aliens advertised a few years ago I was intrigued. The idea of blending the science fiction and western genres is a smart thing to do, or can be if handled correctly. And this movie seemed to be well cast with some real blood and thunder types in the leads. How can you go wrong when you have James Bond and Han Solo both mixing it up with bloodthirsty aliens. But apparently you can as this movie didn't do all that well at the box office. I don't pay much attention to that sort of thing, only in so far as it sometimes means I don't get out in time to see a movie before it drifts off into the mist. That happened this time and so I've gone two years without thinking about Cowboys and Aliens all that much, and I've led a relatively happy life.

But this past week, I finally got to see it on television. And I'm sorry I didn't get to the theater. This one has more going for it than I was led to believe by some of the reviews and even some of the advertising. For one thing, it's more of a pure western than I'd expected. The director, Jon Favreau clearly wanted to make a for real western and he does a pretty decent job here. I saw homages to a number of my favorite western flicks (Shane, The Searchers, etc.) show up here and there throughout the story. The movie when it doesn't showcase its science fiction elements looks and feels like a western, and that makes a critical difference when the sci-fi elements do emerge.

There are some things which hurt the movie's effectiveness though. And as believable as Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are in their respective parts of the Man-with-no-name-for-a-while and the grizzled Civil War veteran, that's just how unbelievable Olivia Wilde is as the love interest of sorts. She just doesn't fit, and that may have been intentional, but it hurts the rough and tumble feel of the movie. She's just not very credible as an action heroine.

I wasn't all that crazy about the aliens either. They were B.E.M.s for sure, but like many modern movie aliens I found them hard to decipher visually, aside from the fact they had claws and were really nimble. They were sort of stock-aliens. They didn't develop as characters, but remained almost exclusively an opposing force. That's one way of playing it, but I'm not sure it was intentional.

And the biggest deficiency is the length of the movie. This movie's final act feels too long. There's a lot to do, but frankly they spend an awful long time on the battle sequences with lots of repetitive scenes of aliens jumping up and down on cowboys and indians. They seemed less of a threat too in the final battle, much less imposing than the single alien much of the movie is spent tracking.

But in the end, credible performances by Craig, Ford, Clancy Brown as a preacher, and David Carradine as the town sheriff, help pull off a movie that I liked better than I expected.

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