‘Cowboys and Aliens’ basks in its own ridiculousness

Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Directed by Jon Favreau

6.5/10  PG-13

James Bond and Indiana Jones…well, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford…team with a group of Native Americans in 19th century Arizona to combat a raid of blood-thirsty extraterrestrials hell-bent on their own American gold rush. How can director Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens go wrong?

Cowboy Jake (Craig) wakes up in a dry, barren desert, unaware of his whereabouts or his name. He finds his way to a small town, run by a cattle tycoon, Woodrow (Ford) and his rowdy son, Percy (Paul Dano). Soon, an alien raid leaves the town in pieces, napping Percy and other townspeople. A group of guys and girls, headed by Jake and Woody, search for the missing friends and relatives. Soon, a group of Indians join the pack, but will their small forces be able to handle the large, vicious beasts? Are they all even fighting for the same team?

With a big-name cast, including Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde (the new “it” girl), expectations run high. And really, nothing about the acting disappoints. Sure, the story doesn’t allow Craig or Ford to really show off their true badassness, but they throw some nice punches, make some amazing shots, and the scene where Daniel Craig tackles a guy off of his horse is pretty doggone epic. As I said, Wilde is the new “it” girl, with three big-name movies already this year, and eight others scheduled to release in the next two years. She isn’t entirely impressive, but I suppose she has potential? Sam Rockwell, who I love in Moon, is great as a cowboy hell-bent on seeing the return of his wife from the alien menaces.

While period movies can sometimes have sub-par scripts, Cowboys & Aliens screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who also teamed on Transformers and Star Trek) don’t really disappoint. They work some good Wild West cowboy lingo in, and never throw off the movie for me (like some action scripts do—they focus on the action and forget about the dialogue). Don’t get me wrong, dialogue is skim and used only when fists are not being thrown, but what’s there is good.

It’s the plot that really bums me out. I love cowboys and Indians working together, and I love the presence of aliens in the 1800s. What I don’t like are the unnecessary plot twists they throw in the middle. They are confusing and dumb, and they take away from both the acting and the action. At its surface, the premise is genius. But when the movie is over, it’s the little things that annoy you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you don’t have anything nice to show, don’t show anything at all.

Fans of action, listen up. While the plot could use some work, the intensity of a great action flick is all here. Craig kicks alien butt, and Ford (even at 69 years old) can still play the gruff, grumpy gun-slinger splendidly. The cowboy on alien action is a visual pleasure, but it’s the Indians (I use it knowing that it’s not politically correct, but it’s easier) that are really fun to watch. Thank goodness for “cowboy” Adam Beach, an Indian who could translate for the townies, saving them from imminent death.

Being let down is such a pity. With a great cast and a promising plot, I had hoped for more with Cowboys & Aliens. Even with a wonderful western soundtrack, a decent script, and a brilliant battle scene, the movie can’t make its way to Oscar glory…as if a cowboy/alien movie ever could.

Cowboys & Aliens is on DVD and Blu-ray.

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9 thoughts on “‘Cowboys and Aliens’ basks in its own ridiculousness

  1. Feels like a flick that was poked, tweaked, reformatted and re-edited at least a dozen times. But there is still some deal of fun to be had here, this just shouldn’t have taken itself so seriously. Good review Logan.

    1. I actually liked that it tried being serious, a comedy about the same thing has all the makings for a flop. But it’s true, I think there is some fun to be had watching the story play out. Thanks for reading!

  2. I really loved this movie. I thought the script was stellar, especially the beginning. I dislike Wilde but felt she did competently in this role.

    Not sure what middle plot twists you didn’t like…

    The best thing about the movie was it felt like a western…just with aliens. I know it’s more a niche movie but I wasn’t sure why it languished on the shelf for so long.

    Cheers…

    1. The whole thing about Wilde’s character not being human? Or was that Craig’s wife? If it would have stuck with strictly cowboy on alien fighting, I would have loved the campiness. But it tried too hard. Sorry we couldn’t agree, thanks for reading!

      1. We can’t always agree can we… that’s what makes different review blogs great though!

        I do agree that it was odd Wilde wasn’t human but that’s how they knew what to do in the alien’s space craft. It was essential for plot. They did take on a big idea that perhaps would have been better suited over two or three movies but nowadays writers are scared stiff they’ll never get the chance.

        You should go with your gut a little more…I’d have loved to hear a little bit more in the review about the problems you had. Good though…I’ll definitely keep reading… Cheers!

    2. It’s true, it would be very boring if all my comments were agreeable. I try to thread the fine needle between droning on and on about topics and concise diction with my reviews, so I try to make my points quickly. Lol because I know personally, I don’t like reading long reviews, especially when you can tell from the beginning what the review will say!

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