Westerns can go one of two ways. They can be phenomenal and make the audience hoot and holler. Or they can suck. Typically there are cowboys and there are indians. Cowboys & Aliens puts a different spin on things. The cowboys have the same resources that they usually do. They have pistols, rifles, dynamite, whiskey and rope. We live in the age of “Do you believe in aliens?” Cowboys didn’t. I’m sure the occasional UFO sighting was reported back then. I reckon a few cowboys of the old west had one too many shots ‘a whiskey and scratched their heads at a funny light in the sky. But what would they say if lights moved in fast over the horizon and started vaporizing and snatching up all of their kin? Not much. Just a lot of screaming and running. Which is totally understandable.
In Cowboys & Aliens, Daniel Craig plays Jake Lonergan. He’s a badass, as most cowboy movie heroes are. Let me just be up front with you folks… I don’t buy Daniel Craig as a lasso swingin’, reach for the sky, rootin’ tootin’ man of the old west for one second. First off, he just isn’t a very good actor. Secondly, not to be petty, but he’s a weird-looking dude. He’s in fantastic shape and looks nice in chaps, but his face… I don’t know…
But I digress. The fact that Daniel Craig was billed over Harrison Ford blew me away. I thought to myself “Maybe the credits are just in alphabetical order.” Not the case. Harrison Ford is another story. He is – in my opinion – a Hollywood legend. He was Han Solo. Han. Solo.
So the story is that aliens have come to the town of Absolution in search of gold. Lonergan can’t figure out who he is or what he’s there for. Ella (Olivia Wilde) – who wore pajamas for a good part of the film – knows that there’s something about this stranger with the metal bracelet and stares at him awkwardly for the first half of the film. The aliens come through and take a bunch of people. We don’t know why, but they do. So Lonergan goes along in the movie having ultra saturated flash backs and making strange faces that don’t really depict any kind of emotion.
When the watered down plot is finally revealed, it is incredibly anti-climactic. I suppose shoot-em-up movies don’t need in-depth plots, but it never hurts, ya know? Harrison Ford appears to be acting for everyone else in this film because other than a few bit roles, the acting is a bit lacking. Maybe I’m being too hard on the characters. Maybe director Jon Favreau wanted to follow the idea of old westerns. The ones where John Wayne dun’t say much, but he gets ‘er done by sundown. Maybe Daniel Craig was trying to flex all the way through the movie so his muscles would make up for his lack of actual talent.
One of the things I did enjoy in this movie was the design of the aliens. There are only so ideas that a filmmaker can dream up when creating alien life. These aliens were fast and mean and kinda gross with their chest hands. (Scrubs shout out!) A later scene in the movie reveals an interaction between one of the aliens and Lonergan. I believe it is an homage to Signs. In Signs, an alien cradles a unconcious Morgan Hess and reveals to Mel Gibson’s character that his fingers are the ones that were chopped off earlier in the film. The scene similar to that one in Cowboys & Aliens is part of Lonergan’s history. Not all that exciting, but that’s okay.
Overall, the movie is funny at times, scary at times, and pretty fun to watch if you ignore all of the high school production style acting. If you take it for what it is and don’t compare it to some of the other movies that have been released this summer you are guaranteed a good time.