by Stefan Abrutat
Cowboys and Aliens promises big, but doesn’t quite deliver on the premise. It’s like two standard movies have been zipped together, as if the producers were expecting the combination to be greater than the sum of the parts. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Cliché after cliché click past at an alarming rate, from both genres, and certainly create the feeling (which is what I suspected going in) that this movie is overwritten and overproduced. With sixteen producers (including Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and producer/director Jon Favreau) and five total writers, it’s often an easy slide into mediocrity. Typically so many perceptions and opinions diffuse any potential innovation, despite the luminary qualities of many of the filmmakers involved. I can’t help but think if just ONE of the famous names had more solitary control, there’d have been a little more depth and a lot more spectacle.
The movie starts as a fairly bog-standard western, albeit with a wounded Daniel Craig (no one plays beaten up or injured quite like Craig) waking up alone in the desert, with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, and a weird metallic device attached to his wrist. He wanders into the nearby mining town of Absolution, Arizona, to meet and establish the characters of town boss and son Woodrow Dolarhyde and Percy Dolarhyde (respectively Harrison Ford and Paul Dano), and aesthetic onlooker Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), along with the basic tenets of plot. Recognized as a known ne’er-do-well by Sherriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine), he’s arrested and thrown in jail. Shortly thereafter, the aliens (here described as “demons”) arrive in spectacular fashion, but they seem a little CGI generic compared to recent sci-fi offerings. The invasion sparks cooperation between the various Old West factions of good guys, bad guys and Native Americans, and battle commences.
Overall, it’s an okay movie, with performances from a cast that saves it from completely sinking, buoyed by one-liners delivered with the panache one might expect from inestimable James Bond and Indiana Jones.
Rating: PG-13. Running Time: 1 hr 58 min.