I’m hard pressed to think of a movie I liked less than Cowboys and Aliens. Ever. It wasn’t good. And it wasn’t bad enough to be entertaining. It was just dull. Limp action scenes. Tired acting from Daniel Craig, Harrison Fordand – worst of all – Olivia Wilde. And a story that could have been scripted in about 20 minutes. The only pleasure I got out of the film was predicting which cliché was going to come next.
My theory about the origin of this film is that the title predated the script. Smitten with the idea of an epic battle between cowboys and aliens, the writers used that as a scaffolding upon which to build a bunch of illogical, silly stories that just reminded the audience of older, better movies.
The premise is that aliens have landed in the wild, wild West and are kidnapping and killing settlers and American Indians alike. One mysterious man, played by Daniel Craig, holds the secret to stopping the invasion. He’s joined by the usual motley crew: a crude Ford as a big-shot landowner, his adopted American Indian son, Wilde as a driven woman with no past, the cowardly storekeeper who needs to develop some courage, the young boy on his path to becoming a man and a friendly dog.
That’s about all you’ll need to know about those characters, since they don’t develop beyond those stock descriptions. From that point, it’s basically just one fight after another – with outlaws, Indians and, ultimately, aliens. The results are a little less than surprising.
By the time the closing credits had rolled, I couldn’t have told you who lived, who died or how this horrible movie ever got made.
It could have been an interesting experiment in combining genres. The director, Jon Favreau, responsible for the Iron Man movies, did get some of the high points of the classic Western down, with some towering shots of formidable deserts. But he totally fails to do anything interesting in introducing the visitors from space or capturing the tone of famous alien movies.
Alternatively, it could have been good, campy fun if the actors hadn’t taken it so seriously. Instead, Craig, Ford and Wilde default to a deep gaze or furrowed brow at every opportunity. Apparently they were the only ones who did take this film seriously. AG