Excitement has been steadily growing since Jon Favreau (the Iron Man director who’s now a true household name) announced he was planning another comic-book adaptation, released some great teaser posters, a fantastic teaser trailer, and let us know that as well as a great cast, and some stunning set pieces, his new movie would feature both Cowboys and Aliens.
It begins with an amnesiac cowboy (Daniel Craig, Casino Royale) waking up in the desert with no memory of who he is, how he got there, or where the strange bracelet on his arm came from. After stumbling into a local town and discovering that he not only knows English, but can fight pretty well, he manages to beat up the son of a wealthy town Colonel , and gets locked up after he’s recognized as local bandit Jake Lonergan.
But before he can be shipped off to the Federal Marshall, and before the wealthy, and rather angry, Colonel Dollarhyde (Harrison Ford, Air Force One) can break him out to exact his revenge, aliens descend on the small desert town, start wantonly blowing up buildings and bit of sand, and abducting a large number of the townsfolk.
Jake manages to destroy one of their small ships; after the bracelet on his arm mysteriously activates, and turns out to be some sort of alien-killing laser weapon; which causes the Colonel to let Jake go free, so the pair, and a number of the remaining townsfolk who have had their kin abducted, can go on the attack, and get their people back.
And so for the rest of the movie we watch the characters interact with each other in a fairly average and cliched ways, as they hunt the one alien that escaped on foot, team-up with even more people that don’t like them (both bandits and indians), and attack the aliens head-on; hopefully after discovering the secrets that local woman, and clear alien-know-it-all, Ella (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy) is hiding from them.
Cowboys & Aliens is a brilliantly successful genre mashup (effectively having merged the very different genres of the western and sci-fi worlds), but it isn’t without its problems; the main one being that it’s actually quite a flat, and somewhat dull, movie, with a finale that’s far too long; feeling as if it lasts about half of the film’s runtime.
There are also a number of continuity errors (maybe getting annoyed when Daniel Craig is so covered in dust he looks like an Albino, but then turns a corner and is miraculously spotless, is a bit pedantic; but it’s still distracting) and some fairly large plot holes that don’t seem to make any sense, or be even briefly explained; the way in which Daniel Craig acquires his bracelet is ridiculous, and even though they’re aliens, we never learn why they want to abduct people.
Having said that, such issues aren’t likely to put many viewers off, as even though the characters are mostly underdeveloped cliches, they’re portrayed by some truly fine, and easily watchable, actors; including the two powerful leads (Craig and Ford), the average acting of Olivia Wilde (who more than serves her purpose as the only real woman in the film, and a nice piece of eye candy), and a brilliantly strong supporting cast; with appearances from Keith Carradine (Deadwood), Walton Goggins (The Shield), Clancy Brown (Highlander), and Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2), meaning there’s some fine acting almost everywhere you look.
And as well as the strong acting, moviegoers will be pleased to know that the effects in Cowboys & Aliens are great; from the large and menacing CG aliens themselves, to their ships, the laser weapons, and the numerous explosions; which all serve to compliment the amazing set design and costumes extremely well (costumes which will appeal to both sexes; as Craig wears a pair of tight, ass-less, slacks, and you do get to see Olivia Wilde naked at one point).
So as summer movies go, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Cowboys & Aliens (you could see The Smurfs!); a film with great actors delivering solid performances against great backdrops and stunning sets; but you could also do a hell of a lot better (you could see Rise of the Planet of the Apes); as it starts out as a pretty average western, and becomes a pretty poor sci-fi movie that’s a little dull, contains some clunky action, and is almost instantly forgettable.