Reviewed: Cowboys & Aliens [2011]

12A - 118mins - Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller - 17th August 2011

Finally my prayers to the Hollywood top dogs for a bit of originality have been answered in the form of Cowboys & Aliens, a sci-fi thriller (which puts me in even more of an optimistic mood due to it being one of my preferred genres of choice). Yes it is based on a graphic novel and yes technology in the wild west has been implemented before but this isn't a sequel/prequel and as a concept is very fresh.

Daniel Craig plays Jake, a cowboy who wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no recollection of who he is, where he has been or how he got there. In fact the only clue given to him is a strange metallic bracelet that he is unable to remove from his arm. After making his way to the nearest town he soon makes himself known to the locals and is identified as a dangerous and wanted man guilty of several crimes including stealing gold from local rancher Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). After being arrested and readied for transport, alien spaceships appear out of nowhere and start snatching people away and blowing up the surrounding countryside. Jake's bracelet transforms itself into a weapon and he is able to drive the aliens away.

Now forced to work together to save the people who were kidnapped from them, Jake and Woodrow team up with the other remaining survivors from the town and set off to find out how to put a stop to their common enemy.

The greatest emotion I felt while watching this was one of indifference, mainly directed towards the plot and structure of the movie. Favreau couldn't be more obvious with his intentions for the film as hinted at by the title. Cowboys & Aliens merges the two separate worlds of the wild west with gun-slingers, bandits and Indians with the technologically advanced alien species resulting in no more than a series of confrontations between the two which climaxes in, well, a final confrontation between the two. Where is the interest for the audience with this concept that can only be taken so far?

The story never developed and just had the characters running around with horses doing cowboy things leaving them to remain as two dimensional as the drawings they once were. This is despite the best efforts of Ford and Craig to draw me in. The most impressive part being that as well known for other characters (Jones and Bond) as they are, the two are still able to make you forget this fact and make the characters their own, even when Ford dons a Indiana-esque cowboy hat.

This is a perfect example of the money men of big studios backing the concept rather than the actual story. I'm sure like most of you initially this film sounds like a movie with promise but come the end I didn't feel as though I had been taken on an adventure more rather led from scene to scene as a means to an end. In addition, the CGI could have been better when considering the other films that have already been released this year and the budget that Cowboys & Aliens had to play with but instead they also fail to impress.

I can't emphasise how disappointed I was with this. Given the plethora of talent in the writing department (Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof etc. think Star Trek, Iron Man, Children of Men, Lost (TV)) for this movie it came up well short of what it should have. Turns out originality may not have been what I was looking for after all!

Rating: C-

 

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