When you take the hardasses from the Wild West and pair them up against the hardasses, well from another galaxy you either have the best movie ever made or in the case of Jon Favreau’s (man behind Iron Man) latest flick, a movie that sounds golden on paper not quite delivering the goods.
The movie starts off with Bond himself, Daniel Craig awaking from what you’ll probably interpret as an alien probe with a shiny looking bracelet slapped on his hand. Pretty soon he finds himself in the middle of a town called Absolution that like all Western flicks is a town oppressed by a powerful man, played by Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford. Even though Ford secretly has a heart of gold, the town folk are quite unaware of this trait and so they live in fear as his useless son, Percy goes about trolling with all and sundry. Craig intervenes, the poop hits the fan and just as Ford arrives in town to save his son and settle the score, the Aliens invade.
Army of Two
Now you’d think the Aliens would make some sort of a dramatic entrance the way they did nearly 15 years ago with Independence Day but sadly, they enter with a whimper. Sure they blow some stuff up and abduct people to perform all sorts of nasty experiments but overall, it was definitely underwhelming. In fact, I personally thought every scene involving the aliens was kind of muted. Maybe it was Favreau staying true to the graphic novel on which this movie is based but either way he should have taken a few creative liberties to make it a more exciting fare.
So anyway, now that they have a common enemy, both Indiana Jones and 007 team up along with a ragtag group of town folk, native Indians, and certain elements from Craig’s past to take on the alien invaders. As expected, a lot of them die and some sacrifice themselves for the greater good but at the end of the day, they send the Aliens packing. After all, no one messes with cowboys right?
Weird plot aside, the aliens like I said earlier, just didn’t feel menacing enough. They were big, yes and green and scaly but they reminded me of giant frogs as opposed to nasty extra terrestrial life forms from another planet. And even their arrival on the planet felt kind of umm... pointless. Really? Aliens after gold? What’s next? Aliens invading us for money since their planet’s undergoing a bit of a recession. Plus there are all sorts of plot loopholes along the way like why in God’s name were they kidnapping people when all they wanted was their gold? And how is it that badass Aliens from another people with all sorts of technology at their disposal get their ass handed to them by a bunch of Indians wielding bows and arrows. But perhaps the biggest one lies with Olivia “13” Wilde’s character who’s “existence” is just dumb.
Ready for war
On the acting front, I’d say Craig was the best of the lot playing the stoic badass who goes medieval on people and aliens in a matter of minutes. Ford isn’t too bad as the colonel with a hardened heart of gold but he could have been made more hardcore. The rest of the ensemble cast is pretty generic so you’ll have the timid bar owner who grows a pair when needed, the preacher who goes around dishing out good advice, the arrogant and spoilt son who’s actually a bit of a wuss and lots more. It’s not new but it’s not bad either. In fact I would have been pretty content if this movie was an all out Western drama.
I think the movie’s biggest drawback, besides the unimpressive aliens is the fact that it’s pretty slow. Now I’ve got a soft spot for Westerns so I really didn’t have too much of a problem with the pacing but the movie definitely drags in the middle as viewers are given a glimpse of Craig’s past, his lawless life and the whole assembling of alien killers. Plus even the few action sequences that are present in the movie lack the tension, flair or just plain badassery of a Predator, an Aliens or Independence Day. So yeah, Cowboys and Aliens isn’t a bad movie; it just isn’t as awesome as the title may lead you to believe.