Review: Cowboys & Aliens


Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by:Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine, Sam Rockwell
Released: August 18, 2011
Grade: C+

You’d think that a movie that covers both the science fiction and western genres would be a lot funnier than this.  That was my first thought as the closing credits started to roll on Cowboys & Aliens.  It’s an interesting idea for a movie and the producers deserve credit for trying to come up with something a little different.  Unfortunately, the screenwriters (6 of them in all) haven’t done enough to create a plot that is both humorous and engaging.

The story is set in a small gold mining town in the year 1873 but it doesn’t begin like a traditional western.  A man (Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert with a deep wound in his chest and a strange metal device strapped to his wrist.  He doesn’t know how it got there and he can’t even remember his own name.  After fending off a group of attackers, he slips quietly into the town in search of medical attention.

His arrival hasn’t gone unnoticed however.  The sheriff immediately recognises him as Jake Lonergan, an outlaw who recently stole a large sum of gold from the wealthy Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford).  Lonergan is confronted in the town’s saloon and puts up a brave fight but he is knocked unconscious by a mysterious woman (Wilde) and wakes up in jail.

With the stage set, it’s time for the aliens to arrive.  A series of spaceships start firing an array of advanced weaponry on the townsfolk just as Lonergan is about to be sent off to the courthouse.  Much of the town is destroyed and many of its residents vanish after being sucked up into the spaceships.  Those remaining must work together to go in search of these aliens and locate their missing loved ones.

It has a few nice moments but for the most part, this is a forgettable adventure.  As I alluded to earlier, this isn’t a story to be taken seriously (nor should it be) but I’m surprised as to why the writers didn’t slip in more jokes to spoof these two well trodden genres.  The plot is weak and too many loose ends were left hanging.

None of the cast make an impact and I was particularly disappointed by Harrison Ford (who I liked recently in Morning Glory) and Daniel Craig.  They are restricted by their clichéd characters and they don’t get the chance to have fun with their roles.  At times, they looked as unenthusiastic as me.

Having struggled at the box-office in the United States, I suspect a similar fate is in store for Cowboys & Aliens here in Australia.  Maybe it’s because the concept is too strange but then again, maybe it’s because the film isn’t good enough.