Cowboys & Aliens. It’s a movie, about cowboys, and it has aliens in it. There, that’s really all you need to know. If you are expecting ANYTHING other than that, then, well, maybe you should pick a different movie. This movie is exactly as advertised, you get Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford being badass cowboys, whose crappy Arizona Territory town gets attacked by aliens in 1873.
If this doesn’t appeal to you at least a little, you’re probably on the wrong site.
I’m going to try and do this review while being as spoiler free as possible. Bear with me.
First of all, there are three reasons why I picked this movie up. In order of importance they are:
Seriously, that’s a combination worth all of my monies. Which isn’t a lot, but still. You make a movie with those things, and you put heavy hitters Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard producing it and get it directed by Iron Man’s Jon Favreau and there’s pretty much no way that can be bad.
There are a lot of really negative things said in reviews about this movie. To those critics I say, you are taking a movie called Cowboys & Aliens way too seriously and I have no idea what you thought you were going to watch. That being said, yeah, it’s not a masterpiece. It is far better than anything the Asylum could churn out. A lot of people complain that there’s a lack of comedy. That the movie took itself too seriously. In this interview with Steve and Ron (yeah we’re pretty tight, I call them by their first names), they discuss how Ron contacted Spielberg about the project and wanting to rewrite the script and change the tone and why. I think that is what makes this film awesome. Yes, the concept of cowboys fighting aliens in the old west is ridiculous, but that’s only because no one has really done it before. To go the comedy route is what everyone would expect and I respect and admire their decision to play it straight as a classically styled western. Spielberg had set the project aside for a good period of time until Ron contacted him about it after a copy of the comic got dropped on his desk. There are a whole slew of those interviews with the cast and crew here.
James Bond – as a Sergio Leone style Man With No Name – and Indiana Jones team up to fight cave trolls from Lord of the Rings who’ve come to Earth in the Black Fortress from Krull.
That just described the best movie ever. You can’t describe something while name dropping Sergio Leone, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and Krull in the same sentence and then tell me something sucked. Sorry. You just can’t. I guess you just don’t like fun.
Daniel Craig of 007 fame stars as our titular cowboy. Upon awakening in the middle of the desert, with no idea how he got there or even who he is, he finds a strange device attached to his wrist that he promptly tries to break with a rock to no avail. After a few minutes a posse shows up and tries to take him into town thinking he might have a bounty on his head because of the “iron” strapped to his wrist. This is where we learn that our protagonist is kind of a badass. Now clothed, and armed he makes his way into the town of Absolution. Here we meet Doc, Ella and Percy Dolarhyde as our no name hero sets out to find out where he is and why. He helps in the arrest of Percy after wounding a sheriff’s deputy while being drunk and ignorant. Then gets thrown in jail himself. It seems our strange man from the west has a name,Jake Lonergon and is wanted, armed robbery and murder. The sheriff is fittin’ to send him off to the marshals and the hoosegow when the aliens show up and do what aliens do. Abduct the humans, of course!
Harrison Ford’s character has already made a few appearances by this time. He’s the father of Percy and came into town to get his son out of jail just as the aliens show up. Woodrow Dolarhyde was a corporal in the Civil War and moved out west to be a rancher. To here him tell it, if it wasn’t for him there would be no Absolution. One of our first introductions to him he has one of his cowhands stretched between two horses. He’s not exactly a nice guy is what I’m saying. Well now some goddarn space varmints have done taken his son to God only knows where and he’s going to get him back. Jake has the only weapon that can stop the aliens so it’s only fitting that he gets pardoned for the time being and the townsfolk round themselves up a posse to get their loved ones back.
I’m not going to ruin the last half of the movie and tell you anything that happens. It’s pretty well written in the traditional sense, there are cowboys, and Native Americans doing Native American type stuff like helping Jake get his memories back using plants and/or fungi of a certain variety. All of the flashback scenes are done in this really beautiful over exposed style that really set them apart from the rest of the movie. Favreau is a master of action sequences and it shows here. A pretty great scene where aliens get shot with dozens of arrows and keep coming with the shafts sticking out of them was a highlight for me. As a huge VFX nerd (I’m moving to LA in a few months to pursue my dream.), the effects are done really well and the alien designs are top notch. There’s one particular kind of gross anatomical design that blew my mind and won me over that I won’t ruin for you.
This is a fun movie, all in all. I can’t tell you what your expectations should be, honestly, if you’re thinking “Hey, I think I’d like to see that.” you’re halfway there. I loved it, personally, and do recommend it to anyone who is a fan of aliens, cowboys, Olivia Wilde, Daniel Craig or Han shooting an ugly alien first.
My advice is to give it a shot. It’s stupid good fun, there are some things that don’t get explained, but why are you over thinking a movie called Cowboys & Aliens? You get what you pay for with this movie. Favreau is no liar that’s for sure. Pick it up through Netflix or whatever, maybe you’ll like it enough to add it to your collection.
Here’s some more Olivia Wilde for you, because, why not?