Cowboys & Aliens Review
“Bond & Jones Reunite In The Old West To Show Some Aliens Who's Boss Around Their Parts.”
August 4th, 2011
Based on the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, director Jon Favreau molds his own version which headlines the return of a three decade old American Legend, and a fifty-eight year old British Legend in a tale about some rough cowboys being forced to unite with themselves and Chiricahua Apaches to takedown some aliens. But their larger than life egos and superficial worries threaten to get the better of them along the way. Well, sort of.
So as mentioned, the story features rivals too busy going at each others' throats to drop everything and go alien hunting. But that's pretty much what happens. Cattle Baron Colonel Woodrow Dollarhyde is at odds with wanted thief Jake Longeren (Daniel Craig), yet rather than shoot and ask questions later as you'd expect from Ford's antiheroic character--not to mention we're in the wild west--he and Jake set off together with a posse including a square bartender (Sam Rockwell), a gun-slinging reverend (Clancy Brown), the quiet grandson (Noah Ringer) of the Sheriff (Keith Carradine), an Indian tracker (Adam Beach), and a mysterious transient (Olivia Wilde).
Set against the beautiful backdrop of New Mexico's canyons near the famed Ghost Ranch, the setting fits the story of the traveling posse and provides better visuals than a dried up plateau as in much of the Spaghetti Westerns. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique--Favreau's past collaborator--captures the landscape wondrously. Not I place or shot I could think of that I wished had been used. By far the best technical quality of the film.
Sadly, I can't say the same for Shane Mahan's job on the aliens. While they perform well enough, I must say I expected a more clever design from the protege of the infamous Stan Winston. Despite not knowing if the design was the same as the comics, there were enough changes already--or so I've read--that such liberties would be warranted. But they're unfortunately completely average quadrupeds with one unique feature. Though their extremely sinister nature is greatly appreciated.
Despite uniting two titans of cinema, it's not nearly as well done as their past outing from twenty-two years ago. That's not due to the performances or Craig instead of Connery--okay partly the latter--but more so the fact that the story didn't cater to such a monumental pairing. Perhaps that's why the film wasn't marketed as such? For they're evolving relationship throughout the film is fine for it, but just not as badass as we'd expect it to be. The other performances were the same. Nothing fantastic. Though none of the other casting choices really shined as brightly as Ford & Craig. Though that was to be expected.
The story made for a fun, but typical film. It wasn't spectacular, and had a very basic plot execution to the point where it veered from being too realistic in a comic booky sense for such a film which should have been an all out fantasy. Obviously the aliens make the comic book part, but the majority of the film isn't sci-fi at all, and rather focuses on the posse's journey to find their lost brethren. The film still works though. Enjoyable, but not great.
Overall, it didn't live up to the hype for me. Craig's performance was too reminiscent of James Bond, but Ford was a pleasure. It didn't really need more action, as the character contrasts made up for that, somewhat. Still needed work. Though still far better than such average ripoffs which plague the marquee nowadays. A good 'B' grade movie though. So in a few years, this sci-fi western will be regarded as a happy memory at best.