What if the director of one of the most enjoyable superhero movies of the past ten years (Jon Favreau) and the charismatic star of the well-received James Bond remake (Daniel Craig) teamed up with a rough and tumble Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to make a movies western that features extraterrestrial life, and whose title is a cute pun (Cowboys and Aliens)?
Goofy I was expecting, maybe a little implausible. Yawn-inducing didn’t really even enter the picture.
Cowboys and Aliens fails at the number one component of the successful summer Blockbuster: entertainment. It’s got kick-ass explosions, suitably bad-ass acting from Craig and Ford, and a pretty cool concept. Yet somehow, despite all of that, the film is as lifeless as the towns left deserted by the alien menace.
There’s some stuff to love here. The aliens are cool and creepy, in a post-Alien way that makes them seem unique and refreshingly non-human looking (with one obvious exception). Daniel Craig beating the crap out of stuff doesn’t get old, nor do the unnecessary shirtless shots, and the man can do more with a blank stare than most actors can do with pages of dialogue. And Favreau is a sure-footed director who has a great grip on the conventions of Westerns and Science Fiction.
Yet Craig’s southern accent leaves a lot to be desired, Olivia Wilde* is distracting as the world’s skinniest western smalltown hooker, and the few attempts at comedic relief (Sam Rockwell’s whole character, etc.) fall flat. It’s not necessary that a summer movie be a non-stop, laugh-inducing thrill ride, but when you’re a movie named Cowboys and Aliens and your sole purpose seems to be to answer the drunken late night question, “Who would win in a fight: cowboys or aliens?” then you’d better be fun. And this offering just isn’t.
*Between this and my Change Up review, it probably seems like “hate on Olivia Wilde week” here at My Cinema. But I don’t think Wilde was bad in either movie. In fact, she’s suitably spunky and likeable in both. I just wish her character wasn’t such a blatant plot device in Cowboys and Aliens, and put into a creepy sort-of cheating situation in The Change Up.