Friday, July 29, 2011

Alien Nation

Directed by JON FAVREAU
Starring HARRISON FORD, DANIEL CRAIG, and OLIVIA WILDE

Let it be known that I love westerns.  As is evident in this blog, I also love science fiction.  So I should enjoy the mashup of the two genres right?  Surprisingly, not in this instance.  Cowboys & Aliens may be unique and cleverly titled, but disappointingly, Cowboys & Aliens is a popcorn flick at best.  Cowboys & Aliens is somewhat entertaining and a complete visual spectacle, but it has little substance.  These days if it has anything to do with aliens, Steven Spielberg is associated with it.  Cowboys & Aliens is no exception.  Produced by Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, and directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Cowboys & Aliens is loosely based on the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.  Regrettably, the film took the graphic novel's concept and left the comic book on the writing room floor.


Cowboys & Aliens starts as most classic westerns do, a lone stranger with amnesia (Jake Lonergan) wanders into a small forgotten town, Absolution, Arizona.  Gotta love that name, 'Absolution.'   This particular stranger (Daniel Craig) happens to have an equally strange bracelet on his arm.  As any amnesiac would, he soon attracts unwanted attention from the town's mandatory characters: a hard-nosed cattle rancher, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), the rancher's crazy son, Percy (Paul Dano), the good-hearted sheriff (Keith Carradine), the town preacher (Clancy Brown), the jumpy bar keep (Sam Rockwell), the rancher's loyal Indian cowhand (Adam Beach), and, last but not least, the saloon girl, Ella (Olivia Wilde).  I'm not sure what purpose Olivia has in the story except as obligatory eye-candy.  I would note that Harrison Ford was especially enjoyable to watch in his role as a ruthless rancher in the old west. 
When Jake's true identity as a stagecoach robber is revealed, all heck breaks loose.  Before the townsfolk can tear Jake apart, the town is attacked by aliens and a good portion of the townspeople are abducted.  Wouldn't you know that the metal bracelet on Jake's wrist turns into a weapon that evens the odds--think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Rio Bravo, and War of the Worlds mixed in one pot of under-spiced stew.  The western aspect of the film is compelling.  Surprisingly, the film loses steam once the science fiction segment is added.  At that point, the film quickly descends into over-used alien invader clichés. 
Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan
After the attack, all of the old western stereotypes are forced to band together to rescue the townsfolk and fight off the alien invaders—that's it.  That's the gist of the entire film.  If you've seen the trailer for Cowboys & Aliens then you've seen the best part of the movie.  Admittedly, parts of the film are fun to watch, but it's not worth a $9-$10 admission.  Save yourself $4 and go to the matinee.  Director Jon Favreau can certainly do better.

For a better western scifi film rent 2009's The Burrowers.  The Burrowers (also starring Clancy Brown) is about the mysterious disappearance of settlers on the old western frontier.

TWO -1/2 STARS OUT OF FIVE

13 comments:

  1. That is a pretty good mix, western & science fiction. But I'm not too sure if I'll be running to the theaters to see this. The Burrowers is a good movie.

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  2. Yeah, I would wait for it on dvd if I were you. I really enjoyed The Burrowers. It's a much better mixture of western and scifi. Cowboys & Aliens was all spectacle--no substance.

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  3. Thanks for that, hadn't heard of The Burrowers before, will have to check it out.

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  4. I like Sci-Fi and Westerns, but not together I don't think.

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  5. Man, I wanted to see his so bad, but I've heard nothing good about it the past week. Oh well, maybe Attack The Block will be picked up by even more theaters.

    PS I swear I didn't steal that picture from your blog

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  6. I'm not sure about this movie, part of me wants to see it and part of me is like meh. I'm waiting for Conan as I love Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan.

    You have to love the way they named those Old Western towns. Tombstone AZ, Truth or Consquences NM, Redemption NV...So biblical.

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  7. @Angry Lurker-- The Burrowers was great. It's more akin to horror/scifi/western.

    @Natural One-- After Cowboys & Aliens, I tend to agree w/ you. I think if they left the aliens out it would have been a great western.

    @Kamatacci-- Ha no worries. That pic is all over the internet. Yes, it's unfortunate. I was really looking forward to this movie,

    @Melissa-- Perhaps rent the movie. I definitely do not recommend paying full price for it. I'm not sure about Conan. I really like Jason Momoa, Rose, and Stephen Lang, but I'm not sure about that movie. It looks a little too rock n roll for Conan. I don't know.

    I agree w/ the names of these western towns. I want to live in a town called Absolution!

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  8. I've heard this one was underwhelming....
    And that's a disappointment, as I'm still a fan of Harrison Ford.

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  9. goooo Harrison Ford!! but yes the movie was just as i expected not the best but not a bad movie

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  10. Just got around to seeing it yesterday, completely disappointed.

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  11. @Andrew-- Yep, unfortunately, but it's true Harrison Ford was the best thing in the movie. Daniel Craig was a great cowboy himself.

    If this film had just been a western it would have been great.

    @Justin-- I completely agree. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either.

    @Movie68-- I have to agree. I was somewhat underwhelmed with the movie. It could have been so much better had they read the comic.

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  12. Thanks for the review. I'll skip it. + 1 Follower.

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  13. I had the exact same feeling about the movie pre and post alien appearance. I liked the portion before it quite a bit, while the portion after it wasn't that great. Had I been asked before seeing the movie I would have said I was expecting the exact opposite.

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