and Aliens feels like a worlds collide type of film. The western meets
science fiction, Indiana Jones meets James Bond, and cowboys battle
aliens – this film has the potential to be seriously entertaining, and
at times it is just that, but its attempts to make a more serious
character driven movie fall flat.
All things considered,
Cowboys and Aliens is well acted (by most of the cast), it has a good
amount of action film related humor and one-liners, and its action
scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a film with a
mostly great cast, a great premise, and a great mash-up of genres that
had all the marks for being a success, but unfortunately it falls well
short of the mark.
Lonergan (Daniel Craig) is an amnesiac looking to piece his life back
together and to figure out what a mysterious metal bracelet on his arm
does, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is a wealthy cattleman
looking to get his abducted son back, and Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) is
a mysterious traveler who is looking to help Jake piece his life back
Taking place in the 19th century, out in what
would be considered the American frontier, Cowboys and Aliens primarily
follows these three very different people who must work together in
order to rescue a group of townspeople whom they saw get abducted by
flaw of Cowboys and Aliens are its attempts to create a truly character
driven film. What’s frustrating is that a character driven film could
have truly served the story.
There is little to like
about Jake as a person. The mystery element of – what’s that metal
object on Jake’s arm – is taken out of the story from the film’s title.
As Jake tries to piece together his past the film ill-advisedly uses
poor cliches typically attached to both science fiction and westerns to
grow his character. The more the audience learns about Jake’s past, the
louder they groan.
Woodrow Dolarhyde’s motivation for
tracking down aliens is simple – he wants to rescue his son Percy (Paul
Dano) who was abducted by them. The film takes a simple idea that most
people would normally be able to get behind, and manages to mess it up.
How? By making Percy a character that appears to have been raised by a
neglectful father, and by introducing Ford’s character as a cold
heartless bastard who only cares about financial profit.
would Harrison Ford’s character all of the sudden care so much about
rescuing his son? There is no financial profit in it… if there was that
would create an interesting situation. But there isn’t, and the point
being, there is a lack of consistency in Ford’s character being
compassionate and heartless – he switches between the two whenever it’s
convenient for the film’s plot.
The movie tries to make
it seem like Dolarhyde is getting more compassionate as it progresses
by featuring Ford in a series of awkward conversations with a child –
these scenes are terrible and don’t play to Ford’s character or his
abilities as an actor. Nobody wants to see Harrison Ford develop a
sentimental and caring relationship with a young child; they want to see
him be a dick to other people and they want him to shoot everybody else
in the film.
No character’s plot is more egregious
than Ella Swenson’s. This is a character that could have been removed
from the film entirely. Every attempt to make her more than what she is
fails miserably. Her potential at being a possible love interest for
Jake does not feel genuine, and without divulging in spoilers, her scene
with some Apache Indians towards the back half of the film is the
single worst and most offensive scene in the film, as Hollywood once
again finds a way to ignorantly portray Native Americans in a western.
having terribly developed characters to work with, Ford and Craig more
than hold their own on the acting front. The clash of seeing Ford (the
great action star of the past) and Craig (the great action star of the
present) kicking ass together is an alluring prospect that the two
deliver on, but could have done so much more with were the film written
Paul Dano is also a standout as Ford’s son
Percy. He portrays the rich alcoholic deadbeat son that’s achieved
nothing on his own perfectly, and his clashes with both Ford and Craig
are among the best scenes in the film. Dano is so thoroughly abused by
Craig that audiences will believe Craig’s character to be a bigger
threat to Dano’s life than the actual aliens that abduct him. For story
purposes this isn’t good, but for comedic purposes it’s entertaining.
depressing to see so many promises for a successful film seep into
failure. Disappointment is really the big word I think of when it comes
to describing Cowboys and Aliens – so potential viewers get ready to
lower your expectations for a movie that on paper looks magnanimous, but
in reality is substandard.