Thursday, January 12, 2012

Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

As I have done in the past, I've decided to review a movie. To quote myself in my review of Daybreakers: Perhaps the most prevalent and popular form of writing today is the kind we see in movies. While many people simply "hate books," nearly everybody watches movies.”

Cowboys and Aliens is a 2011 movie directed by the same guy who made both Iron Man films. It earned a 44% from Rotten Tomatoes, which means it's quite rotten. It also means that it's rated lower than Daybreakers (67%) but much better than 2005's Doom (20%).

Remember his name? I sure don't.
I like to think that the title of the movie was invented when a parent watched his children play with action figures. When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure I made Batman fight aliens. Maybe they'll make that into a movie!

On the surface, the film seems to offer everything I like about Summer movies: Action. Explosions. Harrison Ford. What went wrong? Films that mash up two genres are rare but not unheard of. According to this series of captioned photographs, “[Bladerunner was a] sci-fi and hardboiled film noir; Alien was a haunted house movie [in] outer space.” So it's not like this kind of thing is new.

The problem lies in the way the movie was created, it doesn't blend two films; it is two films. Like dysfunctional siblings, these two movies fight it out to be dominant almost the whole time. In the beginning, it's a fairly boring Western starring James Bond. Halfway through, there's a transition from Western into a pretty serious sci-fi flick. Then for the rest of the movie each genre ruined the suspension of disbelief for the other. Worse still, I got flashbacks of Krull.

If you're not familiar with Krull, watch this trailer.

Like most films with a bloated budget (Matrix 2 and 3, any Star Wars prequel), character development takes the backseat to what Hollywood executives would excitedly refer to as “the Action.” Unfortunately this means that there's no character development of any kind in the beginning of the movie. James Bond wakes up with no memory, so we as the audience are left to solve this “mystery” for ourselves as the film progresses. This is not a J.J. Abrams mystery that leaves the audience with an “I MUST KNOW” desire. This is a slow, plodding and ultimately unimportant side plot that seems to get in the way of the Action.

This explosion is more important than the characters.

In fact, this veiled "mystery" trickles down throughout the entire production (Spoilers ahead). Why are the aliens abducting people if they're only visiting earth to harvest gold? If Olivia Wilde is an alien who can take the form of a human, why can't the other aliens? Is she the last of her race? How come the Indians speak exclusively Chiricahua but can clearly understand English? Was this all an excuse to give Harrison Ford a Chewbacca-like Indian sidekick? Why do the aliens seem so evil?

In a weird twist of fate, the writers of the movie tried to make an ensemble cast of characters, but they don't take the time to develop any of them beyond an initial archetypical doodle, and this includes the main character.

The main character: Jake Lonergan, a mysterious amnesiac who turns out to be just an outlaw with James Bond's prowess for hand-to-hand combat.

Harrison Ford's character: A rich cattle rancher who learns something about himself through the eyes of a young boy while chasing down the aliens.

Olivia Wilde: A mysterious young woman who looks like she wears pajamas for the whole film.

The Preacher: A caricature of what Hollywood thinks ministers in the wild west were like, except he's both Catholic and Christian, but with some distinct humanist vibes.

...And three or four other people whose names you won't know until you read the credits on IMDB!

Probin' time.
This movie was basically a 1.5 million dollar Freddy Wong video, except without the fun Freddy Wong bits. Instead of watching this, watch True Grit and District 9, two much better films that do their genres justice.

The Good:
Great explosions, aliens, effects
James Bond's wrist gadget

The Bad:
The plot is boring
The movie is never as cool as the title made it sound
The characters are undefined and shallow as a hastily-dug mafia grave
The end was much like Krull
It didn't mash up the two genres well
This list of mistakes

Overall: 2/5


  1. I am so glad you answered all of those questions I had going around in my brain. It was just a plain ole crappy movie.
    You noticed things that bugged me but I couldn't put my finger on. I guess I am not very discerning when it comes to movie watching.
    I really enjoyed this too.

  2. Awww, that's too bad. I had wanted to see that, too. Now I don't have to waste the braincells.