July 29, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
A novel and unconventional juxtaposition of two seldom overlapping genres can be a polarizing premise. Cowboys & Aliens was a hybrid that snatched my attention and one I had been anticipating. Even though I really wanted to like director Jon Favreau’s new fusion of Westerns and science fiction, Cowboys & Aliens ultimately landed short of my expectations and way short of its promising potential. It kind of left me with a feeling similar to how I felt after Terminator Salvation, except McG disgraced the robopocalyptic franchise whereas Favreau doesn’t get half as close in Cowboys & Aliens. Despite its enveloping start and some decent acting, the movie felt too artificial and too much like a mindless Hollywood production.
Cowboys & Aliens is a waste of a cast that could’ve been really good. The title may incite some laughs, but Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were supposedly cast to lessen the comedic perception of their serious characters. They’re not bad in their roles, but the writing nevertheless has them occasionally cracking mostly unfunny jokes. Craig basically has given his 007 icon some wardrobe and accent changes and successfully pulls off his amnesic protagonist. Conversely, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell seem out of place.
Most parts of the first act’s mystery are interesting, engaging, and presented well. However, Cowboys & Aliens devolves into a forgettable flick as the sci-fi elements of the hybrid movie unfolds and underlines how much better its Western flavor is. The film contains unimpressive special effects and even less impressive explosions and action, especially when you compare it to the summer’s other sci-fi aliens blockbuster, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Favreau showed that he could deliver great action in his Iron Man movies, but he can’t take advantage of a comparably big budget in Cowboys & Aliens.
Marketing of the film intentionally withheld close looks at the alien enemies, but I have a feeling their overall impact will be underwhelming for audiences and nowhere close to the effect or status of the Alien or Predator franchises that Favreau was aiming for. Cowboys‘ generic extraterrestrials have less identity than and are not even as intimidating as the invaders from Battle: LA. Like much of the rest of the film, there’s little that’s exceptionally outstanding. Maybe it was missing what Super 8 had and Spielberg wanted to instill as a producer: a core of humanity, something that was the biggest strength of last week’s Captain America. I’m just glad Favreau resisted the push to include an additional 3D format to sucker me out of another few bucks. Cowboys & Aliens gets 2.5 out of 5 stars or C+ or Okay.