Friday, August 12, 2011

‘Cowboys & Aliens’ Good summer fun!

How serious can you take a film titled ‘Cowboys & Aliens’? It almost reminds one of ‘Snakes on a Plane’, as far as silly titles go – as far as fun at the movies goes, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ delivers on the promise of a very good time. I mean it is already front loaded with James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), toss in some aliens (no matter how stock and cliché) along with director Jon Favreau (Iron Man), it is a pretty sure bet. Although with six writers credited with the screenplay and a bevy of high powered producers including Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, I was more than a bit concerned that Favreau’s vision would get washed away; luckily, last act aside, you can feel the Favreau vibe throughout the film.

‘Cowboys and Aliens’ is a movie that you have to try and not think about too much, if you do, then the fun of the film gets washed away in a series of ‘ya rights’. The story is predictable, based on the graphic novel of the same name, but it offers enough fun to keep you in your seat for nearly two hours without really noticing the time pass. These days, that can be considered a feat! Most of the western clichés are there; the mysterious stranger (Daniel Craig), the evil although misguided ranch owner (Harrison Ford), the spoiled son of the rancher (Paul Dano), the adopted son looking for attention (Adam Beach), the mild mannered shop keeper (Sam Rockwell) and the beautiful stranger who seems to know more than she is saying (Olivia Wilde). Together the team to fight off aliens that have ravaged their town and kidnapped their towns people; before you know it, a gang of robbers and a tribe of indianas have also joined the fight.

When the movie starts out in western mode, Favreau has a good grasp and while it is more ‘The Quick and the Dead’ than ‘Unforgiven’, it does show that Favreau has a great eye for the Western genre. He films the first hour with grand landscapes and terrific Western images; it is a very solid start to the film, one that promises plenty of mystery, conflict and rich characters. Craig is perfect as the mysterious stranger, liking back to the days of Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’, Craig is blue eyed steel and fearless cool. Ford is gruff and convincing as the evil rancher, here he seems to be having more fun than he has had in his last several films; perhaps he has found a late in life calling as a villain who redeems himself. It’s when the aliens show up that the film bogs down a little. To be quite honest, it would have been a great western without the aliens! The story becomes sloppy, the reason for the aliens are never really explained and they are all but dispatched too easily for 1875; with six writers I would have hoped for a more convincing story.

But, in the end, ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ is nothing more than a big budget ‘B’ movie and Favreau makes no bones about that; so, if you go into that with this in mind, you can easily look past the short comings and enjoy the campiness of the film, from that perspective this 3 star effort does get the job done!

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