Cowboys and Aliens
Last night I saw Cowboys and Aliens. Awesome movie. It’s very straightforward in its exposition and predictable in what is going to happen. Plus the emotion content is relatively simple. In fact, it’s pretty much a standard summer moneymaker film. But it’s a film that’s made for fans. Fans of Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and silly movies with lots of action in them. Plus, I have to confess, I love ridiculous movies and bad movies, I’m going to watch Shark Night just because it looks so awesomely bad.
I’ll break things down into several categories: acting, cinematography, and plot.
Acting in this movie is very type casted. There’s Daniel Craig acting as the ultra cool bad guy with a heart of gold, and Harrison Ford, the ultra angry bad guy with a heart of gold, and Olivia Wilde, the green eyed hot alien girl. As far as playing these roles go, it’s really good. Daniel Craig actually shines fairly well in this for playing his new James Bond persona, the unflappable kicker of ass. Harrison Ford also does a believable job as a cruel landlord with a heart of gold. And Olivia Wilde, well, she’s just playing 13 as an alien. So what you’ve seen already is what you get in terms of acting.
Cinematography is where this movie does a really decent job. The opening shots really took me by surprise with how the atmosphere was crafted. It depicted this as a western where consequences happened, grime and anguish are omnipresent, and one survives with skill. All without verbal exposition. The action sequences are on par with the Iron Man movies. It’s Favreau’s typical clean action shots at high angles with very little movement. It’s very watchable, but not very ground breaking. Still, it’s a summer movie, what I’m wanting is watchable, not a Godardian exploration of editing. The film delivers on this, but not much more, just like the acting. It delivers in a predictably solid way without breaking out of any summer mold.
Plot was where this movie was really interesting. It starts off as a grimy cowboy western and moves into an alien shoot’em up. As far fun mashups go, it’s what this movie does. But again, if you expect a fantastic and intricate combination then you’re not thinking of this movie in the proper light. It’s a cheesy film at the end of the day. The only draw back is that it started to tire and gets a little unbelievable after they begin the attack on the aliens. The aliens are built up as being so much more powerful that it becomes difficult to believe that 19th century humans can do anything against them except for random dumb luck. Also, the battle scenes pull out nearly every cliche possible, so it’s enjoyable from a bad movie point of view. But it did begin to wear me out.
Character depictions were also very stereotypical. Ford’s character Colonel Dolarhyde, is downright unbelievable toward the end of the movie. He began as a cruel, racist, oligarch of a small town and transformed into this respectable soldier that really doesn’t like doing those things. It’s conflicted by the end of the movie so I have no clue what his real motivation is at any point. At least Craig’s character has just bad ass as his motivation. Plus, since he has no real memory, it doesn’t really apply that much to him. And Wilde’s character was simple revenge and altruism. Nothing too complicated, just occasionally confusing. It was really the main sticking point that makes me not want to give it an A in any way.
Overall, I’d give it a B on the moneymaker scale and a C overall. I wouldn’t want to watch this movie again unless it was with a group of people who also like shlocky movies. But if you do like ridiculous movies like I do, it’s definitely a nice break from the usual summer drivel, and it’s particularly enjoyable if you watch it with people who enjoy shlock. Otherwise, you can pass it by for something more substantial.