By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Cowboys & Aliens should really have been called CIA, Cowboys & Indians & Aliens. But of course there is no political correctness here because if you were to remove the “Intelligence” from the film’s pseudo-acronym, then you’d get Cowboys & Aliens, thereby making the real movie sorely lacking in intelligence.
Ignore the fact that the whole concept may indeed be a Western period piece take on an Eastern period piece take (mainstream America has probably never heard of last year’s ultra-low budget, Japanese sensational film, Seiji Chiba’s Alien Vs. Ninja) but this forced film, actually based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel of the same name, will leave you scratching your head, as the first four minutes is so out of place that it will throw you a curve that bends more than Beckham.
Let me detail the opening: Producer Ron Howard; Executive Producer Stephen Spielberg; Producer Brian Grazer; directed by Jon Favreau; starring Daniel Craig; Visual effects by ILM; and starring Harrison Ford.
On paper, Cowboys & Aliens sounds like an outrageous idea for a film and undoubtedly words like “psychotic”, “audacious”, and “look how cool we are if we make this film” must have been flung around the war room of DreamWorks. You’d think with this highly impressive roll call of Hollywood A-listers in the opening credits and the big blockbuster budget afforded to this Universal release that this movie should not look like a B-Horror/Sci-Fi film, where the aliens and spacecraft look like something that some high school teens could put together on their laptop in one night, and the schlock filmmakers and actors were trying to do their best so they could present a great product for the AFM (American Film Market) next year.
If it was the latter, then great job, but since it’s not, Cowboys & Aliens is a film so out of place that it’s no wonder that Ford (whose voice sounds like a disgruntled Clint Eastwood or Steven Segal) had such a small amount of screen time, undoubtedly in his contract. I mean how can Ford turn down Spielberg and ILM (George Lucas), the men who made him larger than life with the characters Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
Furthermore, the movie has as much tone in it as a ketone mixed with alcohol, in other words bad chemistry. The best thing about Cowboys & Aliens is that it wasn’t in 3-D.
So what gives?
When Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up in the middle of the New Mexico desert during America’s wild west…it’s just a dream, it’s just a dream. But no, he’s lost his memory and like a dream the dream fades as the only clue to his distant or near past is an unbreakable bracelet stuck on his wrist. When he clashes wrists with the real power in the dying town of Absolution, former Civil War Colonel from the North, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford), and Lonergan also learns he’s a wanted outlaw, then his real trial begins when the town is invaded by aliens and spaceships out to destroy the human race as they are really “au-t” to get us. After you’ve seen the film, see if you can figure out the pun.
So now the fate of the human race is in the hands of 30 cowboys and 30 Indians who must use sticks, arrows, hand guns, rifles and a few shotguns to defeat an army of invading aliens that are faster than horses, can climb up and down anything quicker than any insect, can rip or impale or bite a human in half in less than a second, have “ray guns” that never miss, and fly around in ships that can blow anything up with their power beams and can pluck a man off his horse in the blink of an eye.
With all these natural physical attributes and the alien’s firepower, it makes little sense that the premise of the humans being kidnapped is because the aliens wish to probe and such to figure out our weaknesses.
Furthermore, when one of the “humans” touts that these aliens are only effective during the night, which feigningly gives us the notion that if we attack at daylight, then we have a chance…not. Talk about more lack of human intelligence. The screenwriters forgot to fill us in on what’s with that, as they did with many other gaping holes in their Swiss cheese plot, which actually racks up faster than chips in Las Vegas.
As is also usual in many Hollywood films where the main characters don’t know how to fight, the action fights are shot with MTV editing, tight shots and loud sound effects.
Craig as Bond works, but Dan as Jake is as acceptable as the film’s predictable ending where the pathetic “tunnel vision” attempt to build up the climactic end where we are blinded by the light leaves us wrapped up like an alien, another runner in the night. If you know the song I’m parodying then you’ll understand how easy it is to think one thing (i.e. big budget and A-list star power = great film) but the reality is that in film, actions are supposed to speak louder than words. Pardon?