Cowboys Vs Aliens
Title: Cowboys Vs Aliens
Genre: Action, Adventure
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell
Director: Jon Favreau
A film title can often tell you an awful lot about the kind of flick you can expect; a cheesy one, artsy, depressing, pretentious. The title here seems pretty obvious what sort of film this should be. It's not got a pretentious name, it's motherfucking cowboys vs motherfuckin' aliens; more 'Fast and the Furious' or 'Snakes on a Plane than anything that takes itself too seriously, and this is exactly what I was hoping for. Plenty of comic moments, cheesy one liners and manic mayhem in this unusual match-up, but it doesn't seem as though everyone was on the same page.
Much of the film concerns ourselves with these three protagonists, the cowboy Jake (Craig) and cowgirl (Wilde) searching for their missing friends, abducted by the aliens, forming an uneasy truce with the local town owner trying to get his son back, and the rest of the locals in battling their deadly foe, largely because Craig managed to get himself an alien weapon which he cant get off his wrist and is about the only thing that can dent the aliens ships. The thing is, a lot of time is spent on, what are admittedly glorious sets, travelling from location to location on horseback and riding into the sunset, every so often stopping to give us a little snippet of information about our characters past. And when the action finally does arrive it feels very 'Hollywood;' a lot more 'Battle: LA' or 'Transformers,' abusing explosions, CGI and bright lights than the more stylised sequences I was expecting, though at times certainly does deliver the goods, particularly from Craig who shows that his Bond experience has taught him a thing or two. Sadly, there's ultimately just a lot of talking involved in a film that sounds like a WWF grudge match from hell, and it takes a good 45mins before we see much of the aliens at all.
Two of the main stars in particular, big names right now, seem to be miscast. Daniel Craig as the dangerous man with a hidden past shows he can do action scenes but plays them too deadpan and straight faced, though there is the occasional comedy choreographed into them but it elicits no response from him and usually ends up taking a more serious nature. Much of the same can be said for the role of Olivia Wilde's character whom despite the outrageous premise seems to take the role far too seriously (though i'm not ruling out her just being a lousy actress with a pretty face), whose only reason for being is to add the love interest every American film seems to need these days. Instead the shining light here should go to the aging Harrison Ford, who despite getting on a bit now, has forged a career from making these cheesy action flicks and playing the gunslinging comic relief, and here gets given a grumpy, old and wisened man, desensitised to violence through the civil war in which he served as a general, and even now seems to strike an excellent balance between playing into the cheesy and cliche moments without going over the top. Sam Rockwell as the ever troubled barkeep also plays his role well - I would expect nothing less of the man behind 'Moon' - though with such a minor role is only able to have a limited impact on the film.
This is a film where I wasn't expecting perfect performances or a profound message, I just wanted what it said on the tin, but they've tried to do so much more. They've added intricate if perhaps cliche and under-developed motivations and relationships between characters, something which I would usually applaud, each with a backstory to be unveiled in a 'memento' like series of flashbacks as our protagonist pieces together what happened. There's a romantic interest to conflict with a mans search for his past love, revelations and new encounters as we learn the desires of their new menace; quite frankly I wanted none of this, I just wanted to see a sci-fi vs western mash-up and sadly, what should have been its main purpose feels lacking until those final moments. The concept is cheesy, impossibly, absurdly unrealistic by it's very nature and it's played with such serious conviction that it seems silly, like a joke nobody let them in on. It's by no means a bad film, I just think they should have picked a direction; I was expecting a mindless fun filled action flick, but instead they've tried to make it into an epic and dramatic action/adventure. By spreading themselves so broad, it tends to at times feel a little inconsistent. The result? It could have been better, but it certainly could have just as easily been a lot worse.