Aug 24, 2011

Guest Review: Cowboys and Aliens

Meet @AKWregg: film Director and reviewer extraordinnaire. While we were away on holiday in NYC recently, Alex was awesome enough to attend a screening on our behalf and check out Jon Favreau's latest, Cowboys and Aliens. Check out his review below and Tweet him some love!

Director: Jon Favreau
Release Date:  18 August 2011
Rating: (M)
Runtime: 118 mins

Watching Cowboys and Aliens is kind of like getting punched by your grandmother when you are kissing her goodbye. It starts off a little risqué and ends up shameful and degrading. The opening scenes are interesting and just violent enough to shake expectations but they are all too brief before we are introduced to the ACME-standard frontier town and everything rushes into a clump of stereotypes and cliché. The fact that aliens suddenly appear to shake everything up should be a surprising twist but the title of the film kinda gives audiences that change of direction away. This is unfortunate, given that it’s the one true surprise of the film.

Daniel Craig stars as a hard-bitten cowboy stranger in town, quietly spoken and deadly when provoked. One does have to wonder why they went with James Bond as an American cowboy, but such illicit thoughts need to be cast aside for the greater good of Australia’s Hollywood stars. In the end however, Craig’s character never gets beyond the functional archetype. We don’t really care if he lives or dies because to us, he is just a rough sketch of personality. He’s useful in a gun fight, but otherwise uninteresting. In contrast, character actors like Sam Rockwell feel underused in minor, though interesting roles.

Sadly, the great Harrison Ford seems to have been somewhat miscast in this film. Harrison keeps getting cast as older, world-weary characters by directors who clearly just wish he were their action hero. The results are what feel like heroic roles with horrible personal defects. In Cowboys and Aliens, Harrison is a violent torturer and racist, both qualities that we are supposed to believe hide a heart of gold.  I call shenanigans on this actually being possible. Directors and studios need to just bite the bullet and try casting the legendary actor as an actual bad guy. Hey, they did it in What Lies Beneath (beware 11-year-old spoiler).

Ford sees a better role, way off in the distance.
As for Olivia Wilde as the mysterious love interest, also new in town? She is put in a truly awkward position, cast as a completely aimless character whose inexplicably strange actions seem to have no reason or purpose whatsoever until she is revealed as the deus-ex-machina for the entire film, placed there just to explain everything and fix the unfixable. She also begins what is a pretty catastrophic set of plot holes that starts about half way in and runs strong for the rest of the film. How exactly do a race of immortal beings get “wiped out?” Why do aliens with teleportation technology, beam weapons and space travel rush about attacking cowboys whilst naked and on all fours? A towering pillar of Hollywood cliché, they possess both amazing technology and the survival instincts of lemmings. High tech weaponry, space faring intelligence and they decide the only way to deal with heavily armoured humans in frontal charge using tooth and claw? I might consider ants to be an inferior enemy but my battle strategy against them would not be to cover myself in honey and lie still.

At the end of the day Cowboys and Aliens was an interesting idea and with Jon Favreau at the helm, could have been the exact kind of cheesy genre mash-up experiment that Hollywood should be making rather than the never ending sequel train we have been subjected to of late. Ultimately it comes down to a weak script (the framework of which seems directly lifted from the 80s cult classic Krull) and a lack of willingness to go all the way. The film holds back where it should have been brassy. It’s either not funny enough or not serious enough. Basically it should have just given granny the tongue and gotten it over with. Now we’ll always have to live with an idle daydream of what could have been.

- Alexander Wregg

No comments: