Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Roberto Orci (Screenplay), Alex Kurtzman (Screenplay), David Lindelof (Screenplay), Mark Fergus (Screenplay & Screen Story), Hawk Ostby (Screenplay & Screen Story), Steve Oedekerk (Screen Story), Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (Comic)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Noah Ringer, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Walton Goggins, Keith Carradine, Buck Taylor
Plot Summary: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way. [IMDB]
Back when this film was first announced, I was pretty interested. The title alone didn’t put me off as it sounded like something I haven’t seen before. I mean, most times when Hollywood decides to do aliens on Earth, it’s typically set in modern times or in the future. But to introduce aliens at an earlier time was something refreshing.
Also, finding out that it was based off a comic, I decided to check the comic out. To my surprise, the whole idea behind Cowboys & Aliens really worked and I was sold on the film. I could tell things were changed from the trailer, but as long as they kept the overall theme from the comic book intact, I’d be fine with those alterations.
So how did Favreau and crew do with this film? Read on the find out.
I really wanted to love Cowboys & Aliens, or even just like it, but I have to say that this film was pretty disappointing. Now I know my experience with this will differ from most audiences because I had the experience of reading the comic before the film. For those who haven’t read the comic, your perception of the film will probably be different from mine, but seeing as I have read the comic, my view on it is more of a comparison.
Now I don’t like doing reviews in which I compare an adaptation to its source material, but I have to do it here because what Favreau and the writers did with the story in the film is literally take the theme of the comic out. In the comic, the whole reason why it was called Cowboys & Aliens is because the writer made the comparison between a cowboy and alien. That is what made the comic a really interesting read and what sold me on it. The writers of the film completely stripped that out of the film’s story.
The first aspect of the story to suffer from removing the comic’s main theme are the aliens. Where they were once an interesting parallel to the cowboys of the old west, here in this film, they are reduced to nothing more than your typical villains. What’s even worse is that while trying to hold on to some elements from the comic, the way they’ve reduced the aliens to being nothing more than simple thieves just ends up being something really stupid.
The next and only other character to translate over from the comic to a degree is Ella Swenson played by Olivia Wilde. The way they work her character into this film is just plain lazy. It’s not that Olivia Wilde herself gives a bad performance with this character, it’s just what she’s given is nothing great. If they had done with the aliens what was done in the comics, she would have had an incredibly more important and interesting role than the one given to her in this film. The whole build up to her revelation just does not make sense.
With this film deviating so much from the comic, the host of new characters that are introduced into this film just aren’t that interesting aside from Woodrow Dollarhyde and Nat Colorado played by Harrison Ford and Adam Beach respectively. Now admittedly, they give some really good performances, especially Harrison Ford. But the rest of the characters are just worthless. I didn’t care for any of them and any of their particular storylines because they’re all underdeveloped and poorly written.
The lead character, Jack Lonergan, played by Daniel Craig, is by far the weakest character in the film. I get that he’s supposed to be nothing more than a badass, but never once in the film did I feel like rooting for him as the protagonist. It all really boils down to him not being an interesting character at all. He starts off as a man with no name, a gunslinger in the old west, a simple man looking out for simple needs. Mashed up all together, he is just a dull character to follow. Lastly (just because I wanted to mention it), was the incredibly grating performance by Noah Ringer, who some audiences may remember as playing Aang in the travesty that was The Last Airbender.
What probably really sunk this film for me is that this film was just way too serious. With a title like Cowboys & Aliens, you’d expect a film like this to have an air of fun, with lively and witty dialogue. There were hints of it in the trailer, and there were small snippets of it here and there in the film. But overall, the tone of this film was just way too serious. Because the film was so serious and laced with pretty dull dialogue throughout, I just didn’t have fun watching this film when it looked like it would be really fun.
However, it’s not like Cowboys & Aliens is completely terrible. Like I mentioned earlier, Harrison Ford and Adam Beach give some really good performances, and the storyline involving their characters is genuinely interesting. The visual and special effects of this film are great and well done. You can really see where some of that $163 million budget went into. The alien creature designs are pretty interesting and cool, and the film is shot and directed well by Jon Favreau.
Overall, though, the Cowboys & Aliens is just a soulless and shallow experience bogged down by pretty basic and lazy writing and drab dialogue. Add to that the overall mediocre effort in selling the idea of cowboys and aliens, and I just could not really get into this film.
GO Rating: 2/5