I was a bit iffy about seeing this film because I’m not a huge fan of either cowboys or aliens; however, I thought that I would give it a shot seeing as the combination of these two things is quite unique (apart from Toy Story 😉).
The critics’ reviews for Cowboys and Aliens are very mixed. Most audiences were split half-half, with 50% loving the movie, and 50% wanting their money back. Unfortunately, I was in the 50% who wanted their money back. Initially, I was very impressed with the movie but, in my opinion, the film got progressively worse. I made a few notes whilst watching this movie and if you only read the first page you would think that I absolutely loved it. If you only read the last page you’d think I hated it. I’m thinking this is the marmite of films because many other bloggers seem to have been very impressed by this film when I was thorough unimpressed.
To give you a basic outline of the plot, a cowboy wakes up in the middle of nowhere with a mysterious bracelet clamped around his wrist (seemingly impossible to remove), with absolutely no memory of how he got there. He finds his way to a nearby town that is soon attacked by aliens. The town promptly forms a group that sets out to track down an alien that they believe to have ejected from the space craft. Along the way, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig), has several flashbacks in which he remembers certain events that help him piece his memory back together and he remembers his previous encounter with the mysterious aliens. The group is aided by a woman, Ella, who seems to know more about Jake than he does, but no one really knows who he is. As Cowboys and Aliens progresses the group find out more about the aliens and Jake continues his quest to recover his memory (it’s one of those films where you work backwards to uncover the story).
As I have already said, I believe that this movie went from bad to worse as time went on. Well, perhaps it went from alright to marginally better to much worse. The opening scene of Cowboys and Aliens is very mysterious with an unknown man waking up in the middle of nowhere and a metal bracelet stuck on his arm. At this point in time the bracelet didn’t look too out of place even though it was evidently an alien device clamped onto a cowboy. Daniel Craig soon demonstrated his power and strength of character through a number of fights and he was definitely the perfect man for the job. He makes it look so effortless and his moves flow from one to the next emulating his masculinity and it is clear that Daniel Craig is the man for action films. It’s just amazing how he can beat up a person, showing off every muscle in his finely toned physique without moving a single facial muscle. He has such a cool attitude, absolutely nothing phases him or hurts him in the slightest. Of course, they featured a scene involving him walking carefree whilst explosions and gunshots are being fired all around him.
I think Cowboys and Aliens started to go downhill when the alien part of the film began. It’s a curious thing combining aliens and cowboys, it’s never really been done before and it’s quite unusual and unique. It would’ve been great if they’d pulled it off but unfortunately they did not. Everything suddenly became very messy and confusing and I’ve had to re-watch several parts in order to figure out what was actually happening. I thought that the colours of the screen during the alien attack scene were very dark and dull and this just added to the confusion because I couldn’t even see what was happening. All I really made out from this scene were mysterious screams, thumping sounds, flashes of light, fast-moving shadows and random gunshots.
There were many alien ‘abductions’ but I was sorely disappointed by the way in which they decided to carry these out as it basically involved a giant claw shooting out from the mother ship and plucking random humans from the ground. This just reminded me of that arcade game to win the stuffed toys that nobody ever wins. In addition the attack scenes just looked like a scene of Star Wars – space crafts, flashes of blue and red everywhere (blue, alien lasers, red, fiery torches). It was definitely a clashing not a combination of cultures and I was disappointed.
There were also parts – particularly near the end – of Cowboys and Aliens that strongly reminded me of Lord of the Rings. The alien’s lair was a modern-ish building (a bit like the gherkin in London) in the middle of nowhere. The humans climbed up the stairs to get to the enemies *cough* Frodo and Sam climbed the stairs to the Spider’s cave *cough*. The group lay in wait outside, close to the enemies, where there were wide expanses of white rock and alien space crafts fly above whilst the group hides in bushes *cough* The Fellowship hide as a group of spy birds (forgotten the technical term!) fly above. Finally, the lair ‘disappears’ as the ground falls away *cough* the fall of Mordor.
Although I found the plot of Cowboys and Aliens very disappointing, one thing that consistently impressed me throughout was the quality of the acting. I was most impressed by Daniel Craig because after playing such an iconic role such as James Bond, it can be quite difficult to break the connection and make your audience believe that you are anything but James Bond, but he managed to. I didn’t think for one second that he was the guy who played suave and sexy James Bond, he was the mysterious cowboy from beginning to end. Craig’s accent was absolutely spot on and completely transported me to the world of Western cowboys, as did that of many of the other characters.
The other actor who I noticed was Paul Dano. He doesn’t have a particularly large role in Cowboys and Aliens, he plays the trouble making son of the town Sheriff, but the few times that he was on screen he really impressed me with his acting ability. The first time we meet him he is drunk and he really makes you believe that he’s had far too much to drink. He’s got the swagger, the slur – every move he makes is just further confirmation that he’s intoxicated. The only problem was, his accent was so good that you had to listen really attentively to understand what he was saying, otherwise you would miss whole chunks of conversation. Many people will have only watched this movie because Harrison Ford is in it, but I have to say, if he hadn’t been in it, I don’t think that I would’ve noticed. He had quite a major role in the film as he was leading the town in their hunt for the aliens but he really didn’t make much of an impression on me and I didn’t notice him doing anything spectacular.
The soundtrack was fairly good, starting off with that typical Western music with that twang. Somehow it managed to convey the feeling of modern action with classic cowboy added in. It definitely contributed to the action as it was often very loud and dramatic. At other times there was some very eerie music with a slight alien quality, even though it is instantly recognisable as Western cowboy. I thought that perhaps more could’ve been done to mix the two types of music together though I appreciate how difficult it would be to mix traditional noises with very futuristic ones. In addition there is some very beautiful country scenery in Cowboys and Aliens with trees, lakes, mountains, deserts – everything you’d expect to see in a cowboy film but extra special.
I guess I would have to say I got exactly what I expected from Cowboys and Aliens. With executive producers being Steven Spielberg and Jon Favreau and actors such as Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, I expected it to be very well executed from the acting side of things; however, the idea of cowboys and aliens mixing together didn’t appeal to me and I don’t think that they managed to pull it off.
What’s worse is that the aliens themselves were very robotic creatures that didn’t look even vaguely real. They left some green goo behind on the group – surprise, surprise – and they had a rocket ship – ‘cuz that’s not stereotypical. One other thing that I found ridiculous was cowboys trying to capture the aliens using lassos. Lassos. LASSOS?! Now I’m no expert but I’m thinking a piece of rope isn’t going to save you from an incredibly strong alien life force. It seemed extremely difficult from the outset to mix such contrasting genres together and it would’ve been very impressive if they had managed to integrate the two genres together better but unfortunately they didn’t and ultimately this led to the film’s downfall.
“Favourite” quote: ‘Got a kid, a dog, why not a woman?’ Ugh.
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