Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Strike a Pose

So what was the point about making Cowboys & Aliens besides the potential of raking in millions from the box office thanks to a mash up of the Western and Alien Invasion genres? Hardly anything other than to showcase some nifty special effects (though not groundbreaking in any fashion), and having director Jon Favreau show that he has more up his sleeves than Iron Man in making a big budgeted, B-graded summer popcorn entertainer. Other than that don't come to expect a lot from the plot which was pretty straight forward stuff, boosted by its ensemble cast who add plenty of star presence.

Many would be pumped by the combination of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, both charismatic action men in their own right, each having a franchise, or franchises in Ford's case, under their belts. Putting them together in collaborative fashion seemed to make perfect sense, and many out there can fantasize about James Bond meeting Indiana Jones/Han Solo, but that's about it - it stays as fantasy as the two don't do too much when they get on screen together. Craig plays Jake Lonergan, a mysterious alpha-gunslinger who is blessed by the inability to get injured by adversary no matter what they throw at him, though for the most parts of the film he spent walking around without a firm identity, adding a simple mystery to the film as to his background, like a Western Jason Bourne.

Ford plays Woodrow Dolarhyde, an ex-Colonel turned rancher who owns the town, with a good for nothing son Percy (Paul Dano) who soon gets abducted, along with many others in town, when strange spaceships descend upon them, bombing everything in sight and abducting in classic alien movies, humans for various experiment. So the story's pretty much about a rag tag team being assembled together, which included Sam Rockwell as a peace loving bartender, Adam Beach as Woodrow's servant whose character adds much needed gravitas and drama to the film in addition to being the translator with the Native Americans, and Olivia Wilde as Ella Swenson, a gunslinger herself who is more than meets the eye.

To a certain degree having watched the film from start to end, the narrative ran pretty close to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which dealt with a reluctant Indy having to rescue the village folks' children who are taken into slavery. Replace children with townfolks of all ages and aliens with the voodoo worshippers, and you have Cowboys & Aliens, written by so many writers adding their two cents worth to the story, it's pretty amazing how everything turned out making some sense, despite its average plot riddled with loopholes and cliches, with the most glaring happening in the final third of the film where characters can locate each other in a labyrinth with convenient ease.

For instance, some of the stuff that got to me was a gaping absence in the treatment of the alien fleet attacking the cowboys on horseback, which you get a glimpse of in the trailer, cleanly forgotten when the plot decides to track Jake and Ella in their two on one tussle with an alien combatant. Or how about the inconsistent numbers that make up the human warriors, with 30 thieving gangsters and a group of Native Americans falling in a massive assault, only for their numbers to stay rather consistent by the time the movie's done. If there's some alien ability here to respawn their adversary, tell me about it, otherwise this reeks of lazy continuity gaps, or with scripts being revised constantly, or editing room manipulation, everything got cobbled together haphazardly just to hope for the best from the messy end product.

But on the whole, as an action adventure trying to combine elements from two genres together, Cowboys & Aliens did the job it set out to do, so don't expect too much from it other than being yet another loud action blockbuster that you can't milk anything of value from.

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