MovieMantz Review: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

How the West was Lost in Space

“Cowboys & Aliens”
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford
Directed by Jon Favreau

Everything about the reported $150 million-budgeted action thriller “Cowboys & Aliens” sure looked great on paper (except maybe the price tag).

Not only does it blend two classic genres (the old Western and the alien-invasion movie), but it also teams up James Bond and Indiana Jones (otherwise known as Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, respectively) for the very first time. If that’s not enough, throw in powerhouse producers like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard and the director of “Iron Man” (Jon Favreau), and you have all the ingredients of a fun and exciting summer blockbuster.

So how could a movie that boasts so much talent turn out to be so…boring? For starters, the screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby – which is based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg – bogs down a great idea with a dull story and weak characters, while the meandering pace keeps the movie from truly coming to life. As a result, what should have been an inspired fusion of “Independence Day” and “The Searchers” instead comes across as an underwhelming and mediocre disappointment.

The year is 1875, and Daniel Craig plays a stranger who wakes up in the New Mexico desert with no memory of who he is. His only hint at what happened to him is the mechanical device that’s locked onto his wrist. In an effort to find out how it got there, he stumbles upon the ramshackle town of Absolution, which is ruled with an iron-fist by Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). But in no time, alien invaders swoop down and abduct its residents, and their only hope lies with the mysterious outsider who holds the dark secret that can save them.

Despite building his directing credentials with the likes “Elf” and “Iron Man,” Jon Favreau fails to establish the right tone for “Cowboys & Aliens.” By trying to keep a silly premise from turning into an even sillier movie, he plays it too safe to the point where his Wild West just isn’t wild enough. There’s too much “Cowboys” and not enough “Aliens,” and what little we do see of the aliens feels like a retread of the one-dimensionally standard monsters we’ve seen depicted before in films like “Independence Day,” “War of the Worlds” and “Battle: Los Angeles.”

In addition, the screenplay doesn’t give the actors much to work with, as the plot is a little too simple for its own good. The thrill of watching Daniel Craig team up with Harrison Ford starts off cool enough, but it only goes so far without having fully realized characters, and it’s even harder to care about the lesser-developed supporting roles played by Olivia Wilde (as Craig’s mysterious love interest), Sam Rockwell (as the town’s nervous salon owner) and Adam Beach (as Ford’s right-hand man).

In addition to the five previously mentioned credited screenwriters, “Cowboys & Aliens” also comes with a huge herd that includes five producers, six executive producers and four co-producers. With so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s hard to believe that they couldn’t whip up a more thrilling and inspired action thriller that was worthy of their talent. There was so much potential here, but it’s lost on a weak story that drifts along aimlessly, like tumbleweed through the desert.

And that’s too bad, because it sure did look great on paper.

Verdict: SKIP IT!

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