Cowboys and Aliens

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"Don't yank on it; it's not your pecker "

Sept 07, 2011

I think the idea of a genre mash up is an intriguing one. Where once films were restricted to certain guidelines now they can sway between styles, allowing for more originality (keeping repetitiveness to a minimum). Cowboys and Aliens has to be one of the most fantastically bizarre concepts by not only putting two differing genres but picking that which seems totally at odds with each other. Cowboys and Aliens seemed like it could be silly fun. It wasn't.

Cowboys and Aliens was based on a comic (does that really surprise you) that I had no knowledge of. I remember when I first heard that the film was being produced I knew nothing about the plot, the actors involved, or the director only that I wanted to see this film. As time passed the film was pulling out all the stops with big name stars (Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford), the director of Iron Man (John Favreau) and being produced by Steven Spielberg. What could go wrong?

When the first trailer hit we were treated to the standard tease the audience about the genre. It didn't really show too much but the western looked well made. By the second trailer I had lost interest everything was quite bland. What I had seen of the alien content was rather mechanical and cold and the film really seem to be lacking the fun element that this type of mash up should carry. For a film I was quite looking forward to this summer the trailers had lost me and I decided I was going to wait for the DVD.

It seemed like everyone I knew felt the same way so when the film came out most of us a Cocaine and Popcorn gave it a miss. After receiving a couple of E-mail asking why we hadn't reviewed the movie I took it upon myself to actually go and watch it. Just so everyone knows where I'm coming from I didn't go to watch this because I wanted to but rather just to review it.

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakes in the desert with no memory of who he is. Arriving in a town Jake is recognised as an outlaw and is quickly incapacitated. Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) arrives with his own posse wanting to take revenge on Jake. As a stand-off takes place in the streets the town is attacked by alien space crafts with many people abducted. Fortunately Jake has a device on his hand that allows him to down on of the ships. After lots of bickering the remaining members team up to track down the alien menace and free the kidnapped.

Lets make this clear I'm not going to pick holes in the logic of the movie as it's not intended to be taken seriously (at least its not meant to be). I'm not going to make statements with silly comments many have made about this film. They have included zingers such as "If aliens attacked earth in the past how come we don't know about it". If you need an explanation to things like that consult Mulder and Skully.

Before the alien attack I have to say I was quite enjoying the western we were presented with. I personally am bored with the whole character has no memory of his past storyline (Bourne Identity remains the pinnacle in that aspect) but was more than willing to go along with it as it must tie in with the alien drama. Unfortunately once the aliens arrived I lost interest for something that is supposed to be a genre mash up everything here felt very generic following action movie clich├ęs.

The problem is that the movie does nothing wrong and at the same time nothing right. In making a film most film crews want to make something that will enlist emotion (direct to video crap aside). Whether that is positive or negative if a movie manages to get a reaction good or bad it has done its job to an extent as it has caused debate. Cowboys and Aliens fails by being bland, most people will refer to this as ok and that really is a fail when it comes to film.

The actors give good enough performances but seem dead behind the eyes, clearly uninspired. I never felt any passion behind any of the dialogue shouting and raised voices is not substitute for real emotion. I will say though Olivia Wilde is absolutely gorgeous and gave her more of a pass with her drab dialogue.

The special effects are well done and blend in well with the western setting but I think that's one of the things that make the film fail. As we are dealing with a foolish scenario I would much prefer an over the top approach than aiming for realism. While what was done seamlessly blends the two genres so that they don't clash I wanted a clash, I wanted crazy.

Being a film fanatic I tend to over analyse scenes and more often than not figure out any twists and turns a film has before they are presented on screen. This movie has a silly revelation that I saw coming a mile off which I had rather they left out. I won't give away what it was and upon further research I found that this silly twist was also a part of the comic, seemingly the only thing they carried over.

With such a boring tale I wanted to know why the comic had been picked up and looked up the original story. While there are a couple of similarities (such as the third act twist) this was a different take that really seemed more interesting than what we eventually were served. With no memory loss characters, more Indian involvement and a lot more playing with alien technology it seems that the rights were bought just so the studio could purchase the title.

At the end of the flick I walked out not caring one way or the other. This is a perfect Saturday night rental as it doesn't tax your brain in any way and allows you to talk over it without missing anything substantial. I expected more from the premise and the director of Iron Man. Don't waste your money by watching this at the cinema.

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