COWBOYS & ALIENS: AN INVASION ALMOST INCONSEQUENTIAL

Like every Thursday night, I went out last night to catch a midnight movie.  Unlike most weekends though, I had three choices: Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Smurfs, or Cowboys & Aliens.  While the first didn’t seem a bad choice, my companion didn’t feel like watching a Steve Carell picture.  The second, however, seemed terrible from the first trailer I viewed.  So, I’ll be boycotting the annoying film and its atrocious use of 3D graphics.  Ergo, my friend and I went to see Cowboys & Aliens last night.  (This seems like an awkward case of the game Clue.  It was Tom and his friend, at the AMC, with the Sci-Fi Western.)

THE GOOD

To start, this is an action film.  So we should expect a fair number of explosions, guns and knives aplenty, and enough jaw punches to pulp Jay Leno’s epic mandible.  In these respects, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the aliens certainly deliver.  From the opening scene in which Craig kills three riding bandits/bounty hunters, to the first invasion sequence as the town explodes and its citizens are captured, and finally with the concluding battle against the invading aliens as the town’s forces war with the entire invasionary force in a canyon, the action scenes stand up to today’s standards.

As a fan of westerns, I enjoyed the historic elements present in this film.  I enjoyed the costuming, seeing that the characters were well dressed without coming off as pretentious, up until the end when everybody’s living off the new gold market.  Aside from the costumes, I also enjoyed the set design.  Classic western town elements were present, from the local saloon, to the town jail.  While I felt that a bit too little time was spent in these areas so as to recognize the detailing, it seemed well put together at first glance.

THE BAD

Like I said before, this is an action film.  So, while we’re expecting gratuitous violence and accompanying one-liners, we should not expect impressive character growth or any real depth to this film.  Like before, the film delivers here as well.  

Craig plays the stereotypical western badass.  He is Jake Lonergan, an ex-bandit amnesiac who begins the film working only to repair his memories but eventually sides with the townsfolk to return their abducted kin.  Ford portrays the crotchety, old bastard bigot and corrupted cattle owner, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde.  Like all main cast seemingly misanthropes, he eventually comes to forget his racism and show compassion for his ignored son. 

On the other side of these awfully shallow or predictable characters, we have the confusing and unpredictable.  Most notably, Olivia Wilde portrays a young woman, Ella Swenson, who follows Craig throughout the first seventy-five percent of the film.  Her reasoning is that the aliens had abducted her people long before the film began and she believes that he can locate them.  Then she’s struck by one of the aliens, dies, is cremated, and then comes out of the fire.  She then informs everybody that she’s an alien who has taken a human form so as to work alongside Lonergan and the town to destroy the aliens that have no sanctity for life (caring only for the local gold).  She ends up sacrificing herself to destroy the alien ship in a large explosion before it can return to the alien home-world.

THE UGLY

The biggest issue of this film, aside from Wilde’s phoenix return and subsequent trans-species romance with Lonergan, was that deaths were almost completely ignored in this film.  The preacher’s death seemed to be the one to which the characters showed the most emotion for, but that took place in the first half of the film.  Wilde’s death was a brief, “He’s dead, Jim”, but she comes back, and then proceeds to die again, with the latter death being unspoken as all the characters simply disburse.  Lonergan’s wife/lady-friend from before the film’s beginning, who we later discover was disintegrated upon the alien ship, similarly was left without feeling.  Craig walks into their old house, sets down some flowers, sees a hummingbird, and then walks out smiling.  Even in the final moments of the film, when the quiet town is seen to be growing and changing because of the new gold, everyone is grinning without any lamentation over their fallen comrades and lovers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At this point, I’ve said it several times: this is an action film.  Therefore, it will be viewed by an audience who want action.  They’ll not be looking for character development or historical accuracy or any real emotion.  They’ll be looking for gun shots, haymakers, and explosions.  For that reason, this film will definitely satisfy them.  It does the western genre justice while simultaneously developing a new type of alien (large, green, neck-less beast things with superior technology and multiple sets of arms) for the general public to mull over. 

So, while I doubt that this movie will be a huge success (though I could be wrong with their advertising pushes), I’m sure it will be enjoyed by many.  And, if you ever wanted to see Daniel Craig ride off into the sunset atop a horse, this movie will not leave you disappointed.

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