Cowboys & Aliens is a watchable enough movie, but there is nothing particularly bright or exciting about it. With the talent involved in the film, it is a shame the end product is not better.
When a man wakes up in the middle of a plain with a mysterious metal bracelet on his wrist, he struggles to remember anything. Making his way into town, trouble quickly ensues when people start to recognise him. Woodrow Dolarhyde has a score to settle with the man, but this is interupted by an attack on the town by flying machines…
With the title Cowboys & Aliens, most would expect an endlessly fun movie. Unfortunately Jon Favreau’s film does not deliver on this front. The film is played quite seriously, which eliminates most of the fun that could be had with this concept. It is a shame, as Favreau did a great job in making Iron Man fun and appealing.
The main problem with the film is that the tone is all wrong. The filmmakers seem to be aiming for earnest when they should have been aiming for mirthful. Cowboys & Aliens would have worked better with an abundance of tongue-in-cheek humour, more akin to the style of Back to the Future Part III. Instead, it is a straightforward western that features aliens. The film should have been more of a thrill ride, but is far to serious for that.
Moreover, the writing is patchy, despite the emphasis on sincerity rather than fun. The film features some lazy stereotypes, such as the faithful Indian servant Nat. Even the main characters offer little reason for the audience to root for them. They are too one-dimensional, which makes it difficult to care about their fates. The cowboys and Indians strand is dull and cliché and the dialogue doesn’t help either as it is often staid.
The special effects used in the film are pretty much faultless. Likewise, set design is also good. Some of the action sequences are let down by a lack of strong direction. Cowboys & Aliens is surely one of the loudest films of the year. This is fine given the blockbuster style, but some may find it a little overbearing.
Daniel Craig is solemn as Jake; the character has little life to him. Olivia Wilde is a little livelier as Ella, while Harrison Ford is well cast as Dolarhyde. The actor certainly brings some much needed presence to the movie.
The touches of Steven Spielberg, producer of the film, are all too clear. However, in a stellar career this is not one of the filmmaker’s brighter moments.