“Cowboys and Aliens” Movie Review

     “Cowboys and Aliens” is a mishmash of genres as the title would suggest.  We have a Western setting in the year 1873 and an alien invasion story, packed together into one film.  “Ironman” director John Favreau is at the helm and the film stars James Bond and Han Solo, I mean Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford of course!  With star power and a solid director, you have to figure not much could go wrong for this summer tent pole.  For me, there is good and there is bad, which makes “Cowboys and Aliens” a painfully average outing. 

     After awakening in the middle of the desert, Jake Lonergan (Craig) doesn’t remember how he got there, but has a strange large silver bracelet on his left wrist and he seems a little beat up.  After an encounter with a few people who happen upon him, he makes his way to the town of Absolution.  Jake doesn’t make many friends while there, especially when he has an altercation with the town’s leader’s son.  Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) enters the scene to get his son out of jail and determines Jake is a wanted man.  At this point, you are watching a fairly engaging western.  One with interesting characters and a good developing story line.  Then things change.

     Out of the sky come a series of space craft which begin dropping bombs on the town.  Against space age weaponry, it almost looks silly as Dolarhyde and the town’s people defend themselves with six shooters, but what are they supposed to do, right?  The alien invaders rope the towns people exactly like a cowboy would rope a steer.  They are swooped up and taken away for unknown reasons.  The town appears defeated, but suddenly that silver bracelet on Jake’s wrist shows life and he immediately figures out it is a weapon.  With one clean shot, an alien spacecraft is hit and crashes in the street.  The cowboys can now fight back!

     It was about that point where I began to realize all we had in store for us was the typical sci-fi conventions when it comes these aliens.  I shouldn’t bother asking why these aliens felt the need to attack the cowboys or what they had to gain from being on Earth anyway.  One of the film’s characters gives some insight on that, but the reason is lame.  As mentioned, many of the town’s people are taken away and our protagonists make it job number one to set out and find them.  This, of course, puts the characters in several uninventive action sequences as they encounter the aliens in various ways.  The aliens, in fact, may be the problem.

     I’m sure if the creature designers thought it would be cute to mimic the famous Giger Alien design of having an extra set of jaws move in and out of the mouth by instead having, get this, an extra set of gooey hands coming out of their sternums!  It would seem when these aliens go in for a close quarters kill they unveil these freaky looking pink hands from within themselves.  Weirdly enough, doing this also exposes their vital organs which comes in pretty handy as an exploitable weakness by some of the characters.  Seeing these things prance around in the fully lit desert only made me think of a recent and better alien film, “District 9”.  I found the creatures to be strikingly similar.

     Imagine being one of the many cowboys who aren’t Jake!  He is literally the only guy in the film who can provide any offense against these nasties.  It seemed like everyone else was dead meat.  I think if given the chance, Favreau could have made a pretty compelling western with this cast.  In fact, the first act had all the makings of one of the better westerns I’ve seen in a while, but then the aliens come and the film drowns in genre redundancies.  There is nothing new here.  There is really nothing interesting here.  Just the thought of James Bond and Han Solo and how cool they were in other films.  GRADE: C-