Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens [film review]

* Released theatrically in July
The credits tell us that Jon Favreau directed Cowboys & Aliens, but this movie sure looks and feels like the latest crap churned out by Michael Bay, the grand auteur of loud, dumb action cinema. The western/sci-fi mashup wastes a promising concept that finds aliens invading Arizona in the late 1800's to harvest gold to power their spaceships and abducting humans for examination and experimentation, with an endgame, one would assume, towards eventual annihilation (the latter being a heavy-handed and ironic metaphor for the white man's takeover of the Native American's land).
It somehow took six screenwriters to transfer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel to the big screen and they still couldn't manufacture a compelling story or bring any imagination to the actor's roles. The film is populated with stock characters that feel like watered-down versions of better characters from older, better westerns: Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan is a stoic, amnesiac badass with echoes of Clint Eastwood's "The Man With No Name" character, Harrison Ford does his usual Ford-like grumpy character as bad guy Colonel Dolarhyde, Paul Dano plays his loose cannon son, plus there's a wide assortment of other western paint-by-numbers figures, such as the persecuted but proud Indian, a preacher, doctor, saloon owner, sheriff, and Olivia Wilde as the requisite female participant with a murky past. Virtually any area in which the movie heads story-wise ends up falling flat, save for one bright moment where the aliens make their main debut (following a quick tease that shows little), as their spaceships swoop from the sky and the townsfolk are lassoed by long cables that drag them away. The momentum from that scene quickly dissipates, however, and the film never manages to regain its already unsteady footing. The aliens themselves look decent enough (they resemble giant cockroaches with an extra set of arms buried in their chest/underside), but the CGI seams are definitely more visible when they're a little more active and running around.
Skip this one, unless you thought this summer's Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was a masterpiece.
Rating: ★★★★

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