Title: Cowboys & Aliens
Year: 2011
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Play time: 
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriters: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde

For nearly an hour, Cowboys & Aliens is an impressive thing: a sci-fi romp grafted onto a bona fide attempt at a western, with Favreau showing a passable command of the latter, and his army of screenwriters working hard to give us a well-defined, appropriately iconic cast of characters — Daniel Craig as the dangerous outlaw, Harrison Ford as the taciturn cattle rancher, Sam Rockwell as the peaceable saloon keeper, and Paul Dano as the petulant would-be gunslinger (think Leonardo DiCaprio in The Quick and the Dead). The set-up is crisp and engaging, and I was surprised by how willing I was to groove to its simple rhythms without much caring about when or even whether the plot proper would get going. Coming off the tedious geek-fellating exercise that was Iron Man 2, Favreau just seemed entranced with the possibilities of his high-concept genre experiment. Cowboys and aliens! Cool!

Then of course the aliens show up in earnest, and they’re generically reptilian CGI beasts, and there’s a tortured attempt at a sci-fi backstory that no one seems to much care about but that ends up front and center anyway, and there’s a barrage of furious, ugly action scenes, during some of which I ended up zoning out, to be honest with you, because they’re not that good and they just don’t matter. Yes, it’s another summer flick that starts out promisingly and then loses itself in the obligatory second-half mayhem, like Super 8 and Captain America: The First Avenger, except worse, because the mayhem isn’t as funny and emotionally charged as the former’s or as well-crafted as the latter’s. Anyone setting out to do a fun, non-transcendent, CGI-heavy blockbuster these days should spend a week studying Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, which is a goddamn clinic in how to do this sort of thing right.

Eugene Novikov

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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