Monday, October 3, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens *1/2

Cowboys and Aliens is boring mess of a summer blockbuster.  It attempt to blend science fiction and western genres falls flatter than a pancake.  Its complete lack of creativity is made up for with shoddy special effects and wooden acting.

The film begins in the 1870s where we meet drifter Daniel Craig, who is wearing a strange futuristic bracelet around his wrist? Guess what, its from the aliens!  Then the film begins to use every cliche we associate with the western.  A stranger comes into town who is wanted by the sherif and trouble begins to ensue.  And then the town is attacked by flying saucers.  Enter Harrison Ford as grouchy old rancher who gathers a posse to get the aliens.  And then there's an absurd subplot featuring an alliance between Native American tribe and the whites in a clumsy attempt at political correctness (preceded by a scene with every Native American stereotype associated with the Western). Yes folks, that's the movie.

It is sad to see such a talented cast go to waste.  Sam Rockwell adds little as a timid bartender.  Paul Dano is Ford's winy son, a mere shadow of his excellent part in There Will Be Blood.  Olivia Wilde adds a spark, but her character is underdeveloped and given an inexplicable ending.  As for Harrrison Ford, it is too bad he's not getting better scripts at this stage in his career.  His performance is all corny dialogue and grimacing.

Steven Spielberg produced this and it seems like his disciples are just lifting material from his old films.  The ships are out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the aliens are out of some other movie. J.J. Abrams homage to early Spielberg worked in Super 8 because it had real characters and a great premise.  The film's director, Jon Faverau of Iron Man fame, has proven himself a competent director, but its time to stop squandering his talent in thrown together scripts aimed at the lowest common denominator.  While watching the film, I thought of great westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that had great writing and acting (that's how bored I was during this one) Skip this one, we deserve better.

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