Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
August 17, 2011 4 Comments
An unnamed Bond-alike (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert with no knowledge of who he is or where he came from – though he is nevertheless able to recall the word “English”, some nifty combat moves and something about a woman and some gravity-defying gold. Anyway, he’s hurt and therefore forced to take refuge in a small village called Absolution, where he quickly catches the eye of the enigmatic Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) and fist of curmudgeonly cattleman Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Accused of stealing Dolarhude’s gold, Jake Lonergan (turns out he wasn’t so nameless after all) is vindicated when the culprits reveal themselves to be none other than an alien force intent on capturing the natives and stealing the planet’s gold. AND THEN!
Not many movies these days benefit from the the automatic boost of having Harrison Ford chewing his marbles as part of the cast. It’s an easy A, a golden ticket, a God-damn Sankara stone. Just look at how much the guy’s mere presence elevated Morning Glory (lots). Naturally then, Jon Favreau wastes him – the one man alive who could have brought any gravitas to a film about gold-snatching aliens; and yes, I’m including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – instead deciding to point his camera at Old Expressionless and Plot Device #4 (dutifully reprising her role from last year’s Tron: Legacy). Ford is the best thing in Cowboys and Aliens by a good Kessel Run, and this is coming from someone who loves hummingbirds.
You see, you’d think that a high concept like Cowboys and Aliens would be substance enough for one movie – or graphic novel, for that matter- but no; Favreau has merely truncated the film’s much more representative, but much less wieldy title: Cowboys and Aliens and More Aliens and Convenient Phoenix Metaphors and Indians and Sam Rockwell and God and a Hummingbird. It really is “And Then” moviemaking at its worst, a relentless slew of ludicrous plot points clunkily held together with the kinds of contrivances which sink much, much better movies, often starring much, much less Harrison Ford.
It’s not even funny. Taking itself even more seriously than a Brothers Strauss directed Aliens vs. Predators movie, Jon Favreau has clearly taken criticisms of Iron Man 2‘s levity to heart. Gone are the warm characterisations, the relatable relationships and the unashamed, infectious sense of fun, sorrily replaced with sand and not much else. Sand and cowboys and aliens. The best line, a welcomingly self-effacing “this is ridiculous”, is too little too late, the faux machismo forced down the audiences’ throats with all the finesse of a tomahawk, but little of the substance. What’s the point in strapping an alien weapon to a grumpy cowboy and hiring thirty people to spend ten months at a computer screen tirelessly forcing pixels together if you can’t at least have a good laugh about it after? Who is supposed to care about the outcome? Not me, apparently.
I’m not asking for a Jar Jar Binks or a nice, friendly group hug. You an keep the grue, the poorly rendered creatures, Olivia Wilde; just throw me a bone – a big, we-know-how-stupid-this-sounds inscribed bone. I need something if I’m to happily turn a blind eye to the shoddy FX, the pervasive plot holes and the required suspension of disbelief that cowboys might stand any sort of chance against a battalion of extra-terrestrial, gold-mining crickets. An underused Harrison Ford just isn’t enough.