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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rath's Reviews: Cowboys and Aliens

Well, I'll admit it. I was wrong. I know, I know...shocking, but I'll own up to it. My prediction at the beginning of the summer was that Cowboys and Aliens was going to be the surprise hit of the summer, this year's Inception. While there was certainly no Inception this summer, I would say the award of surprising me the most goes to Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Honestly, I was somewhat disappointed with Cowboys and Aliens. Don't get me wrong, it was still very entertaining, but it seems to me that Jon Favreau (director of the still-stellar Iron Man and the kinda-stellar Iron Man 2) has lost his touch. A movie with this ridiculous of a title, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the stunningly gorgeous Olivia Wilde should be a summer blockbuster hit right? Not exactly.

I think there is just a lack of imagination with alien movies as of late. Super 8 was great, but the alien didn't frighten me, not to mention it wasn't really the star of the movie. And don't even get me started on Battle: LA, easily the MOST disappointing movie of the year, and the most disappointed I have been coming out of a movie in a long time. The aliens in Cowboys and Aliens were intriguing, but certainly not memorable as in the Alien series, Independence Day, or the extremely intense Cloverfield (easily my favorite alien movie of the last decade).

Nerdgasm: Indiana Jones with James Bond

I think it would be easiest to split Cowboys and Aliens into two parts. The first 1.5 hours is a Western, and a slightly above average one. The last half-hour is a sci-fi, which is what I think the highlight of the movie is. We start off with Jake (Daniel Craig) waking up in the desert with a strange bracelet on, and he proceeds to beat up some bounty hunters, go into town, get arrested, and then the aliens come. Besides that, I wont give much away, but its a pretty predictable plot...maybe part of the reason the movie feels so average for a while. I would even argue that most of the character development comes from the final battle scene, revealing most of the character's true colors. Writing this now and looking back, the first hour and a half seems like a explaining of the material more than anything. It includes some funny parts, and some cool action scenes in its own right, but other than that, it is forgettable.

Someone is gonna need one bigass flyswatter

"Look at my shiny bracelet mom!"
However, the performances are there. Sometimes they are not given much to work with script-wise, but each person does their duty, and they do it well. Olivia Wilde is so mysterious that at one point I asked myself why she was being so weird, Daniel Craig is once again a badass, and Harrison Ford once again proves why he is one of Hollywood's most iconic actors. I would also like to give kudos to Sam Rockwell, who turns in maybe the strongest performance of the movie as a side character. He is the town's somewhat bullied Doctor, and out of all the characters, I cared the most about his outcome.

If you look up gorgeous in the dictionary, this image appears

Alternate title for this movie: Horsies and Birdies
Also giving a great performance is the special effects. The aliens are pretty interesting, with a pair of hands that emerge from their chests making them great for multitasking! But while they look good with only one on screen at a time, when they are moving in fast motion, the CG fake-ness kicks in. But besides that, the special effects are well done. Explosions all look threatening, painful, and burning. The flying crafts against the Western blue sky look excellent, and the stunts performed (specifically Daniel Craig jumping from horseback to an alien aircraft) impressed me.

To be honest, Im not sure what it is about Cowboys and Aliens, but it just doesnt live up to the potential I know it could have. In my honest opinion, I think it would have been a better film (albeit less successful box-office wise) if it had been rated R. I usually dont complain about movie ratings, but honestly, most alien movies work better with a good amount of gore. Surprisingly, Cowboys and Aliens has quite a bit more gore than I thought it would, slightly pushing its PG-13 rating, but its nothing shocking. Ultimately, I just really cant put my finger on what is holding this movie back. Its good, and it just feels like it is sooooo close to being great; to being a classic, but it doesnt quite make it. This one has got a perfect amount of "Yee", but just not enough "haw"


Pros:

  • The performances are great for what they are given
  • Fun to see James Bond and Indy on screen at the same time
  • Olivia Wilde. Nuf' said
  • Last 30 minutes of the movie would get a 9/10
  • Beautiful landscapes of the Western U.S.
  • Special effects, especially explosions
  • Will probably make a sweet Blu-ray
Cons:
  • Aliens are cool, but not iconic
  • Aliens in motion look pretty fake
  • The first hour and a half would get a 5/10
  • Script is lacking in some areas
  • Missing the funny parts scattered throughout most of Favreau's work
  • There is just something holding it back, I can't put my finger on it
Rath's Review Score: 7/10

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