Growing up, kids my age played Cowboys and Indians. We had our cap guns, without those unsightly orange caps, and even fashioned bows and arrows from broken off tree limbs and string. The lines were clear, the cowboys were always the good guys and, by default, the Indians were always the bad guys. There was a lot of imagination needed back then, and our source material came from old such great actors such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. But, without the modern day distractions of video game consoles and cellular phones, we did all right.
Those were the long afternoons of my childhood, filled with re-enactments of movies shown on broadcast television on Saturday afternoons wee the good guys always won and the bad guys never had a chance. We all had fun, as much as a group of kids could have back then, so walking into Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens dredged up some huge expectations as memories of my childhood galloped through my head as the trailers ended and the movie began. Sadly though, those days running through the backyards of my friends and defending the creek that ran behind my house were much entertaining than what the director of Iron Man brought to the screen.
Notably, entering the movie like a rawhide whip ready to lash out at the audience, Daniel Craig portrayed a rather convincing cowboy, true grit and all. Also, Harrison Ford brought all his charm and requisite grin, yet neither actor’s performance could out-draw the poorly written plot nor the fact that the movie as a whole had the feel of an amusement park ride through a old western theme park set up in Orlando, Florida.
Set in a near-desolate town in the middle of too much desert and nothing much else worth mentioning, it was hard to buy in to the fact that the townsfolk of this one-horse stop off on the way to something better was really as down and out as the director would have the audience believe. Everyone is either too well kept or do not give off the right vibe for a town suffering from hardship.
A small testament to the movie would be the nightmarish creatures, originally created by artist H. R. Giger, and brought to life rather convincingly on the big screen. Between the originality of their flying crafts and the surprising methods in which they snatch-and-grab their prey, the aliens nearly steal the movie away from the cowboys in overall believability. Unfortunately, this was not enough to escape the opportunities Director Jon Favreau had to mesh a modern science-fiction horror with the true grit of the American West.
I have to say that I expected much more from Jon Favreau and Steven Spielberg (one of the executive producers). This movie had great potential to whip itself into the hearts of many. The star-spangled cast, including Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, and Olivia Wilde, had the ability to wrangle this big screen revision of a somewhat obscure comic book into shape, not to mention Jon Favreau has both directed and acted in a few comic book adaptions himself (Daredevil, Ironman & Ironman 2). In the end though, Cowboys and Aliens is brought down a lack of attention to detail to its setting and, as such, limps off into the sunset without much of a bang.
Reviewed by David Amburgey
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