That night, the town is subject to an alien invasion. Buildings explode, people are kidnapped, (Percy is one of them), and Jake realizes that the strange bangle wrapped around his wrist seems to have weapon-like properties. Casting aside his six-shooter for this handy upgrade, he blasts down an alien ship, doesn’t really inspect it very much, and takes to the road with a posse to rescue some archetypes.
Protip: When building motivation for a character like Dolarhyde, don’t kidnap the character that people want to see die. That is a total waste of some perfectly good Harrison Ford.
Eventually, we find out that for one reason or another, the aliens are after one of our precious, precious natural resources; gold. Banding together with a group of Native Americans and a rough assortment of bandits, they combine their efforts to thwart the alien menace, and save the gold. Also, they save Percy.
“There’s gold in dem thar hills! Don’t let dem blasted aliens git t’it.”
And so, it’s maybe in this summary that you can see what I’m trying to get at. The movie does clip along at a decent pace and is never really bogged down too much, but there’s just something uninteresting about a movie that should be interesting by default. Yes, you find out what happened to Daniel Craig and why he’s sporting a new bracelet, but there’s not really much driving tension to keep the plot afloat.
The tone of the movie is particularly light-hearted, and there are some decent one-liners, but not really any big laughs. Once again, given the premise, we have the opportunity for some really good dialogue and questions that can be raised, but there isn’t really much that’s done in that department either. For example, the aliens are a technologically advanced race who drive us humans out of our homes for our natural resources. When you hear that, you think, “Oh, yes. Allegory. Neat.” When the Native Americans hop onscreen, you’ll expect some clever quip from one of the elders. Unfortunately, it seems like none of the eight writers who worked on this film ever thought of that.
I suppose one of the major draws of the movie is the aliens themselves, which are best described as some gruesome monkey, beetle hybrid. They look pretty cool, and (despite the fact that you never really believe that the kidnapped hostages are going to die) can be quite menacing. If you find yourself puzzled by the fact that bullets don’t work on them initially, and then have quite the effect in the final battle, don’t worry — they had eight writers and it was probably supposed to be like that.
And so, between the usual clichés and the general feeling of a wasted opportunity, you’re left with a film that’s ultimately tasteless. By that, I don’t mean that it’s vulgar or indecent — no, that would at least have made an impact. What I mean to say is that the film doesn’t really taste like anything.
“I’m sorry, everyone, but I’m going to save Percy now.”
I guess it’s hard to write a review when there’s not much to say about a movie. Both great movies and bad movies give me a kick right in the journalist gonads and suddenly I couldn’t shut up if I wanted. Unfortunately, Cowboys & Aliens is neither great, nor bad. It’s merely passable. You won’t be appalled, but you probably won’t be very enthusiastic about it either. In a word, you’ll be accepting. At least, that’s how I felt. “There is a movie going on right now. I accept this.” Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig can be pretty badass and we get some cool shots of them doing what they do best, but not much lies beneath.
The problem is that with a film that boasts both cowboys and aliens, you have no choice but to expect a nice, cinematic punch in the face. What you get instead, is cream of wheat.
The Verdict: [rating:2.5]
If you like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, or have to choose between this and The Smurfs, then by all means, go see it. Just make sure to lower your expectations first and you’ll find yourself entertained — as opposed to crapping your pants with disappointment.