DIR: Jon Favreau • WRI: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Steve Oedekerk • PRO: Johnny Dodge, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Dan Lebental, Jim May • DES: Scott Chambliss • CAST: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Abigail Spencer
Just because some bright spark comes up with a ‘high-concept’ idea doesn’t mean an assembled team of professional writers (6 according to IMdB) and pedestrian direction are going to make a decent film of it. You get the feeling that the only way this was going to work is if it had simply fessed up to its silliness and lightened up a little. Instead we get a sterile studio version of B-movie schlock material. In the right hands this could have been a hoot; but as a result of being hammered into shape by the powers that be of major production companies, Cowboys & Aliens is nothing more than a humourless mild diversion.
Daniel Craig wakes up in the middle of the Arizona desert with a bleeding wound and no memory of how he got there – indeed he doesn’t even know who he is. There’s a strange metallic device strapped to his left wrist. Could Q be behind it all – kitting Craig out with the latest product of Her majesty’s research and development division?
As it turns out Craig isn’t Bond. He is Jake Lonergan, an outlaw in 1870s Arizona, New Mexico, who discovers that pesky aliens have abducted his wife – along with the loved ones of everyone from the local town of Absolution. They all get together and ride out to take on them there goddamn aliens.
Jake Lonergan is accompanied by a feast of clichéd characters, from bar-keep and preacher to sheriff and hooker with a heart. Among these is Mr. Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford, a hard-nosed cattle big-wig whose son is one of those abducted, and Ella Swenson, played by Olivia Wilde, who is drawn to Lonergan wanting to help him ‘remember’.
Ford and Craig are surprisingly tiresome as the two leads. Craig’s mysterious lonesome gunslinger lacks magnetism and his muscled pouting and smouldering eyes can’t mask an undistinguished performance. Ford simply scowls his way through the film, breaking out into his Indiana Jones’ smile here and there to show us he’s not all that bad. While Wilde is wasted, standing around with a massive ‘plot device’ sign hanging around her neck.
With a script that is all over the place, a plodding storyline and bland characters Cowboys & Aliens is as disappointing as the film’s uninspiring CGI aliens. The impotent climax does nothing to rescue the fact that it just cannot hold its head up as the summer blockbuster it sets out to be. What should have been an over-the-top concoction of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction is instead nothing more than an insipid piece of fluff. At the end of the day, it’s a mediocre Western with dull aliens in it.
Not a good moment for Mash-Up movies.
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Cowboys & Aliens is released on 19th August 2011