Cowboys and Aliens follows Daniel Craig, who wakes in the middle of desert, injured, with no memory of who he is and a metal bracelet strapped to his wrist. Immediately attacked by bounty hunters, he kills them, steals their clothes and strolls to the nearest town. It’d all be very James Bond, if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re in the 1800’s. Arriving in town, after 20 minutes of more exposition, everyone is attacked by aliens, who lasso various town members, including Harrison Ford’s son and Sam Rockwell’s wife. Realising that his bracelet is a weapon, Daniel Craig leads a posse to hunt down the hogtying bastards.
Whilst Craig is solid, never having to extend his repertoire beyond smoldering, it’s Harrison Ford who stands. Playing his wealthy and influential cattleman in the way one would imagine Han Solo would have turned out if he hadn’t got involved with those bloody rebels. He acts as the voice of the audience highlighting the absurdity of what’s going on around him. Faced with knowledge from Olivia Wilde that the invaders are here for gold from them tharr hills, Ford cries ‘What are they going to do? Buy something?’.
It all sounds a bit daft and, in other hands, it possibly could have been, but director, Jon Favreau, insures that everything is played deadly serious. Too serious one could argue. Whilst the film is no doubt entertaining, it could have done with maybe a just a few nodding winks to the camera to let the audience know everyone is in on the joke. Favreau has shown from his Iron Man input that he is capable of mixing action and the comedic quite well, so it’s a shame it’s not shown here. With a few more lines from Ford, this wouldn’t seem so po faced.
Direction wise, Favreau is dependable, ensuring that we never see the aliens for longer then a few seconds. Well, until the end when it becomes a massive explosion of CGI and the movie starts to resemble an XBOX game. The fact that Favreau stuck to his guns (ha! a pun) and didn’t shoot the film in 3D is commendable. 3D has a long way to go to prove that it isn’t a flash in the pan. And no, you can’t mention Avatar. It’s not even fun 3D, it’s just Sam Worthington reenacting Who Framed Roger Rabbit with giant blue people. I’m drifting….
In summary, Cowboys and Aliens is a fun film if not entirely memorable. The mash up of genres feels a bit like stunt marketing and I’m sure we’re opening the floodgates to a series of cheap knock offs… Ninjas vs Crocodiles anyone?