There is something to be said for having a really straight-forward idea. “This is just a movie about cowboys and aliens.” I like it! There’s an honesty to it that is refreshing, and I know that it’s grandiose and even a little silly to describe a movie like Cowboys and Aliens as “honest,” but you know what I mean. It’s all right there. It isn’t gussied up or concealed, it doesn’t tell you it’s going to be one thing and then turn out to be another. (Although there were those stories a few months ago when the movie was still in the test screening phase where I guess audiences were upset because the name suggested to them that this was going to be a funny movie and when it turned out that the movie was not funny they were disappointed and also confused. But maybe we can all just agree that those people are idiots? Because come ON. Even if you did go into this movie expecting it to be funny, when it was very clear in the first five minutes that the movie wasn’t funny wouldn’t you be able to kind of roll with it? “OK, not funny. Got it.” Or am I the weird one and you would spend the next two hours thinking “there are NOT very many laughs in this romantic comedy”?) Of course, whether or not the movie is straight-forward and honest, and whether it’s a comedy or a drama, the more important question ultimately becomes “was the movie any good?” and that question, at least as it pertains to Cowboys and Aliens, is a little harder to figure out. But let’s try:
The first half hour of Cowboys and Aliens is GREAT! It’s really beautifully shot and I love a good western and also Daniel Craig. DANIEL CRAIG! Holy moly. I could watch him lackadaisically punch the phone book in the face and be entertained. Very good recalcitrant hero. Another thing that’s really enjoyable about this movie, or at least the first half hour of this movie, is how it just gets on with it already. Do you know what I mean? There is not what seems to have become a summer adventure movie pre-requisite of 30 minutes of characters mapping out what the reality of this world is all about in a way that is so boring it makes you feel crazy. He’s a cowboy. These are the cowboys. Whoops, here come the aliens. The end. That is just very smart. We want to see a movie not a LECTURE, Professor Hollywood.
If there is one downside to the first half hour of Cowboys and Aliens I would say that it’s the way in which everyone seems like they’re not so much acting in an authentic period piece so much as putting on a three-minute interstitial play in the shopping district of the Adventureland section of Disney World. Everyone just seems so ’90s, LOL. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s either better or at least just as bad as everyone doing terrible fake accents, but it was also for sure noticeable and just kind of off. But like I said, GREAT first half hour.
Then there’s the rest of it.
I don’t know. I kind of liked that the aliens just wanted gold. Haha. Sure. “Gold is just as precious to them as it is to you.” Wait, how precious is it to us? I mean, I know it’s kind of precious, but it seems REALLY precious to the aliens. But how long as that final action sequence? I think it was three quarters of the movie. It was endless! And it made no sense! Like, when you first see them riding up to Space Mountain there are what, 50 dudes? Let’s say there are 50 dudes. Then, for the next hour and a half you just see dudes getting slaughtered left and right. But when all is said and done there are still just about 50 dudes? How does that math work out? It also has one of those Final Boss Action Movie Fight Scene Logic Boards that I really cannot stomach which is where people are shooting their guns and nothing seems to be working and they’re back against the ropes, and then they look each other in the eye and rally their emotional courage for one last stand, and now all of a sudden their guns totally work? No. Either the guns work or the guns do not work, but the guns cannot work just because Harrison Ford added an Indian to his MySpace Top 8.
Speaking of Harrison Ford: let’s talk about Harrison Ford for a second.
What was up with Harrison Ford? At the beginning of the movie he was evil and that already was kind of problematic. Not because he’s not allowed to stretch himself as an actor (hahaha, it’s almost crazy how much everyone in Cowboys and Aliens stretched themselves as actors) but just because, well, maybe he isn’t allowed to stretch himself as an actor. When you see his face you want to root for him, but now he is drawing and quartering people and barking at them in an almost ludicrously gruff voice? Aww. Harrison Ford, are you OK? What’s the matter, buddy? Even more problematic, however, is how he just turns out to be a nice guy at the end. Like, I guess they supposedly showed him being humbled a couple of times, maybe, but the transition seemed pretty smooth and painless and unaccounted for if you ask me. (And if you didn’t ask me, that is still my opinion. You’re welcome.)
Hi, Walton Goggins!
I love you, Walton Goggins!
Considering how enjoyable the first half hour was, and I really did enjoy it, it was too bad to watch all that good will disappear in a hazy cloud of endlessly kicked up dust. (Do not even get me started on the Olivia Wilde character. Seriously this time, don’t. We start talking about her and the whole thing falls apart.) The spaceship explosion at the end looked really cool? Which is impressive considering how many movie explosions we’ve all seen by now? I’m trying to be generous here, but man, that last hour and a half of horses running around so fucking much and aliens jumping out of the scrub brush and also aliens who carry revenge in their hearts and a magical bracelet controlled by kissing. It was exhausting!
Cowboys and Aliens and Enough Already. Oh well. We will always have that first half hour. Throw the rest on the fire, and if it comes back to life, throw a dirty blanket on it and strap a bomb to its chest and send it up the hairy ice tunnel. KABOOM!