Movie #25: Cowboys & Aliens

I’ve never been a fan of westerns (they are my second-least favourite genre, next to mob movies). However, when I heard about this western-sci-fi mash-up, I was intrigued. When I learned that Daniel Craig was going to star as the mysterious lead character, I was downright excited. Like many westerns (not that I’m any kind of expert), Cowboys & Aliens starts out slow. Craig’s character wakes up with no memories of his identity, his past, or why he has a shiny metal cuff around his wrist. He especially doesn’t know how he can easily take out four outlaws who try to capture him (perhaps he’s part of the Bourne family tree). When he gets to a nearby town, he’s caught up in a bit of trouble by standing up to the weaselly son of local cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde (a crotchety-as-ever Harrison Ford). Oh, and he also gets arrested because there’s a price on his head and a wanted poster with his photo hanging in the local sheriff’s office. Just as I was getting ready to ask where the aliens were, the shiny metal wrist cuff starts to beep and numerous UFOs start bombin’ the town with balls of light and lassoin’ and haulin’-off townsfolk with their purty cables. Fortunately, Jake Lonergan (that’s Craig’s character) takes one of the ships out with a blast from his wrist cuff. In the aftermath, the people decide to form a rescue party to go after their loved ones, including the sheriff, Dolarhyde Jr., and the wife of the barkeep/doctor (played by a subdued Sam Rockwell). Of course they’re all mighty grateful to have Jake and his jewellery to protect them. Along the way, Jake and the gang run into various other western movie cliches. This movie is really not that much of a mash-up, because it’s mostly a western until the climax when they take on the aliens. Then it’s basically just a typical “rebels vs aliens” sci-fi battle. I was pretty disappointed that the sci-fi part was little more than a gimmick to dress up an otherwise run-of-the-mill western. Instead of attacking an alien ship, the people could just as easily have been breaking into a fort or hideout where some desperadoes had taken their families. There is almost no information given about these aliens except that they are looking for gold (what a coinky-dink!) and want to abduct humans to learn their weaknesses (apparently these aliens aren’t very good students because they didn’t seem to find any particular weaknesses even after abducting tons of humans). The aliens themselves didn’t look too bad, except they had a ridiculous chest-mouth-hands combination thing going on. They reminded me of the chitinous “prawns” from District 9. It always amazes me that aliens who are more intelligent than humans still pounce and maul like animals (and never seem to wear any clothing or armour). Plainly put, there doesn’t seem to have been much creativity put into devising the aliens for this movie (I’m surprised they didn’t just use the big-headed greys and be done with it. The story is set in New Mexico, after all.) Anyway, despite the high profile of this movie, the clever mash-up idea, and A-list headliners, this movie was boringly ordinary — like taking the most average pieces of a western and a sci-fi, and stitching them crudely together. (3 out of 5)

25 down. Woo-hoo!! I’m halfway there!

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