Cowboys and Aliens

23 08 2011

I remember how thrilled I was when I first saw the trailer for this week’s movie. So, you’re telling me that cowboys and aliens have been combined into one film, and Harrison Ford is in it? When can I start lining up?

Thankfully, the movie isn’t just filled with confused cowboys pointing up to the sky and asking, “What was that?” Instead, the focus is on intense, special-effects driven action, and the struggles of a small group of 19th century western folk as they fight against superior alien technology.

The movie begins with a Jason Bourne-like premise. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert with no recollection of how he got there. After stumbling into the nearest town, Jake sees that there is a $100,000 bounty on his head. He is quickly thrown into prison.

Jake speaks few words. In fact, I would be surprised if every one of his lines in the script added up to more than two pages. In spite of that, he’s an easy protagonist to like. And, as the tight-lipped, selfless hero with a mysterious past, this silent attitude suits him.

Let’s not forget about Harrison Ford, who is a natural fit as the grizzled old war veteran Woodrow Dolarhyde. As the wealthiest man in the local area, Dolarhyde has more of a financial reason to kill aliens than a personal one.

All of this takes place against the bleak backdrop of the western desert, which gives rise to the usual classic imagery. Tumbleweeds roll across the screen and characters are silhouetted against the swinging doors of old saloons.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed from the title, any similarities with other western movies quickly disappear. After alien spacecraft attack the town, randomly plucking citizens from the ground, the cowboys are forced to put aside their differences and fight to survive.

Like most summer blockbusters, Cowboys and Aliens doesn’t have much depth beyond that premise. However, this is a good thing: introducing any overarching themes into a movie like this would have felt silly. It’s about clashing two classic movie characters together in life-or-death combat, not about how they feel about themselves afterwards.

With that being said, there are some romantic sub-plots and mysteries about various characters that need to be solved. However, they don’t add much value to the plot, and the movie never really tries to make the audience care about them.

After seeing Cowboys and Aliens, it’s clear to see that crazy cross-over ideas like this can actually work. Two genres which may seem incompatible have created an entertaining (if ridiculous) movie.

While it’s far from perfect (the alien’s body design is a little weird), Cowboys and Aliens does exactly what it’s supposed to do: throw two foes into deadly combat with one another, and see who comes out the other side.

4 stars out of 5