Friday, July 29, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

When you hear about a live action film entitled 'Cowboys and Aliens' opening in the dead of summer, without any other information you probably think you have a pretty good idea what you're about to see.  Having successfully avoided all trailers for the film, I went in ready for some campy over-the-top cheese.  But that's not what you get here.  This action, science-fiction, western starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig is played straight.  No camp.  The cowboys are serious cowboys.  And the aliens are serious aliens.  This is a true merger of a western and a science fiction film and I can't say I've seen that before.  And that was a pleasant surprise.

Besides Indiana Jones and James Bond, there are some other big names attached to this film.  It's directed by Jon Favreau, best known for his acting in films like 'Swingers', but becoming an 800 pound gorilla in the world of directing after helming 'Iron Man' and its sequel.  He's joined a small club of good actors who have become good directors and does a fine job here.  And the film's long list of producers include Favreau, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and 'Lost's Damon Lindelof.  And almost as long was the list of about nine people who got writing credits, including Lindelof.  And finally, the supporting cast includes Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Olivia Wilde, Keith Carradine, and 'The Shield's Walton Goggins.  By the end of the opening credits, I was pretty stoked for what I was about to see.  That excitement steadily rose and then steadily fell.

There's certainly enough to like here to make this film kinda-sorta fun.  It's always a joy to watch Ford, even though he hasn't really made a great film in a while and, sadly, age is finally catching up to him.  And it's hard to debate that Craig is the ultimate tough guy.  (I love him in 'Later Cake', but does he even know how to smile?)  And the aliens are much more intense than I expected, comparable to the aliens in .. well ... 'Aliens' actually.  So a lot works.  I just wish the story was a little less cookie cutter.  With nine writers involved I have to admit I was disappointed by the script.  This could have been something really great.  Instead it's just something good.

Grade: B-

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