Cowboys and Aliens tells tale of monsters vs. bad-ass good guys
Culture / August 16, 2011
By Mike Shames
[senior entertainment writer]
There is something so appealing about cowboy movies. The outlaw turned hero, the gruff old war veteran with a soft spot, the gunslinger women, the boy and/or Indian sidekick/tag along, the kind doctor, the other bandits and finally the Indian tribes are all staples of any western. We all love them. And we love alien movies. The sudden appearances that make you jump, the grotesque drooling monsters, the cool ships, the abductions, the experimentation and the heroes that fight them are all essential for an alien movie. And the newest cliche that has become popular in the past years has been the invasion for Earths natural resources, as seen in Battle: Los Angeles, makes it into the hybrid of these iconic genres. So Cowboys and Aliens is what would happen if these clichés were combined into a fun filled ride topped with some of the best casting possible.
Starting with the cast, it stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde as the leads. Craig is best known for James Bond, and Ford for Indiana Jones, two of the biggest bad-asses in cinema. Craig and Ford dominate this movie. On their own, they are lost in the character. Craig is a wanted outlaw, awakening in the middle of 1873 Arizona, completely unaware of how he got there, let alone who he is. But it is quickly shown that he is not helpless, but is extremely dangerous. There are other oddities, like the strange item on his arm, and flashbacks to a mysterious women. Not to mention waking up with amnesia, in underwear, in the middle of the desert. There is also layers to this charismatic outlaw, shown by Craig himself, flashbacks, and through the characters he meets as he seems to be infamous. Ford is gruff old war veteran, tired by the world, even a bit racist (as per the era). But through some simple scenes and with subtle body language Ford shows there is a softer side for all people hidden beneath the fierce and hard layers. But when they are together, they are the best.
Some scenes there is no dialogue and yet the two can have a conversation. They start off as adversaries, but are forced to cooperate after the aliens attack. Each are very similar, multilayered and are genuinely good people at the core. Wilde does a good job in her role but isn’t given much time to develop her character. It’s hard to care about her.
She’s a mysterious woman that can hold her own with the boys. Big deal. There are other characters that come and go, and even some side stories that are not very engaging, but we must remember that this is essentially a comic book movie. The main attraction is Craig and Ford, and they do deliver.
The story is classic western with a dash of aliens. Lifted from a graphic novel, it certainly has the ability to grab and hold an audience. There is some remodeling of clichés to fit with aliens, like jumping horse to ship rather than horse to train. And some Bond/Jones slips in if you’re really paying attention. But it is fun, filled with little bits of comedy, and has many interesting characters, even if they are cliched. The aliens are the usual screeching drooling affair of any alien movie, and yet they fit into the world, and look pretty cool too. They aren’t dumb either, as demonstrated by their technology for extracting resources. It is definitely a meeting of two very different worlds, but merging seamlessly.
Ford and Craig are titans on the screen; much like if Clint Eastwood and John Wayne starred in a western, they are so well done. They make this movie, but not without their supporting cast. No matter how small the role, everyone does an excellent job of bringing the flick to life. So if you’re looking for something to cure that sickening feeling from watching Transformers, or Green Lantern, this movie comes complete with outlaws, cowboys, scary aliens, and cheesy Wilhelm screams.