Wednesday 17 August 2011

211: Review - Cowboys & Aliens

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Cowboys & Aliens poster

Cowboys & Aliens
17th August 2011. Location: Cinema

* Slight spoilers ahead *

I'd have thought that given director Jon Favreau's previous form on Iron Man, and that C&A has such a preposterous concept*1 at its core, the film would be a lot more lighthearted than this. Granted, the trailer wasn't a laugh-a minute either, but the movie takes itself quite seriously, which is a little jarring at first.

The opening scene has no dialogue for about a minute and a half, then moves into Daniel Craig's amnesiac Jake Lonergan killing the three bandits who are about to take him prisoner, then looting their posessions and riding into town on one of their horses. He's a badass alright, and it's only with some strategically placed people/places/props-inspired flashbacks that we learn that we're meant to be rooting for him.

So when Harrison Ford's cattle-merchant Woodrow Dollarhyde shows up to bail his no-good son out of the town jail, he's going to be the foil for the curmudgeonly Lonergan, right? Nope. He makes Daniel Craig's character look like comic-relief by comparison. The scope for lethargic wisecracks has been passed over completely here*2, but Ford still does well out of it.

Then we get Olivia Wilde as Ella Swenson, whose past is just as mysterious as Lonergan's, and doesn't come with any flashbacks, so we get her story about two thirds of the way through (and it's just as well she tells it, because you wouldn't guess it otherwise).

So far, so mismatched-characters all drawn together to try and thwart an alien invasion in Arizona in 1873. And it works pretty well in Favreau's capable hands. The plot rumbles along quite nicely, and makes relative sense (given the basis for it). I'd even go so far as to say that this would have been a very acceptable Predator prequel, and would have fit nicely into that timeline, but that wasn't to be.

Speaking of which, they aren't skimping on the aliens either. It takes a short while, but once the cherry's been popped, there are lots of them, up close and personal. We get them, their tech, and why they're here, as well as shots of the inside of their ship. It's all told from the humans' point of view, of course, so we don't get to build any sympathy for the aliens, but they are an exploratory/invading force, so there's no love lost, there.

The Good: All the principle actors; the effects-work; the score is a nice mix of classical and country, with a sprinkle of rock from time to time. Nice alien and 'mothership' design.

The Bad: Even for a 'frontier town', the initial setting feels sparsely populated. And apart from Harrison's Dollarhyde, there's not a lot of character development.

The Ugly: How did those massive aliens fit in those comparatively tiny scout-fliers? I thought they were drones until that one crashed in the river, then a nine-foot green guy popped out of the water.

After the credits: Nothing. You can leave as soon as the names come on-screen.

A Sequel? There's nothing obviously set-up, but it'd be workable, and I'd enjoy watching an expansion of this.

All in all: It's more Predator than Independence Day, but I could have done with the mood being a little lighter. I give it a six out of seven, but it's a low-six. But it's better than a five, for sure.


*1 - And I mean 'preposterous concept' in a good way, I assure you.
*1 - As has the prospect of in-jokes and nods to the actors' previous work. There's a bloody perfect opportunity for a Return of the Jedi reference at the end which isn't used. I wouldn't have been able to resist it... but that's why I'm not directing films.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment