In a summer brim full with remakes, prequels and sequels, it is a refreshing change to actually see a movie that is new or newish, the film is loosely based on a comic.
Daniel Craig (No Name to start) wakes up in the Wild West circa 1873, looking craggy, sun-baked, wounded and confused. A large futuristic bracelet on his wrist, which he cannot remove despite repeated efforts, he swiftly deals to anyone that messes with him as he attempts to regain his memory.
Stumbling into town, he encounters the usual Wild West characters.
The sturdy doctor/priest (it’s a small town), who graphically stitches his wounds, the local downtrodden saloon owner/doctor, (Sam Rockwell), with the improbably hot wife, a principled lawman and a weak, feckless bully (Paul Dano) the son of the feared local head honcho, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford).
Throw in the otherworldly presence emanating from “Ella” (Olivia Wilde), a cowgirl with piercing blue eyes. Add the advertised aliens, complete with grungy steam punk style spaceships and you have a curious mix indeed, think “Firefly/Serenity” with a larger budget.
Craig continues to impress, intense, brutal and looking every inch like he damn well would hurt anyone getting in his laconic way, more than adept with his sturdy bracelet, when it finally throbs into life.
Mixing Aliens with Cowboys is a commercial risk, recent films daring to use the western genre have not all been successful (True Grit withstanding), throw in a Alien “mashup” and what do you get?
Actually, a lot more fun than some have led us to believe. Whilst undeniably not perfect, some effects are more LowFi rather than SciFi and some supporting characterizations are paper thin, Dano and Rockwell get criminally underused. Overall, perhaps the opportunity to play Cowboys and Indians with this cast was too good to pass up, even for great actors with bit parts.
Quite where a budget of US $163 Million went, is more of an indictment of modern blockbuster film making than a criticism of this particular project. However, there remains plenty of entertainment up on the screen.
The action and jump scares are more down and dirty than you might expect, kids with knives stabbing aliens in the heart, Alien torture chambers and characters being incinerated before your eyes, this is certainly no “Wild Wild West”.
It is good to see Ford back in a summer movie, he gets some good lines but the focus of the film clearly falls to Craig, who does not disappoint.
Yes, there are plot holes but again, this is Cowboys and Aliens in the same film, reality expectations should wisely be left in the foyer.
There is a high body count, every one is fair game, especially disposable and certificate friendly CGI Aliens who can be eviscerated at will without troubling the censors. Crucially, the dog is of course kept safe at all times.
The plot is thin – loved ones get captured by Aliens, posse try to get them back and prevent even worse stuff happening. Interestingly the Saloon owner certainly seems fairly non plussed that his wife has disappeared.
Good fun and any movie that dares to be at least mostly brand new with no built in audience and brand awareness, needs to be appreciated.
Director John Favereau of Iron Man fame has done a fair job with workmanlike direction, whether this finds an audience and we get to see more, remains to be seen.
Does what it says on the tin.
Indiana Jones and James Bond playing Cowboys and Indians, whilst fighting Aliens, what’s not to like?