Cowboys and aliens and Indians, oh my!
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, and Keith Carradine. Directed by Jon Favreau. Based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenburg.
Years ago I used to tape movies off of cable stations. One night a particular movie, “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula,” piqued my interest. Think about it: notorious Western outlaw Billy the Kid against a vampire? That had to be seen. The next day I sat and watched it and well… I wasn’t impressed. It was made well, no doubt, but these are two worlds that should have never crossed in the first place. Leave Billy the Kid to the Old West and Dracula to the city streets of 19th century London.
Establishing that point is the latest film, “Cowboys and Aliens.” I’ll watch Westerns. I’ll watch sci-fi movies. And hey, does anybody remember “The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr.?” Did anyone ever figure out what the Orb was? Let me know.
Let me get to the essential story: Daniel Craig wakes up as the man with no name. Well, he doesn’t remember what his name is. When he wakes in the middle of the high plains desert all he has are the clothes on him, a wound, a hat, a picture of a woman, and a futuristic metallic bracelet that he can’t seem to get off his wrist. Immediately he’s confronted by three riders and, in Jason Bourne-style, quickly proves that while he may not know how he got there or where he came from he can deliver a serious ass-kicking. Good trait to have in the Old West.
Cut to the town of Absolution (the biblicalness doesn’t end there). The Man Who Kicks Ass stumbles into a room and is promptly met by preacher/doctor Meacham (Brown, who looks a little like Bridges from “True Grit”). After having his wound attended he walks outside and watches the interplay between the saloon keep Doc (Rockwell) and crazy drunk Percy Dolarhyde (Dano). Percy is the son of local rancher “Colonel” Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) whose cattle stock help keep the once mining town alive. After Percy is put into jail by Sheriff John Taggart (Carradine) it’s found that The Man Who Kicks Ass is actually robber Jake Lonergan and there’s a reward on his head. He’s confronted in Doc’s bar and while he puts up a good fight is knocked out and placed in a cell next to Percy waiting for
That night Woodrow comes to “reason” with Taggart to get his son back. And the aliens come. During the battle where the aliens blow up bits of the town and snatch some of its citizens Lonergan gets to use the device on his wrist which works in different ways but mainly disables the aliens. After the skirmish is over the ragtag group of what’s left decides to head out to find where the other townsfolk have been taken to. Meanwhile, Lonergan has to figure out who he is/was. The main members of this journey are Lonergan, Woodrow, Meacham, Nat Colorado (Adam Beach), Emmett (Noah Ringer), Doc, the mysterious Elle Swenson (Wilde) and a dog.
The motley group must cover Indian territory, running into Jake’s old gang, and more aliens before making it to the alien spacecraft camouflaged against rock formations miles away. And we find out that Jake was a former robber whose girlfriend Alice (Abigail Spencer) was taken by the aliens and killed. Somehow Jake was able to get one of the wrist devices and make it out of the alien spacecraft and into the desert but has a bit of amnesia about anything else.
That’s really it, folks.
In retrospect I wish the movie had been more fun. A B-movie concept called “Cowboys and Aliens” does live up to it’s title but finds itself riding a little long in the saddle to get to the point of anything. And I’m not sure there was a point to any of it.
The problem with this film is that, aside from the suspension of disbelief, there are some leaps in logic. Some MAJOR leaps in logic. Why are the aliens here? Gold. But why are they keeping our townspeople? Uh… to find our weaknesses? Long gone, I guess, are the days in which aliens screwed us over by assimilation (original “V” series) and long live the CG bug-eyed nefarious, plundering aliens.
Maybe it’s me. Or maybe it’s the fact that graphic novels require disbelief via imagination while a movie being spoonfed to you only requires you to watch and believe it, not necessarily imagine. Just a thought.
As far as B-movies go “Cowboys and Aliens” starts strong but drags when it gets to the “journey” portion of the film. It’s okay but I had hoped it was more fun.
My grade: B-