Cowboys & Aliens
So why all the hate for COWBOYS & ALIENS? People in my social circle seemed to be tearing into it like crazy. And it certainly hasn’t been lighting the box office on fire (but it’s not an abject failure either). So what gives? Because, honestly, it’s a pretty decent flick.
I blame the title. While it’s certainly as simple and direct as you could get, it also creates an expectation of schlock, pulp, and even comedy. It sounds juvenile, so you’d think the tone would be as well. But it’s as far gone from that as possible, while never taking itself extremely seriously. Instead they found a spot where a western and an action/sci-fi could meet in the middle and thrive. Because it’s very straightforward in what it is. These are cowboys, those are aliens, here’s what’d happen if they had to battle.
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were even chosen specifically because they could avoid bringing any air of comedy to the table. Robert Downey Jr. was the last guy attached to the role, but the level of wit and charm he brings to anything would alter the feel of the whole thing. Craig and Ford both give strong, serious performances. And while it helps the film’s aims, it seems to hinder the audience’s reception. Hell, the only thing even remotely comic in the film is Sam Rockwell’s character, and that’s only in two very brief reaction lines.
But the action is exciting, the story is fun, and the presentation is top notch. There’s no treating the audience like idiots, no stupid one-liners, not gaping plot holes. There are a few false beats or overly dramatic moments, but they’re not enough to drag the thing down. So why are people shitting on this? Are we all so cynical now that we can’t read a title like COWBOYS & ALIENS and expect only something stupid, over the top, and comedic? Did you want MARS ATTACKS?
There’s also the theory that any hybridization of the western genre just doesn’t work. It’s already near impossible to get people interested in a western as it is, and twinning it with anything doesn’t seem to gel (e.g. JONAH HEX). At least not yet.
So, anyways, don’t completely dismiss COWBOYS & ALIENS as I nearly did. It’s certainly not the best action movie you’ll ever see, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.