Friday, 2 December 2011
Cowboys and Aliens
Cowboys and Aliens (2011) dir. Jon Favreau
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, with Paul Dano and Sam Rockwell wandering around looking kind of lost.
By Blair Stewart
To be honest with you good readers I have a soft-spot for westerns and sci-fi, snooty cinemaphile pretentiousness be damned. I know every note of Morricone's 'Ecstacy of Gold' score like it's a childhood pet, and there's isn't another film release I anticipated in adolescence more than "Alien 3" (I learned the disappointments of youthful hope on that Friday in '92, and a few years later with Eyes Wide Shut after I got into Kubrick in order to pick up arty broads, so lesson learned on 'anticipating' I suppose). Anyways, there are many ways one could make an enjoyable film concerning Cowboys and Aliens, certainly when you have $160 million to toss around like a big shot, but one method you shouldn't use is half-assed.
How I hate this film, oh lordy lordy let me count the ways.
Emerging from the chintzy-hole of other hacky cash-grabs executive producer Steven Spielberg with his fellow hydra heads of Brian Glazer and Ron Howard join forces with masters of episodic boilerplate prose Lindelof, Kurtzman and Orci to bring a forgettable graphic novel to the screen because, dammit, it was easy to sell to Universal. No doubt the post-pitch words ringing through the hallways of movie-studio purse strings were "You know, for kids!?" Most likely empty terms like 'dynamic storytelling' and 'emotional resonance' were used in the early press releases before cameras rolled. Jon Favreau then wandered in bewildered and feverish from being lost in the Alkali salt wastes and was coerced into signing on in return for some refreshing Evian, so here we are.
A Man with No Name named Jake (Daniel Craig, stage name Sir Pouty Lips McGillicutty) wakes up in the Arizona badlands of 1800-something-or-other with an iWatch from Centaurus welded to his wrist. He shoots some blaggards with fireballs he nicked from Street Fighter II's Ryu-'Hadouken!'-and is eventually dragged to jail in a one-horse town to face the wrath of cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford with sly comic timing for a dude who is always really high on-set, but otherwise lazy) for crossing paths with his weasel of a son Percy (Paul Dano, paying bills). Meanwhile, strange local woman Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde, who on her Wikipedia page states about herself being "really critical and analytical" hahahahahawhataboutthisfilmladyhahahaha?) appears when the story needs her to fill in exposition and cover plot potholes. Aliens show up, Indians show up, Daniel Craig does mescaline and nearly relives the utterly terrifying abduction sequence of D.B. Sweeney from 1993's "Fire in the Sky", shit done gets blown up good yessir, FIN, $160 million poorly spent.
Now how could I hate a film like this? It's supposed to fun and lightweight and all homagey to the John Fords and Ridley Scotts of their genres? Because it's average. It's average in scope, in imagination, in intention, its dialogue and mood and filming and pacing and entertainment and acting-average, average, average. The aliens themselves? Totally forgettable, and probably their concept was a rush-job like the rest of this film. The only thing that isn't average in "Cowboys and Aliens" is Craig and Wilde's performances, both of which are terrible, like most of their work. Let us just listen to the title alone: "Cowboys and Aliens". Couldn't even bother to come up with a nifty title like "Strange Rider" or "Deadcreek" or "Showdown at the E.T. Corral". Nope, "Cowboys and Aliens", from the studio that brought you 'Explosions and Tits', cue the lousy guitar solo, now stuff your face with some popcorn.
Riding home from the theater after watching this I discovered I had left my phone somewhere in Leicester Square and never found it. I blame this shitty film, which is now yours to own on BluRay, DVD and online from Netflix.