Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

Get out your cattle prods and anal probes, we're reviewing Cowboys and Aliens!
Didn't quite capture Daniel Craig's likeness but I'll make a better sketch when they make a better movie. BAM!
I really wanted to like this movie. Even after everyone said it was meh, I still wanted to see it.  Some movies don't have the right audience or aren't exactly what people thought they were getting, and I was really hoping it was that, but it wasn't. Everyone was right. It's meh.

Daniel Craig plays a man who wakes up in the desert with amnesia and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist.  Apparently his name is Jake Lonergan('Loner-gun', get it?) and he was stirring up trouble before whatever took his memory away. He's a wanted man by both the law and the thugish Woodrow Dolarhyde(Harrison Ford). Things are looking pretty grim for ol' Jake when some strange ships attack the town and snatch up a bunch of the residents. Now that Jake, with his strange pew pew bracelet, is the only one who can stop them, cop and criminal have to band together with him to stop the invading menace.

Like everyone else is saying, this movie should be more fun than it is. When I remember hearing about a movie called Cowboys and Aliens in pre-production, before a trailer showed up, a movie directed by Jon Favreau, who did the supremely fun and funny Iron Man films, I thought this would be a ridiculously fun movie with a bunch of western one-liners. It is not. They keep trying to make it a straight serious western, even though they have a ridiculous title and ridiculous premise and ridiculous story turns.

I haven't read the original graphic novel so I can't say if or how true it is to the original source material, and if this was the way it was in the book I really have no right to complain, but when they finally reveal the reason why the aliens are attacking and taking people, I just went, "Really? REALLY?!" It just feels dumb, like "what is this I don't even" dumb.  Even now I have to say, REALLY Cowboys and Aliens?! But here's the thing, if this were done in a lighter, more ridiculous light, it would have totally worked. All the characters would have gone, "wait what, really?!" and then Daniel Craig would have spouted some catchy one-liners and we'd laugh and everyone would be happy. But they play it straight and the movie just runs with it and it doesn't work.

The story drags the film down.  Jake's "Man with no name" is probably the most interesting part of the movie, and even if it were just that, it might still work. But then they feel the need to water the movie down with all these incredibly trope side stories with stereotypical characters. Every single one of them is a western stereotype with stereotypical character development, stereotypical twists, and stereotypical deaths. It's not even fun to take bets on what's going to happen to the characters because everyone already knows what's going to happen.

There's storytelling in which there's a gun on a mantelpiece and you know it's going to get used later, and then there's storytelling in which there's a gun on the mantelpiece and one guy goes, "Hey! look at that gun over the mantelpiece! I wonder if someone will use that later!" and then another guy goes, "Yeah, and it's loaded too, I don't even know why we have it up there. Oh well!" This movie is the latter.

The ending feels like it both wrapped up too nicely and that it cut off some important scene. Everyone somehow learns something without learning anything at all.  There is one thing though; a character dies(from the trailer, you can guess who) and they take time to mourn and bury him. Movies don't do this anymore, they just go, "He's dead Jim" and move one to the next scene. Taking time to mourn is a nice change, but it still doesn't help.

Daniel Craig plays his part pretty well, saying very little and acting like the silent badass he is.  Think Casino Royale but without the lovable snark. It's not his fault he's not the character we want him to be, but he does well with what they give him.  Harrison Ford was just all over the place. I want to like him because he's a crazy grizzled old guy, but I couldn't like him because he's a crazy old guy. He's supposed to have different levels but really I just don't know what's up with his character. This is not Olivia Wilde's best performance, I expected...something more, especially considering Tron and House.  She's not really emotive, and not in the good way.  The rest of the cast are played out tropes. The only role I legitimately enjoyed was Walton Goggins better known for playing Boyd Crowder on Justified.  His character felt believable and he was funny.

The action scenes, when they finally got around to them, were actually pretty good. They're just what you'd think of when you think of "Cowboys and Indians fight a bunch of aliens". And I really liked the designs of the aliens. They didn't just feel like overgrown bugs or reused from some other better movie, or some overly ridiculous design. They looked cool and had an interesting gimmick/weakness.

Also, why is this not a videogame? Of all the ideas to be turned into a videogame, this should be top priority.  At the very least, I expect a DLC for Red Dead Redemption.

I don't hate it, I can't say it's all together a bad movie, it's just like when one of your parents says, "I'm not angry, I'm disappointed."

Why you should see it: Great action scenes, awesome alien designs.
Why you shouldn't: The bland, generic, trope-filled story
Overall: I wouldn't bother. The action scenes are good and the alien designs are cool but it's really not worth slogging through the horrible story.  Go see Attack the Block, or Captain America again.
Movies like it: 3:10 to Yuma(western but better), Casino Royale(Craig was better), Brisco County Jr.
One scene Metaphor: So Sam Rockwell plays a Doc, who owns a bar. Wait wait wait, he's a doctor, people call him Doc, he knows how to treat people and people know this, but he's a bartender? Wouldn't the other thing be more lucrative? Did they just run out of parts or did they just need a doctor at one point and a bartender the next and didn't feel like writing two stereotypical roles? Also, he can't shoot a gun to save his life. What are the odds he'll finally figure out how to use the damn thing in the finale, dramatically killing an alien? Pretty damn good.

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