Cowboys…and Aliens. What a weird combination of foes. How could you possibly mess up something that sounds that awesome? I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to ask Jon Favreau.
You want to know my two favorite genres of film? Westerns and sci-fi. Want to know one of my favorite superhero flicks ever? Iron Man. Want to know one of my favorite actors of all time? Harrison Ford. So when I heard that aliens, westerns, Jon Favreau, and Harrison Ford were all coming together for one giant mishmash of awesomeness, good God was I excited. I was looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens more than any other movie in recent recollection. I thought it was going to be the sleeper hit of the summer. I thought it was going to be the next best thing to Iron Man.
So what the hell happened? Cowboys & Aliens is a boring, unimpressive slog that is one of the worst films I’ve ever had to sit through, mostly because I was expecting so much from the picture. Was I wrong to be so optimistic? What sucks so much about the film is that it doesn’t sit comfortably in either genre of Western or sci-fi. Both genres feel watered down here, and it feels like such a missed opportunity. I know Wild Wild West was a piece of garbage and a waste of everybody’s time, but I actually think I may have liked that movie a bit more than this one. Or not, I really can’t decide just yet. They’re both pretty bad.
In Cowboys & Aliens Daniel Craig plays a stranger with amnesia who wakes up with this weird device on his wrist. We don’t really know his past, but he has strange visions, none of them enticing. He eventually bands together with Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford, and then we have a lackluster adventure on our hands. The aliens in the movie, once you finally see them, aren’t impressive in the slightest, and the action doesn’t have that whiz-bang effect we were expecting after Iron Man. Really, after seeing this film, which is based off of a graphic novel, I wonder if the two very different genres could be put into a proper story together. This film has killed all hope for me. They’re two totally different genres.
Even Harrison Ford doesn’t do it for me. He plays the same grumpy old man that he played in the fourth Indiana Jones movie, and it doesn’t please me in the slightest. You can only hear Harrison Ford grumble his lines so much. In the end, there’s no question about why Cowboys & Aliens got made. That title alone is pretty much its tagline. (Although it’s not as original as you thought. A band called Kitchens of Distinction released the same title as their fourth album back in 1994). But a title does not make a film -- see Snakes on a Plane and Throw Momma From the Train. Or not. Cowboys & Aliens is just that. A clever name for a terrible movie. Pass on it. This film will bore you silly.
Okay, the way I always look at these special features, is how do they fare if you actually liked the film? And if you dug Cowboys & Aliens, you’ll definitely dig these special features, which add a great deal to the film. “Conversations With Jon Favreau,” is an interesting discussion between the director and the people who helped make his film possible. Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the writers, Damon Lindelof...it’s a lot of people. My favorite, though, is Harrison Ford, who talks about how he didn’t want his character to be like Indiana Jones too much, saying that he wouldn’t wear certain hats if they looked too much like his famous fedora.
“Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens” has some in-depth looks at everything from the wires pulling the characters skyward to the shootouts, which is fascinating, if you liked the film. There’s also director’s commentary, with Favreau showing great interest in his work, even if it sounds like he doesn’t always stand behind it. You can still hear his dedication. Overall, it’s a fine disc with some nice features. Pick it up if you liked the film.