The long-awaited Cowboys & Aliens from Imagine and directed by Jon Favreau opened today at local cineplexes all over the country. I think the title might require a small change. I think it could be called Cowboys & Aliens & Clichés. That’s right. Everything about this film has been done before, and done better.
Favreau and his army of screenwriters have copied from dozens of films that we’ve all seen before, and then, they’ve not presented this old material in a new or different way. The film isn’t bad – it’s just hokey, and lackluster – except for Olivia Wilde‘s and Daniel Craig‘s luminescent eyes which can knock you over with their brilliance.
You want every cliché from westerns and space invader films? They’re all here.
The Laconic Hero, The Boy, The Dog,The Beautiful Girl who sidles up to the hero at a bar, The Evil Cattle Baron and his gang of ruffians, The Evil Cattle Baron’s Wastrel Son, The Hispanic bar-maid, The Gentle Bar Owner/Storekeeper who doesn’t know how to fire a gun, The Preacher, The Ineffective Town Marshall, Indians, and the usual assortment of rough and tough cattle thieves, rustlers, and a few motley town drunks.
On the Space Invaders side of the ledger think of a Monstrously Huge Mother Ship, smaller solo pilot combat ships that can fire explosive weapons, They’ve come to earth to harvest something we have and they need, and it takes quite a long time before we’re told what that might be, and of course the drooling, scary, and slimy space monsters. Those may be old-hat parts on the Invaders side, but they do get plusses for their inclusion.
However they also come with plenty of minuses – the monsters don’t function well in sunlight, they may have weapons on their attack fighters, but in every man vs monster fight on the ground – none of the monsters have weapons – they must all resort to hand to hand fighting. They capture humans – but with slings and nets. The captured humans are not put into pods, or cells,- instead they’re in an asleep while standing mode – hypnotized by a bright light while deep in the bowels of the mothership.
Want more? There are plenty of Indians, but these Apaches are going to fight with the cowboys instead of against them. Think Men in Black but without the humor. Think Independence Day without the technology, Think 3:10 to Yuma, only the stage-coach carrying the prisoners to stand trial in Santa Fe, never even leaves town.
Think Predator – only the good guy wears the magic bracelet rather than the monster. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers only without the subtext. Think Pale Rider without the mysticism.
Many believe that the film genre called The Westerns – aka Cowboys and Indians – is dead. But for the present alternatives, American audiences do get tired of guns, drugs, cops, and chases (or maybe they won’t). Or maybe the cartoons have outlived their usefulness, and the rom/coms are all so cookie-cutter-ish, and by the numbers productions these days, that there’s no need to see yet another one of them
Me? I hope the western is not dead. Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens is neither creative, suspenseful, scary, nor thrilling. The monsters are hidden from our view for about as long as they could get away with it. Craig does a nice Eastwood, Wilde does a nice Ripley from Alien, and even Harrison Ford does a passable town bully.
But the film doesn’t reward the viewers at all. It may end up rewarding Ford, Craig, Wilde, and Favreau financially, but if I were you, I’d wait for the DVD or until you can watch it via a streaming service.