Monday, February 20, 2012
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
I don't know if it was the ridiculousness of the sputtering, black-cloud spitting, seemingly piston engine powered flyers the aliens use to scout and capture people – these flyers are of variable size, though that is a fault with the CGI team not keeping the imaging consistently scaled – or that with a near magical ability to steal the precious resources they are after, these aliens go out actively picking fights with the locals. Then there is the conceit that losing over one hundred people to rescue around forty hostages is wholly acceptable.
I don't want to rag on Daniel Craig, who could probably play a very good anti-hero cowboy (American or Australian, since he favored the hat worn Down Under), but director Jon Favreau doesn't give him much of a chance to do that. None of the characters are well developed (Harrison Ford's character has an unlikely redemptive arc that involves him getting other people killed so he can love his son in a more positive manner), and some appear solely to act as victims that are supposed to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
When I see the names Kutzman and Ocri, I expect a horribly structured story. They are terrible writers. They have long been terrible writers and, as far as I'm concerned, they will always be horrible writers. In this case, Alex and Roberto live up to my expectations. There is no smooth narrative flow, nor is there a building of suspense. Part of that is the fault of the editing, but how much can be done to save a film when it isn't well conceived on the page?
I am exceedingly pleased that I didn't pay money to see this. For what worked – the look of the film – it is largely a mess. Why not make a well-budgeted, adult Western? I would much prefer that to trying to force some aliens into the story (and I'm a huge sci-fi) fan. The last mature Western I can remember is Open Range (2003), and that had a love story shoe-horned into it. Damn it, Hollywood, I want good Sci-Fi films, but there is an absolute shortage of Westerns. Sure, I can point out that I have yet to see some of the Westerns released over recent years, but none of them had even one quarter of the budget of Cowboys & Aliens.
Anyway, this was a bad movie in terms of telling a coherent story or making me care about the characters. Or respecting advanced alien cultures and physics. Other than some great photography, mostly of the landscape, there isn't much of a reason to watch it.