Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens PosterRating: ★★½☆☆

Common sense is not welcome in a movie called “Cowboys & Aliens”. No other non-sequel title in 2011 has given a more tempting wink to the Summer Movie Audience. It presents a preposterous yet enticing idea that feels destined to be a silly, dumb, fun action-comedy. Led by “Ironman” director Jon Favreau, and guided by familiar names like Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, we feel confidence in its production.

We tone our brains down in eager wait, only to be left wondering in the end why a concept ready for fun was treated with a large and unnecessary amount of seriousness. It forces upon itself a certain level of depth, which the movie has no time for. The attempts at a heavier story prolong “Cowboys & Aliens” to a running time of 118 minutes, where much of it is composed of overlong explanations and faulty, predictable drama. The bossy jerk learns to cooperate, the useless son learns to practice obedience, and the angry rebel learns to smile. Haven’t we seen all of these before? Do they really have a place in a movie called “Cowboys & Aliens”?

The film opens with a wanted criminal, Jake Londergan, waking in the dry desert. Besides the fact that he’s suffering from memory loss, Jake is battered, bleeding, and without shoes. (Jake is having a bad day.) On his left arm, is an alien bracelet precisely made to blow stuff up, like the Predator’s! How did he come into possession of such an item? Did he trade his shoes for it?

Olivia Wilde

The pretty girl named Ella.

With memories still unavailable, Jake makes his way to a small town called Absolution. It is there where he meets a cattleman named Woodrow Dolarhyde, who is still angry at him for stealing his gold. The location and condition sets up the film’s Western atmosphere, but before the two cowboys could duel it out, alien spaceships emerge from the night and start an attack. Ropes… alien ropes… launch from the flying machines, entangling a number of the townspeople which fly away with the aliens.

The stakes are shifted, and the film turns into a rescue mission. The outlaw and the cattleman are followed by some of the townspeople, which include a pretty girl named Ella. Because they have no idea where to look for the alien’s hideout, our heroes come to consult a tribe of Indians. But all they have is some kind of ancient Indian miracle drink, especially made to treat memory loss. Why, that’s exactly what Jake needs! He takes a sip, and the aliens’ secrets are spoiled. Turns out, these aliens came to visit to search for gold. Yes.

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig

Jake and Woodrow are played by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. The actors have presence, but their characters have no charisma. They are given very little to do in the film’s second act. (Remember the overlong explanations and faulty, predictable drama I was talking about earlier?) It’s unfortunate that it is only at the climax where the film’s title fulfills its promise. If only we arrived there sooner.

In this climax, cowboys and Indians throw spears and shoot guns, while the aliens, equipped with the same bracelet Jake has, run to their opponent and stab them to death. Did they forget that they have the bracelet on? Not very good memory, these aliens have. For their own sake, they should also start looking for the ingredients of the ancient Indian miracle drink.