Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cowboys & Aliens Review

John Favreau knows what he's doing.  He can take a comic book story, make an action movie about it and also make you care about the characters and story.  At first with this movie, I thought it was taking a bit long to get going and that there should be more action.  But, as it progressed, I realized that they were letting the story come to the audience and have it unfold naturally with action scenes used as a compliment.  Too often in these alien action movies, there are these big expository scenes that they rely on to explain things.  If you are anything like me, you tend to start tuning out long dialogue parts in action movies because you go in with your brain half turned off.  Often, I wind up confused because I missed something that was said and, if there isn't enough action going on through the whole movie, I come away disappointed.

With Cowboys & Aliens, a lot of the explanations are done visually and they don't get too deep.  Part of that I think is attributed to Favreau and the executive producers (Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard in particular).  But I think part of it can also be attributed to the subject matter itself.  The premise of an alien invasion taking place before our own technology has taken off is very interesting.  The gap between the alien technology and our own causes a lot more confusion on the part of the humans and they cannot develop any strategic defense or extract any knowledge from the alien technology (like they did in Independence Day).  So, the story becomes a bit more shallow and focuses on survival rather than any higher meaning.  There is no patriotic crap or underlying political message to this movie because of that.

Speaking of visuals, Cowboys & Aliens has some of the better ones I've seen in a Western for quite some time.  The locations that they used combined with the bright lighting are absolutely breathtaking.  Combine that with some really good special effects and you have a very appealing movie, visually.

The only real problems with this movie are, first, some of the sound editing was out of sync.  Sounds of fists hitting faces didn't match up with the shot in a few instances.  But the main problem was Harrison Ford.  I do have to give him some credit because he was saddled with a ridiculous character.  Is he good?  Is he bad?  Is he misunderstood?  Is he a schyster?  Make up your damn minds.  There were too many layers to his character and it didn't fit with the aforementioned shallower story and, therefore, became a distraction.  But, that notwithstanding, Ford's delivery of the character was still pretty bad.  Somebody get that man a lozenge please.  Or, just go off set, hork up that big loogie and let's move on.  Combine that with his wooden and cheesy deliveries and it's not his best work.

But, overall, see it.  It is well worth your money and time.  Even with Ford's performance, it is a very entertaining movie.  The other performances are really quite good even from the latest Maxim flavour of the week.  Favreau keeps the pace going and, before you know it, the two hours is up.  The climax even moves quite fast which is something that tends to drag on in an action/alien movie.

1 comment:

  1. This is one where I differ from you. I thought this was an excellent premise, but a very poor execution. To me the storytelling was just too sloppy. I will present two examples:

    Why did Harrison Ford give that kid the knife twice? They should have dropped the first time, since the second had more impact without it.

    And (SPOILER ALERT), the way the people learn about what the aliens are, and where they come from, and ultimately how they are defeated is too convenient. I felt like none of the characters had to work, or develop, in order to come out victorious, and that too much knowledge was just handed to them. I would have loved to have seen the filmmakers nut up to the challenge of making those characters find a way to defeat a vastly superior foe on their own.

    That having been said, the visuals were spectacular. The alien flying machines were amazing, and the alien effects were very well done. But in the end I felt it couldn't decide on whether it was a cowboy movie or an alien movie, and too often made the wrong choice.