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>> Friday, July 29, 2011

I heard about Cowboys & Aliens via a friend after last year's Comic-Con. Then I slowly heard about it through the various media outlets. One of the coolest things I heard was that director Jon Favreau had refused to do it in 3-D. Finally, a director (a good director, too) had found his creative voice and stood up to the man. When I finally did see the trailer I was more or less intrigued. That was about six months ago. Somewhere between that point and now I lost the fond feelings I had for Cowboys & Aliens. I don't know what it was, but by the time I eventually saw the flick, I was more or less displeased by the lackluster story flashing before my eyes.

There's been a lot of talk about the mixing of two previously un-mixed genres - science fiction and western. Of course, fans of the Joss Whedon TV series Firefly will promptly (and justly) disagree. The mixing of those two genres was the basis for the 'space western' as Whedon called it. Only difference here is that it happens closer to home. What made me want to see it the most was the nice mystery element the trailers set up. It was less about 'Why are the aliens (or demons as they're called) here?' and more about 'Why does Daniel Craig have that cool little thingy attached to his wrist?'. Unfortunately, neither answer is as satisfying as you might like.

Aside from Daniel Craig's presence (Robert Downey Jr. was originally slated to be the lead), we also get appearences by Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and hottie Olivia Wilde (Tron Legacy). All of them do fine enough but I felt even their performances or roles were nothing to get excited about it. I felt very similarly when I was watching True Grit, a film this far too closely resembles. I kept on thinking 'So what?'. So what if this person dies, so what if that person gets hurt... and why the hell is that chick resurrecting out of the fire?! Yeah, that last one isn't True Grit, but whatever.

What I'm left wondering with Cowboys & Aliens is if the western genre is still alive and kicking? Is this a typical western movie? No, but western it still is. I always hope no genre is too dead to be brought back with a good movie, but the most recent good western I've seen is the animated Rango. At the very least it had the essence of the older western movies we all used to appreciate. Meanwhile, True Grit and Cowboys & Aliens exist for the wrong reasons in the wrong ways.

Cowboys & Aliens sadly gets a closed door. While I can appreciate the slight originality to it, I felt a lack of adventure and wonder. It's all very cool and ten years ago I would have loved this movie. Now though, it'll slip through the cracks and end up as a 'meh' movie when all is said and done. If you ask anybody about this film, you'll get a 'It's neat, but...' - and that's never a good response.

*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures


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