Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Cowboys & Aliens (2011) dir. John Favreau

The following review is spoiler free and is meant to be read BEFORE seeing the movie, as opposed to the upcoming podcast episode, which will contain spoilers and an in-depth discussion of this movie

Cowboys & Aliens is a movie that has absolutely no depth. Each character is an archetype that has existed in many other movies (and other media), and each character goes through the same beats that you have seen one thousand times before. There is an attempt at character development with Harrison Ford’s Dolarhyde, but it feels false, manufactured, and forced into this film in order to make an emotional payoff work (it doesn’t).

There is also my least favorite convention in movies: a character is keeping a secret from another character… for absolutely no reason. It serves to keep the audience in the dark so that the reveal of the secret works dramatically (again, it doesn’t). This secret would have been very useful to the characters much earlier in the movie but it can’t… just CAN’T… be revealed yet. Either the main character “isn’t ready yet” or the secret-bearer doesn’t know if the main character “can be trusted,” etc. It is an idiotic practice and it should be stopped.

However, despite all of my griping, there is still a tiny bit of fun to be had watching this movie. Most of it has to do with the actors, who are just fun to watch. It just goes to show that if you have characters who are only two dimensional, you might as well cast the roles with actors and actresses who are eminently watchable. Harrison Ford’s smirk is sometimes worth the price of admission, Daniel Craig plays a stoic badass to perfection; Olivia Wilde is as sexy as always; Sam Rockwell is subdued but still good; Clancy Brown is nigh unrecognizable and his character is a cliché, but he demands all attention when he is on screen; and Keith Carradine is a wonderful presence as always.

My final verdict is that Cowboys & Aliens is a watchable movie, made so by the performers and having absolutely nothing to do with the writing. The visuals are also nothing special, and I believe that John Favreau did a much better job with Iron Man.

Rating: ««

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