Monday, 15 August 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Reading through some of the names involved in the making of Cowboys & Aliens is like reading the ultimate dinner party guest list. Daniel Craig! Harrison Ford! Sam Rockwell! Steven Spielberg! Damon Lindelof! I would have made my signature Moroccan Baked Chicken and gone all the way to Budgens for a bottle of their best wine (for under £6) if that lot came round for tea. We'd laugh and chat and eat and drink and later on we'd all get naked and go for a swim. Great days.

Unfortunately though, the man in charge of this particular dinner party is Jon Favreau, he's working from a recipe by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and between them they've managed to turn it into one of those toe-curling episodes of Come Dine With Me. Daniel Craig is standing around looking bored, Harrison Ford has finished off the Budgens wine by himself and is calling Sam Rockwell a gaylord and Steven Spielberg has snuck out the back door, hoping nobody notices he was even there.

In case that overlong metaphor isn't clear enough, here's the stone cold fact: Cowboys & Aliens is shit. Not Green Lantern shit or Tron: Legacy shit, just disappointingly shit, a crushing waste of a fantastic concept and an amazing cast. I'm fucking furious with Jon Favreau and if he came round my house for dinner I'd stuff him in the oven and cook him at gas mark 9 for eight hours until his juices ran clear. Then I'd feed him to the cat.
Favreau's ham-fisted direction turns what should be a fun, wild romp into a humourless, boring slog, and that's unforgivable. He's so excited at having James Bond and Indiana Jones in his film that he daren't actually direct them, so Craig mooches about looking mean and wondering whether or not to crack a joke, while Ford is allowed to be the grumpy bad guy he's always wanted to be, only realising at the end that he's supposed to have another dimension to his character.

The script is equally to blame. Almost nothing happens for long stretches of screen time before a rushed, cursory and often nonsensical explanation of events or conveniently-remembered flashback pops up, while dull characters are given embarrassing clich├ęs to fill the time. Sam Rockwell can't shoot straight for no good reason! A small boy is given a knife for no good reason! Could either of these tired plot devices crop up at crucial moments in the final act? Well, if you can stay awake through the overlong fun-vacuum of a finale, you might find out.

Annoyingly, everyone else involved in Cowboys & Aliens does their job flawlessly. Harry Gregson-Williams' western-y music is great, Mary Zophres' costumes are entirely convincing without screaming "LOOK AT ME, I'M AN AUTHENTIC 1880s WAISTCOAT!" and the production design and cinematography complete the period realism. What's more, the alien effects - which, refreshingly, mostly take place in broad daylight - are a successful blend of CGI and animatronics. Sadly, though, none of this is enough to save the film from the incompetence of its writers and director, and I for one would like it very much if all of them would stop making films and go away.

5 comments :

  1. I didn't hate the movie when I watched it. I just didn't love it, or even like it very much; it just sorta sat there on the screen and watched me watching it.

    I'd almost rather walk out of a movie having despised it than feeling as indifferent to it as I feel to this one.

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  2. I was disappointed by the fact that there was no real actual different or cool things happening here. Just the same kind of generic film we've seen come out almost every weekend lately. Good Review!

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  3. I suggest you see Westworld (1973) a kind of Dineyworld experience where you get to be a Wild West cowboy with robotic enemies to have gun fights with. It all goes wrong when Yul Brynner as the mechanical Gunslinger goes out of control and starts shooting the guests. From what The Incredible Suit has written I advise you to get the DVD or Bluray of Westworld and a big bag of popcorn and enjoy this Michael Crichton film. Oh, and his other theme park gone wrong did pretty well too. Jurrasic Park (1993).

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  4. That was dangerously close to a "normal" film review, you almost lost your edge, but thanks to a quick analogy to come dine with me you saved it. Nice review, I knew it wouldn't beat Rise of the Planet of....
    Always a pleasure to read your stuff Mr Suit!

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  5. "I think what a lot of action movies lose these days, especially the ones that deal with fantasy, is you stop caring at some point because you've lost human scale."
    Harrison Ford

    "Everything I do, I'm sort of half in, half out."
    Harrison Ford

    "I know in my life there's stuff that will come back because I haven't dealt with it, and it's the same with everybody."
    Daniel Craig

    "There's no real side to be on because I think it was a mess."
    Daniel Craig

    "We agreed to do it when I was drunk at his house one night, then on the day I had to have four large brandies - they didn't touch the sides at all. People just got on with it though. It didn't gather a crowd!"
    Daniel Craig

    Who said "Quote me as saying I was misquoted."?

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