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Film Review: Cowboys & Aliens

08/03/2011 09:00AM ● Published by Wendy Sipple

Jake Lonegran wakes up in the middle of the old west with a wound in his side, a strange bracelet attached to his wrist, and no memory of who he is or where he comes from. Jake manages to wander into the town of Absolution where he wastes no time getting into trouble with the corrupt land baron, Woodrow Dolarhyde and his son Percy, in addition he discovers he is a wanted man. As he is loaded up to be taken to federal court aliens attack and kidnap half of the town. Jake finds the bracelet on his wrist is actually a weapon that can kill the aliens and their ships. Woodrow gathers a posse, including Jake, to track down the aliens and free the town’s people.

Cowboys & Aliens is as unimaginative as the name. Seemingly almost no effort was given to the writing of  this movie as it lazily goes through the motions. With five credited screenwriters one would hope at least a little creativity or some fun would be had with blending a western with a sci-fi alien movie, but they all seemed to take the worst cliché from each genre and half heartedly connect them. The results are not good as the movie gets worse as it plods along to its dreary conclusion.
One positive it has going for it is the cast. Daniel Craig is intense and always interesting to watch. The opening 15 minutes (before the aliens are introduced) are actually quite good. Perhaps the movie would have been better served dropping the aliens out of the story and focusing on the tough cowboy with no memory. The rest of the cast does what they can with the terrible script they were given. Unfortunately the characters change personalities and motivations from scene to scene which is flat out jarring. The writers don’t even try to make any of the bonds or friendships that they force together seem real. In addition they cram in several plot twists that don’t make much sense, in particular Olivia Wilde’s barmaid character.
Perhaps worse than the human motivations are that of the aliens. Why the aliens catch humans instead of kill them outright is just ridiculous and the reason for their visit to earth is laughable. Even the creature designs seem stolen from other films. The effects filled conclusion should be exciting and thrilling but unfortunately just comes across as dull. It’s not that the effects are bad, in fact it’s the opposite, the movie has a very high production value. Again it’s a problem with writing as none of the characters feel authentic which prevents me from caring what happens to them.
 Jon Favreau, who has a winning track record with Elf and the two Iron Man films, was not able to save this movie from the mess the screenwriters made of it. And to imagine Favreau turned down several high profile movies, including leaving the Iron Man series to make this. I bet he wish he could re-do that decision. There are just too few sparks of fun or life in this lazy story to recommend watching it. It’s truly a shame too because so many talented people’s efforts were wasted in making this movie too. Cowboys & Aliens is another example of having too many cooks, or in this case writers, in the kitchen is just a bad idea.
Films like Cowboys and Aliens – Prince of Persia, Independence Day and Jonah Hex


Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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