Cowboys & Aliens. Review.

Cowboys & Aliens was released on 17th August and is directed by the great Jon Favreau, known for his directorial work on the Iron Man films and possibly the greatest holiday film ever, Elf.  Favreau now comes at us with an adaptation of Fred Van Lente’s graphic novel, based on the same name.  Starring the legendary Harrison Ford and suave Daniel Craig, the film surrounds itself with the concept of two genres finally clashing with each other.  The western and science-fiction have finally been blended together for the big screen, in a package which promises to deliver the biggest blockbuster of the year.

It has been a long time coming, but Han Solo and James Bond now star in the same film.  Craig plays the unknown gunslinger that wakes up in the middle of the desert, strangely armed with a mysterious alien device.  With a severe loss of memory and a nasty scar, he attempts to find himself in the wicked West.

Along his journey of self-discovery he meets a number of characters, including Olivia Wilde’s Ella Swenson, Sam Rockwell’s ‘Doc’ and more importantly, Woodrow Dolarhyde – played by Harrison Ford.  During his time in the town of Absolution, he finds himself in the middle of a brutal alien attack.  Destroying homes and abducting loved ones, the aliens are a deadly force to be reckoned with, leaving a destructive path wherever they choose.  The cowboys soon gather together to find and dispose of this new high-tech threat, by heading north – towards the unknown.

It’s no surprise, but the actors are fitted perfectly for their specific roles.  Ford has no trouble playing the hardened bitter cowboy and alongside him Craig perfects the sly rogue.  Sam Rockwell presents the much-needed comedy towards the film with an entertainingly funny role, which comes as no surprise.  Olivia Wilde unfortunately serves as the slightly uninteresting Ella, whose role takes an unconvincing and unnecessary turn halfway through the film.  Look out for other familiar faces though, such as the great Keith Carradine and Paul Dano.

The film boasts a large number of impressive action scenes which are ultimately let down by lengthy scenes of dialogue and uninteresting explanations.  When a film boasts such a ridiculous concept, there is no need to explain the developments in such a dire manner.  When it also hits a peculiar twist, it almost complicates the film further than it should have.  These issues cause a jarring effect on the pace of the story, including the interrupting flashbacks of Craig’s character, which are done in such a manner that would be embarrassing even for television standards.

When the film focuses on its Western roots it works perfectly, but when it begins to focus on its sci-fi elements it lets you down ever so slightly, with ropey designs which never truly differentiate the aliens from any other sci-fi threat.  The action scenes are spectacular and it’s incredible witnessing a bunch of horse-riding cowboys fight off against flying behemoths, as the CGI never falters.  It’s just a shame that it’s let down with boring exposition, leaving you with just an average popcorn flick composed of just a few great scenes.

Thankfully though, Cowboys & Aliens never really meets the poor standards of Wild Wild West, but then it does unfortunately remind you of the travesty which was that film.  For a film which stars ragtag cowboys shooting down aliens, that shouldn’t happen.

It is a massive surprise to see such a film fail on quite a few levels, especially regarding the talent involved.  Sure, the roles are perfect and the action is amazing but unnecessary elements break down the flow in an inexcusable manner.  It is a shame to see this occur, but perhaps a different cut of the film would have worked to balance out the story properly.  All in all, it may be worth checking out Cowboys & Aliens for the great exchanges between characters and the impressive set pieces and action, but don’t expect to be blown away.

It is a shame to see this happen, as this was expected to be Favreau’s return to form.  Iron Man 2 received many mixed reviews and this was initially material he should have been perfect for.  What went wrong is anyones guess, but at least we finally got Bond and Solo together.

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