Western meets sci-fi flick is full of ‘nifty scenes,’ but ‘unappealing’ overall, critics say.
By Terri Schwartz
With a concept as inspired as “Cowboys & Aliens” and an A-list cast that brings together James Bond and Indiana Jones themselves, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly have gone wrong between bringing the movie from the production room to the big screen. MTV’s Splash Page blog found a lot to love about the movie despite its flaws, but other critics have not been so kind.
Maybe it was the fact that director Jon Favreau took the summer blockbuster too seriously. Fans hoping for a tongue-in-cheek mash-up of a Western and an alien movie are in for a straight-laced action flick without a lot of room for humor, like in Favreau’s “Iron Man” films. Even the movie’s charismatic leads couldn’t rescue “Cowboys & Aliens” from its identity crisis, critics are saying.
Still, there was plenty to love about the movie as well. “Cowboys & Aliens” is certainly a fun ride to take this summer, so before you head to the multiplex this weekend, take a gander at the “Cowboys & Aliens” reviews we lassoed up for you.
“The whole aliens-on-the-frontier incongruity never comes to much, really. There are nifty scenes, like the horseback riders battling silvery skeletal airplanes, but what ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ lacks is a good story. Basically, the characters — [Daniel] Craig’s enigmatic outlaw, [Harrison] Ford’s scowling boss, a tribe of Apache — must put aside their differences to form a posse and defeat the invaders. Who do we care about onscreen? For all of Craig’s edgy charisma, no one. ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ has fun moments, but it’s a plodding entertainment because it mostly tastes like leftovers.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
The Leading Men
“In Daniel Craig, the movie has what feels awfully like the second coming of Steve McQueen. Maybe it’s the laser blue eyes under the broad forehead, or the laconic refusal to speak except when absolutely necessary, but Craig has a presence here that feels downright mythic. … The chance to be as mean as he wants to be energizes [Ford], whose storied crankiness finally finds a home. It’s a character part, and you can sense Ford’s relief at letting another man shoulder the load. Consciously or not, there’s a generational passing of the baton just under this movie’s surface, and it helps immensely that Craig’s up to the task.” — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
The Cowboys and the Aliens
“In Hollywood’s ancient prime, maybe a third of all movies were Westerns. But those days are as dead as the horse-mounted cavalry; in the past 30 years, the genre has been resuscitated only when some powerful director wanted to make a movie like the ones he grew up loving. So ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ has got to get to the aliens pretty damn quick. Even here, Favreau and his crew sprinkle a few memorable moments: the aliens’ low-flying scout planes, looking like 10-winged titanium dragonflies and lassoing the townspeople for abduction; a desert vision of an upside-down steamship, which momentarily summons the ghost of Werner Herzog’s ‘Fitzcarraldo’; and the recurring image of Craig retrieving his cowboy hat, whether he’s fighting off human varmints or escaping from the aliens’ stronghold. A man ain’t a man without his Stetson.” — Richard Corliss, Time
“Cowboys versus aliens is a concept that may make you smile in anticipation, but wipe that smile off your face before buying your ticket, because the film takes its subject seriously — deadly seriously in the case of Harrison Ford, who plays a nasty rancher with the snarls and scowls that have become his trademarks, as if in penance for being so charming in the past. One interesting twist has a posse of cowboys teaming up with the Apaches they fear in order to vanquish the aliens, but the storytelling, punctuated by incoherent flashbacks, is often inscrutable.” — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
The Final Word
“A leaden mash-up of western and science-fiction elements that ends up noisy, grotesque and unappealing, this Jon Favreau-directed film features five producers (including Brian Grazer and Ron Howard), six executive producers (Steven Spielberg and Ryan Kavanaugh among them) and six credited writers, led by ‘Star Trek’ rebooters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and ‘Lost’s’ Damon Lindelof. No wonder the film plays like a business deal more than a motion picture. Listed as a producer, not a writer, is Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, whose concept for the original graphic novel inspired the film. That’s right, ‘Cowboys’ doesn’t even retell the story the graphic novel does; it sets out on its own. This is not a satisfying journey.” — Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times
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