“How can we jazz up this Western?” “Throw in some aliens!” “Yes—that’s the ticket!”
Wrong. The Western is a tried and true genre that stands the test of time. Somebody should have reminded the film producers that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
We all know Americans lost their minds in the 1870s, and stampeded west during the gold rush. It’s not common knowledge, however, that the aliens were ALSO in on the gold rush. Oh, yeah. That’s why this story takes place in 1873. They were here, panning for gold too, and using advanced panning technology.
However, their technology was not yet advanced enough to do what aliens do NOW, which is the well-documented beaming up of humans for the standard probing. At that time, their spacecrafts utilized a more primitive lassoing technique, similar to the way that the cowboys they intended to probe—lassoed cows. It should be mentioned that these interesting facts only came to light after some deep après-le-cinema pondering.
“Cowboys & Aliens” has a promising start—gorgeous red-rock western panoramas, good interplay on the soundtrack between rock/pop and the traditional horn-heavy music of Westerns.
Daniel Craig does a deep-cool James Bond version of a gritty tough-guy cowboy, a kind of shorter, blonder “Man With No Name.” He nearly out-Clints Clint. He dispatches the baddies with the minimalist dexterity of a cowpoke Jason Bourne.
Additionally, similar to Bourne, he also has no memory. And he sports a weird shackle. He stumbles into an Arizona-territory town named “Absolution,” run by the local cowboy godfather, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Craig manfully subdues Dolarhyde’s whiny, spoiled-brat bully of a son (Paul Dano), and it’s all kind of fun and Clinty until the aliens arrive, with uninspired design, CG, and gratuitous gooey nastiness.
The love-interest almost rescues the situation. Hollywood “It girl” Olivia Wilde’s intense, dark-rimmed opalescent irises fill the movie theater with clouds of infatuation, so that’s fun.
Then, the unified-against-the-aliens cowboy crew, which are Harrison Ford’s gang plus Craig’s former gang (turns out that Craig was previously a bit of an outlaw), go looking for the aliens. It builds to a pretty good climax somewhere in the middle, but the climax is sustained way too long, and boredom sets in.
There’s so much interesting information about aliens out there these days. One Google image search of “crop circles” reveals startlingly intricate, beautiful non-human renderings in fields of grains and corn, with obvious intent to communicate. The philosopher and seer Rudolf Steiner writes of more sinister (yet no less interesting) intentions on the part of aliens. It would have been more riveting had the film attempted to incorporate something deeper than the standard abduction/probing. It’s so “been there, done that.” As a pure action film, there are no surprises here—Craig’s Bond-cowboy isn’t enough. Here’s a good line: “Good men sometimes do bad things, and bad men sometimes do good things.” This film is exemplary of good men (like Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig, and Harrison Ford) doing bad things.