Let’s get this out of the way first. Cowboys and Aliens is a masterful weaving of cross-genre filmmaking. It’s also the perfect way to end a summer season. It has its naysayers, but honestly, you get to see Cowboys fighting Aliens for 90 percent of the movie. No false advertising here, people.
Based on a the graphic novel of the same name, C&A is the story of a greedy race who rape the land for its resources and oppress the locals….wait. Nevermind, that’s what the aliens are up to.
The story is quite simple. After blowing up SPECTRE’s base in Europe, James Bond wakes up in the old West wearing a high tech bracelet and no Q in site. As he regains his memory, he knees Indiana Jones’ son (who was MUCH more interesting than Shia LeBeouf) in a fight and raises the ire of the “man with the whip” who still looks great in a hat.
Sorry, I had to get that out of my system as cuz this movie sports my two fav action stars. Anyway, Daniel Craig (James Bond), who for the first third of the film is literally “the man with no name”, does in fact wake up in the desert with no clue who he is and is saddled with a bulky shackle that may or may not be alien.
When he wonders into a nearby town, he manages to piss just about everyone except the “enigmatic” Olivia Wilde (House, Tron: Legacy and Maxim’s Sexiest Woman in the World), the hottest gunfighter in the west since Sharon Stone in the Quick and the Dead, including cattle baron Harrison Ford.
Just as Indy and Bond are about the throw down ala high noon, the aliens strike.
It turns out the that aliens are abducting locals for…well, it’s not very clear. That’s one of the film’s main flaws. We get the part about the aliens need gold for their existence, but it’s not TOO clear on why they’re experimenting on humans. One of which was Daniel Craig, who thanks to a wanted poster, finds out his name is Jake Lonergan, an infamous outlaw who heads a team of outlaws including the awesome Walter Goggins (Justified). After ripping off Ford’s Col. Dolarhyde, Lonergan returns to his cabin only to have both his bootys (woman and gold) sucked away into the sky along with him.
Lonergan’s memory is returned to him after the town sides with benevolent (aren’t they all in Hollywood) Apaches who send Craig on a saturated headtrip thanks to a bowl of peyote before setting off to whoop some alien ass. Which they do. Awesomely, I might ad.
I don’t want to give much more away as there are a few twists in the film that I don’t want to ruin, so I’ll go switch over to talk about the film making. But I will say that this is the best man vs. alien film since Starship Troopers. I haven’t seen a more original alien design on screen in forever.
Director John Favreau really has a grasp of westerns. His command of “western” tropes, the slow head raise, the silhouette in the saloon door, is pretty right on as the film never really slides over into camp territory. There’s even a sly dialog reference to Clint Eastwood’s Outlaw Josey Wales if you know to look out for it. Favreau also makes total use of the sprawling landscape as if it’s alien to both galactic visitor and local cowboy (and Indian). The merging of the genres never feels forced under his deft hand. And he seems to have had plenty of fun with the story along the way.
Craig and Ford are great to watch even if, in your geek minds eye, you’re seeing an old Indy pass the action hero hat to the much younger Bond. Ford still rules the screen as the hardened Civil War colonel who loves his cowardly son and doesn’t look too old to ride a horse.
I could do with seeing one more Indiana Jones film (minus Lucas and Le Beouf), but that’s pretty unlikely. So until then I’m down with Indiana Jones and the Gold Diggers from Space.