Cowboys and Aliens (12A)
Release date: Friday 19 August
Cast: Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Layer Cake), Harrison Ford (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) Olivia Wilde (TRON:Legacy, The Next Three Days)
Director: Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf).
Screenwriter Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtman (Transformers, Star Trek) and six others.
Running Time: 118 minutes
Cowboys and Aliens is not a fun movie. It should be. But it isn’t. It includes a moment – you may have seen it in the trailer – where Daniel Craig, on horseback, races along a ravine, side by side with a spacecraft. From his horse, Daniel Craig flings himself onto the top of said spacecraft before rescuing the damsel attached. On its own this moment is stupid. It’s heroic. It’s fun. This scene belongs in a fun movie. We repeat, Cowboys and Aliens is not a fun movie.
Just for the record, the fastest ever horse was clocked at about 43mph. Which makes that a pretty damn slow spacecraft.
So what’s the story? A man (Daniel Craig) wakes in the desert. On his wrist is a chunky futuristic looking bracelet. On his face is a look that hollers, “Where the fuck am I?” After commandeering a horse with bottom-kicking moves that would make James Bond blush, the stranger waltzes into the nearest town and soon finds himself the wrong side of the area’s big shot (Harrison Ford). Luckily for him something bigger is coming for the townsfolk, something from up above.
The biggest problem with this ‘Stetsons and Rayguns’ mash-up is it leaves the audience in no doubt that everybody involved, behind and in front of the camera, wanted to make a Western. Listen to any interview, or simply pay attention to the performances, and you’ll see Craig, Ford and company couldn’t wait to strap on the six-shooters. But this is Hollywood. This is summer. How can we possibly have a tentpole Western movie? Westerns are for old people. Western movies don’t have (constant) explosions? Enter the extra-terrestrials.
And the extra-terrestrials do enter. At the most opportune moments. Whenever our merry band of good/bad guys are stuck in a no way out situation (read: the screenwriters don’t know where to go next) aliens swoop down to get our boys out of their jiffy. This happens on at least three occasions. Deus ex machina, and the machine is a UFO.
Contrary to popular opinion the number of credited screenwriters does not a bad film make. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ has four names on its poster proclaiming penmanship, (anybody who derides that flick won’t be receiving a Christmas card from me this year) but this outing has eight. Eight! Eight names for screenplay credits could only work if those scribbling away were octuplets never once separated since birth. Pass a script around like a doobie to this extent, and you’ll be left with a fairly hazy end product.
Sign up for the newsletter
There are positives. Daniel Craig plays gruff better than The Gruffalo doing an impression of Gruff Rhys Jones. As a moody silent type he has no modern day equal. Having him share the screen with Ford doesn’t work too well, as both play the straight man in a film crying for some humour. Elsewhere in the cast Sam Rockwell is criminally underused while Olivia Wilde epitomises the concept of a model turned actress. Make of that what you will.
The Cowboys are okay. The Aliens not so much. Together nothing works. Annoyingly, the premise of a cowboy with amnesia – Leonard Memento Shelby in spurs – could work wonderfully as a film. The plus side about Cowboys and Aliens failure is it’ll be consigned to the bargain bin within the year and that clever premise could get another go round. A Stranger in Monument Valley coming to cinemas in 2014…