|Starring||Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Walt Goggins, Clancy Brown|
|Release||29 JUL (US) 17 AUG (UK) Certificate 12A|
Thank goodness, then, for some genuinely A-grade action scenes. The first alien assault is swathed in darkness, but the second comes in broad daylight – quite a novelty for the genre, really – and does a grand job of picking up the pace. Despite the characters finding the alien hide-out by seemingly riding in a random direction on horseback (the way of the West, I guess), the showdown between man and beast is just about worth waiting for. Even in the harsh desert sun, the SFX never wobbles – even if a few licences are taken to keep the movie pulsing forward. Either bullets kill the aliens, or they don't. Pick one.
There's precious little to love about Cowboys & Aliens, other than some quite excellent special effects and some top-notch creature design that has more than a hint of Del Toro creepiness about it. The human element is lacking: Craig's character is an emotionless cipher, Ford's transformation from baddie to bedgrudging goodie doesn't convince and Olivia Wilde doesn't even have the good grace to keep her clothes off. Perhaps there's a reason westerns and science fiction don't usually mix – the movie alternates between being dry as a bone and camp as a comic-book collector's change purse.
You suspect much of Cowboys & Aliens works better on the page, where pulpy nonsense doesn't carry quite as much pomp. Take Olivia Wilde's character, for example: though she does graduate to more than just the token totty after a neat plot twist, her role never quite fits the feel of the movie. Conversely, scenes of grouchy Harrison Ford paternally bonding with a young apache boy are tonally at odds with the intergalactic sound and fury elsewhere. Favreau has a lightness of touch when it comes to action, but is still heavy-handed when it comes to establishing character.
Seems you can't really have an all-out action spectacular and an authentic, measured, elegant Western at the same time. The result is patchy, if enjoyable in parts, but nowhere near as awesome as that title suggests it should be. Try again next year, Steven.