Saturday, July 30, 2011

Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Just saw Cowboys & Aliens.  Meh.  I almost never see new movies as I don't much care for what Hollywood's doing these days, but I thought this one had potential and really wanted to like it, yet...meh.  Calling it dumb is fairly pointless, as I like dumb movies and wasn't expecting this to be Macbeth.  But it was dumb even by the standards of a movie called Cowboys & Aliens, and the more you think about what happened, the dumber you realize it was.

Very paint by numbers.  Things only happen because the plot needed them to happen and then they'd move on to the next plot point, with no real desire for presenting us with anything we hadn't seen before.  Hell, they couldn't even bother giving us full-blooded cliches, as even the tired tropes they used were barely fleshed out; as if they couldn't wait to get to the end and be done with it.  And once all the secrets are revealed, you realize you've been conned, because people and events no longer make sense once put into context.

And I hate when filmmakers cheat like that.  It's great to manipulate the audience by not letting them know everything, but it still needs to make sense once the truth is revealed.  Instead, they just keep the action moving and hope you never think too hard about it, while acting like they had done something clever.  And if they're going to do that, they shouldn't bother pretending they had a good secret anyway, as you leave feeling confused and disappointed.

Hint to Hollywood: When you're making a film called Cowboys & Aliens, don't try to have serious moments.  Just have your fun and let us enjoy it.  As with everything in life, if you're doing something dumb, own it.  You can't turn piss into lemonade just because you don't want to be holding piss.

Not a Western

And without a doubt, this movie proves that having cowboys in a movie doesn't make it a western.  The timing was wrong.  The feeling was wrong.  And while the acting was decent, they mostly acted like modern people wearing dusty clothes and didn't give the vibe like they were truly in the old west.

And that ruins half the gag.  I mean, when you've got a movie with the same damn alien invasion story that's already been done before, the only thing they had going for them is to put it in the context of a western.  But no.  This felt like your standard alien invasion movie which just happened to involve characters in the old west; as if they could just throw in a few cliche characters on horses and call it a western.

Anyone who thinks this movie is a western deserves to be punched in the face by Sergio Leone.  After all, Leone was a primary culprit in why you can't make real westerns anymore, as he made a western so perfect that it made a mockery of the entire genre and ruined it for everyone.  Still, people have made good westerns in the post-western era, including Silverado, Young Guns, and Shanghai Noon; all dumb films which are incredibly entertaining.

Yet even by the standards of those pop-culture westerns, Cowboys & Aliens flags far far behind. 

Just Not Fun

Not that it was a complete write-off, as the acting was decent, it had a few laughs (not that I laughed out loud, but it had its moments), and the special effects were excellent.  But the plot felt rushed, the characters only existed to fill that rushed plot, everything was mindlessly predictable, and of course, it was incredibly dumb, even by the low standards you might expect from such a film.

And I think the main problem is that it just wasn't fun.  While there were fun parts in it, like all of the scenes where Daniel Craig kicks ass; that was pretty much it.  And the whole weirdness of alien abductions permeated the entire movie and made it far too creepy to truly be enjoyable.  Seeing aliens destroy whole cities in Independence Day: Totally cool.  Seeing aliens use chains to snatch family members to be zombified and tortured: Very uncool.

Overall, I don't think I'd call this a bad movie, as there was nothing bad about it. just wasn't a good movie.  And that's the biggest problem of all, as I like good films and I love bad films; and this was neither.  Just a nothing summer blockbuster with more polish than heart.  Again, I wasn't expecting to see a work of art, but I did at least expect to be entertained.  Unfortunately, this one isn't art or entertainment.

As it turns out, sometimes, filmmakers can know so much about making films that they focus on the craft of polished filmmaking and forget to include the fun.

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