Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
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It’s hard to believe that anyone would say this about a movie called Cowboys & Aliens, but Jon Favreau’s film takes itself way too seriously. Yes, the man who gave us Iron Man and Elf – Pete from Friends, no less – has made a serious movie. About Cowboys. And Aliens. It’s not rubbish, not quite, but it’s definitely too serious.
It starts with a man (Craig) waking up in the desert. He looks lost. And serious. When some bandits arrive looking to kidnap him for a reward, he goes all Terminator and steals one of their hats. He’s clearly a serious bad-ass. With an emphasis on the serious.
In the nearby town, one man rules the roost and it ain’t the Sheriff. Enter Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford), who brings in most of the town’s money. He’s mean, old and very serious. His son, Percy (Dano), is a coward and a bully. He’s not very serious. This is obviously a serious problem and leads to much emotional conflict – most of which is very serious.
Just as Percy gets arrested for not being very serious, some aliens turn up. And things get even more serious.
Will the town’s residents (hello to Sam Rockwell) rescue their abducted loved ones? Will the Indians unite with the cowboys to fight off the alien invaders? Will Harrison Ford decide that he’s not so serious after all? Just how serious will this trouble get?
That’s all there is to Favreau’s film, but somehow the wacky concept of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel gets translated into an overlong piece of straight-faced blockbusting. Craig and Ford, both good at comic timing, are forced to stand around being serious as UFOs fly overhead and blow up cows. Because an exploding cow is something that should always be taken seriously.
It looks great (Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is spot-on), the creature design is brilliantly freaky, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ score is solid Western gold, but there’s just no sense of fun. And spending 10 minutes watching Olivia Wilde climb up a tiny shaft when we could be watching an explosive set piece isn’t going to change that.
Without the charm or irreverence of Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens should be a laugh, but just ends up rather dull. It even makes Harrison Ford in a hat look boring. And that’s a serious problem.
Cowboys & Aliens is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Dreamworks Studios