I’m big on genre mash-ups. What geek isn’t? But there are certain lines film makers shouldn’t cross, and putting Cowboys & Aliens together on the silver screen is one of them.
Jon Favreau’s adaptation of the titular graphic novel (the graphic novel wasn’t half bad, by the by) casts Daniel “James Bond” Craig as a quintessential amnesiac gunman, who kicks ass without so much as a semblance of plot in the first ten minutes, liberates a horse, and rides into the town of Absolution as the title credits roll.
There, he has a run-in with local tough Percy Dolarhyde, kicks more ass, meets the very obvious love interest Ella (played by Olivia Wilde), gets identified as wanted criminal Jake Lonergan, and is tossed in the lockup.
He’s set to stand trial before the county judge, but before he can be transported, the town is attacked by mysterious space craft, and the townsfolk are abducted willy-nilly, UFO catcher style (yes, people get snapped up by grappling hooks). Jake blasts one of the space craft out of the sky with the strange bracelet he has equipped, but the alien aboard it flees.
Harrison “Indiana Jones” Ford, who plays Dolarhyde’s dad, decides to mount an expedition to chase the aliens down, and predictably, Jake joins the party. What ensues is a chase across the scrublands, inside the bowels of an overturned river boat, and past that into mountain territory where the cowboys and aliens had their inevitable showdown.
Bored yet? I know I was by the end of the first half hour.
Despite the big names on cast and Favreau’s ministrations (or perhaps because of his ministrations), Cowboys & Aliens turned out to be a complete farce. It suffered from horrible writing, two-dimensional characters, an abject lack of humor or levity, and the aliens looked like rejects from a late night creature feature.
It’s an obvious case of fail on the adaptation front, and blatantly clear that the movie fell into the trap of trying too hard to be different, when a faithful rendition of the original story might have worked better.
I don’t know about you folks, but I regretted spending even a single cent on this debacle.
Grab the graphic novel instead, folks. That’s where it’s really at.