Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys? Check. Aliens? Check. Now where's that script...

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 24.08.2011 22:01 (updated on 24.08.2011)

Cowboys & Aliens
Rating:
Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Abigail Spencer, Buck Taylor, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Adam Beach, Ana de la Reguera, Noah Ringer, Brian Duffy, Keith Carradine, Brendan Wayne, Gavin Grazer, Toby Huss, Wyatt Russell, Jimmy Jatho, Kenny Call, Walton Goggins, Julio Cedillo, Garret Noel, David O’Hara, Troy Gilbert, Chad Randall, Scout Schoenfeld Hendrickson, Raoul Trujillo. Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Steve Oedekerk.
Showtimes
IMDb link
   

Truth in advertising: Jon Favreau´s Cowboys & Aliens does, indeed, feature both cowboys and aliens. Only problem: it doesn´t seem to know what to do with either of them. Too silly to take seriously, and too serious to be any fun, the film is surprisingly dull despite the title and genre mashup elements, and turns into a real drag long before the rousing action climax has a chance to save it.

Cowboys starts out as a straight Western, with all the familiar archetypes: the grizzled Sheriff, the local Priest, the bespectacled saloon owner and his half-breed wife, the wealthy cattle baron and his spoiled son. There´s even the Man with No Name in Daniel Craig´s character, who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a convenient case of amnesia and an otherworldly bracelet on his wrist.

Craig, we soon learn, is Jake Lonergan, another archetype: the train-robbing outlaw with a bounty on his head. The Sheriff (Keith Carradine) packs up Lonergan with the baron´s son (Paul Dano), who haven´t exactly been on the best of terms, and fixes to send them up to Santa Fe. But wouldn´t you know it, that´s just when the baron himself, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), comes riding in to town with a posse demanding the release of his kid – and hey, isn´t that the guy who just robbed my stagecoach?

These early scenes are promising. They set up, you know, human conflict, and characters, and story strands that we expect to be resolved. But it´s at this point that the script (credited to six writers, not including the source comic that the film is based on) realizes the full potential of its title, and introduces an alien assault that kidnaps half the town and leaves the survivors dazed and confused.

Effectively, this “resolves” the human conflict set up during the previous half hour, and forces the remaining characters to bind together against a greater enemy. This happens twice more during the film, once with a gang of outlaws, and then again with a tribe of Native Americans. Conflict involving real characters? Bam! Alien attack. Crisis averted, now let´s all go shoot some CGI monsters.

As the survivors, including Lonergan, Dolarhyde, Doc (Sam Rockwell), Elle (Olivia Wilde), and young Emmett (The Last Airbender´s Noah Ringer), team up to track down the alien menace and rescue their captives, Cowboys & Aliens morphs into something akin to John Ford´s The Searchers, with aliens replacing Indians as chief villains. Here, of course, the Native Americans are a wise, spiritual tribe who bravely assist the Cowboys in their time of need.

The Searchers, like most Westerns before it, was often called out for racism in its portrayal of Native Americans as brutal savages. I doubt many will decry the portrayal of the aliens in Cowboys & Aliens as a similar misdeed.

But maybe they should. I´m not suggesting the alien creatures need to be fully-dimensional characters, as they were in District 9. But brutal savages would be an improvement: the alien creatures here, lacking explanation, or understanding, or motive, or soul, are just so repulsively boring. In this film and other CGI-fests like it, they represent the most uninteresting characters ever to grace the screen.

Not that the human characters suffer a better fate. Cowboys features an impressive cast but gives them all precious little to do; Craig has rarely been this bland as an action hero, and Wilde, the only member of the cast asked to display emotion, comes off as laughably inappropriate (it´s not her fault – it´s the way the character is written). It´s great to see Ford back in the acting saddle, but the film does him no favors; his gruff turn in Morning Glory was far more effective.

Director Favreau had previously only met with success (sez me) in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and Made, Elf, and Zathura before that. Those films each had something that Cowboys & Aliens is sorely lacking: a sense of humor, and to go with that, a sense of fun. Most films about cowboys or aliens don´t take themselves half as seriously as this one.

But there´s so many big names attached to this one (Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer among the producers), it´s hard not to find something to like. The cinematography (Matthew Libatique) and the music (Harry Gregson-Williams) are especially effective, and it´s great to see the Western genre represented on the big screen, at least when the film is still interested in being a Western. But while Cowboys & Aliens may deliver what the title promises, it does so in the most unimaginative way possible.

Note:Cowboys & Aliens is screening in a dubbed version in most cinemas, but you can catch it in English (with Czech subtitles) at CineStar Anděl and Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům & Nový Smíchov.

***

Also opening:Muži v naději (showtimes), a comedy from director Jiří Vejdělek (ROMing, Ženy v pokušení) starring Jiří Macháček and Bolek Polívka. Screening in Czech.

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5.3.12:The Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think ★★★★
1.3.12:Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance ★★ | The Iron Lady ★½ | The Devil Inside ★
23.2.12:War Horse ★★★½ | The Woman in Black ★★★ | My Week with Marilyn ★★½ | This Means War ★½
16.2.12:The Artist ★★★★ | Shame ★★★★ | Safe House ★★½
9.2.12:The Phantom Menace 3D ★★★ | Man on a Ledge ★★½ | The Ides of March ★★★½ | Jack and Jill ★
2.2.12:Hugo ★★★★ | Chronicle ★★★ | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ★★½ | Perfect Sense ★★½
26.1.12:Contraband ★★½ | A Dangerous Method ★★★ | Carnage ★★★ | The Help ★★★
19.1.12:The Descendants ★★★½ | Underworld: Awakening ★★
12.1.12:The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ★★★½ | Machine Gun Preacher ★★½
8.1.12:A Separation ★★★★
5.1.12:Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ★★★½
29.12.11:The Darkest Hour ★★
22.12.11:The Inbetweeners Movie ★★ | Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ★½
15.12.11:Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ★★★
8.12.11:New Year’s Eve ★½ | The Rum Diary ★★★½ | The Thing ★★½
1.12.11:Moneyball ★★★★ | Puss in Boots ★★★
24.11.11:Immortals ★★★
17.11.11:The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 ★★★½ | I Don’t Know How She Does It ★
10.11.11:Real Steel ★★★ | Tower Heist ★★½ | Anonymous ★★½
3.11.11: In Time ★★½
27.10.11:Adventures of Tintin ★★★★ | The Debt ★★½ | Larry Crowne ★★½ | Cave of Forgotten Dreams ★★★½
20.10.11:Paranormal Activity 3 ★★★ | The Three Musketeers ★ | Contagion ★★★½
13.10.11:Johnny English Reborn ★★½
6.10.11:Killer Elite ★★★ | One Day ★★ | Dream House ★½
29.9.11:Friends with Benefits ★★½ | Abduction ★
27.9.11:The Skin I Live In ★★★½
22.9.11:Midnight in Paris ★★★½ | Colombiana ★★½ | Shark Night 3D ★½
15.9.11:Drive ★★★★ | Pina ★★★½ | Crazy, Stupid, Love. ★★½ | Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ★★½
8.9.11:Super 8 ★★★½ | Final Destination 5 ★★★
25.8.11:Cowboys & Aliens ★★
18.8.11:Conan the Barbarian ★★ | Green Lantern ★★½ | Win Win ★★★½ | Womb ★½
11.8.11:Rise of the Planet of the Apes ★★★ | The Lincoln Lawyer ★★★
4.8.11:Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★ | Horrible Bosses ★★★
28.7.11:Cars 2 ★★½ | Jane Eyre ★★★½ | Bad Teacher ★½ | The Resident ★★
21.7.11:The Tree of Life ★★★★ | The Mechanic ★★
14.7.11:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ★★★½ | Submarine ★★★½
7.7.11:Hanna ★★★½ | Bridesmaids ★★★½
30.6.11:Transformers: Dark of the Moon ★½
16.6.11:Your Highness ★½
9.6.11:The Hangover Part 2 ★★★ | Paul ★★½ | Skyline ★½
2.6.11:X-Men: First Class ★★★½
26.5.11:Melancholia ★★★★
19.5.11:Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ★★½
12.5.11:Priest 3D ★★ | Water for Elephants ★★★ | Something Borrowed ★★ | Tetro ★★★½
5.5.11: Fast Five
28.4.11: Thor
21.4.11: Source Code | The Eagle | Mr. Nice
14.4.11: Scream 4 | Just Go with It | Unknown | Somewhere
7.4.11: The Way Back | Love and Other Drugs | Jack Goes Boating | I Am Number Four
31.3.11: Sucker Punch | No Strings Attached | My Soul to Take
24.3.11: Limitless
17.3.11: The Dilemma | The Rite | Sanctum
10.3.11: Rango | The King’s Speech
3.3.11: The Adjustment Bureau | Drive Angry 3D
24.2.11: The Fighter | Morning Glory
17.2.11: True Grit | Burlesque
10.2.11: Black Swan | London Boulevard
3.2.11: 127 Hours
27.1.11: The Tourist | Tangled | Chain Letter
20.1.11: The Next Three Days | Gulliver’s Travels
13.1.11: The Green Hornet | Season of the Witch | Another Year
6.1.11: The Kids Are All Right | The Good Heart
16.12.10: TRON: Legacy | Paranormal Activity 2
9.12.10: Megamind
2.12.10: Due Date | The American
25.11.10: The Other Guys | The Switch
18.11.10: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
11.11.10: Howl | Devil
4.11.10: The Social Network | You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger | Saw 3D
28.10.10: Red | Animal Kingdom
21.10.10: Four Lions
14.10.10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Eat Pray Love | Machete
7.10.10: DVD Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop
30.9.10: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
23.9.10: Resident Evil: Afterlife
16.9.10: The Karate Kid | Going the Distance
9.9.10: Největší z Čechů
2.9.10: Step Up 3D | Ondine
26.8.10: Grown Ups
19.8.10: The Expendables | The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | A Serious Man | When You’re Strange
12.8.10: Salt
5.8.10: Get Him to the Greek
29.7.10: Knight and Day | Bunny and the Bull
22.7.10: Inception | Agora
15.7.10: Shrek Forever After | A Single Man | The Rebound | Mr. Nobody
8.7.10: Predators | Letters to Juliet
1.7.10: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
24.6.10: Killers | Solomon Kane
17.6.10: Toy Story 3 | The A-Team | From Paris with Love | The Back-up Plan
10.6.10: The Ghost Writer
3.6.10: Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone
27.5.10: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time | Brooklyn’s Finest | Precious
20.5.10: Hot Tub Time Machine
13.5.10: Robin Hood | Whatever Works
6.5.10: Kick-Ass
29.4.10: Iron Man 2 | The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | The Road
22.4.10: The Bounty Hunter | The Crazies
15.4.10: Clash of the Titans | An Education
1.4.10: Moon | The Men Who Stare at Goats | Everybody’s Fine
25.3.10: Remember Me | Leap Year | Babylon A.D.
18.3.10: The Lovely Bones | Legion
11.3.10: Daybreakers | Dear John | Mammoth
4.3.10: Alice in Wonderland | Nine
25.2.10: Shutter Island | The Hurt Locker
18.2.10: The Wolfman | Valentine’s Day | Edge of Darkness
11.2.10: The Book of Eli | In Search of a Midnight Kiss
4.2.10: Capitalism: A Love Story | Brothers | The Box | Did You Hear About the Morgans?
28.1.10: Up in the Air | The Fourth Kind | New York, I Love You
21.1.10: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus | It’s Complicated | Black Dynamite
14.1.10: Sherlock Holmes
7.1.10: Fame
17.12.09: Avatar | Whip It
10.12.09: Spread
3.12.09: Zombieland | A Perfect Getaway
26.11.09: The Twilight Saga: New Moon | Antichrist
19.11.09: Paranormal Activity | Law Abiding Citizen | The Time Traveller’s Wife
12.11.09: 2012
5.11.09: My Life in Ruins
29.10.09: This Is It, Love Happens, Halloween II
22.10.09: Fifty Dead Men Walking, Saw VI
15.10.09: The Brothers Bloom, The Ugly Truth, The Final Destination
8.10.09: Surrogates
1.10.09: Julie & Julia, Hunger
24.9.09: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Gamer, Night of the Living Dead 3D
17.9.09: District 9
3.9.09: The Taking of Pelham 123, Man on Wire
27.8.09: Inglourious Basterds, Taking Woodstock, The Proposal
20.8.09: Up, Two Lovers
13.8.09: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
6.8.09: Brüno
30.7.09: The Boat That Rocked, Away We Go, Knowing
23.7.09: Crank: High Voltage, Bronson, The Accidental Husband
16.7.09: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Limits of Control
9.7.09: Public Enemies, The Wrestler
2.7.09: Fighting
25.6.09: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
18.6.09: The Hangover, Drag Me to Hell, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
11.6.09: Coraline, The Secret of Moonacre
4.6.09: Terminator Salvation, I Love You, Man
28.5.09: State of Play, Bottle Shock, New in Town
21.5.09: The Last House on the Left
14.5.09: Angels & Demons
7.5.09: Star Trek, Duplicity, 17 Again
30.4.09: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, My Bloody Valentine
23.4.09: Synecdoche, New York, The Reader, Friday the 13th
16.4.09: Gran Torino, Defiance, Hotel for Dogs, Confessions of a Shopaholic
9.4.09: The Visitor, Happy-Go-Lucky
2.4.09: Fast & Furious, Bride Wars
19.3.09: He’s Just Not That Into You, Battle in Seattle, Sex Drive, The Unborn
12.3.09: Seven Pounds, Marley & Me
5.3.09: Watchmen, Doubt
26.2.09: Slumdog Millionaire, The Duchess, The Pink Panther 2
19.2.09: Frost/Nixon, The Spirit, Transporter 3, City of Ember, Bolt
12.2.09: Valkyrie, Milk
5.2.09: The Tale of Despereaux, Bedtime Stories
29.1.09: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road
22.1.09: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Traitor
15.1.09: Burn After Reading, Yes Man, Che: Part One, My Best Friend’s Girl
8.1.09: Changeling
2.1.09: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
25.12.08: Australia
11.12.08: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Four Christmases, Paranoid Park, Make It Happen
4.12.08: Bangkok Dangerous, High School Musical 3: Senior Year
27.11.08: Twilight, Body of Lies
20.11.08: Death Race, Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Strangers
13.11.08: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6.11.08: Quantum of Solace, The Women
30.10.08: Max Payne, Nights in Rodanthe, The Other Boleyn Girl
23.10.08: Vicki Christina Barcelona, The Forbidden Kingdom
16.10.08: Nightwatching, Taken, Juno
9.10.08: Elegy, Mirrors
2.10.08: Eagle Eye, Disaster Movie
25.9.08: 2 Days in Paris
18.9.08: Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
04.9.08: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Journey to the Center of the Earth
28.8.08: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
21.8.08: Funny Games U.S.
14.8.08: WALL•E, Meet Dave, Then She Found Me, The Orphanage
7.8.08: The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!
31.7.08: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
24.7.08: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
17.7.08: The Incredible Hulk, Shine a Light, Be Kind Rewind, Nim’s Island, Made of Honor
10.7.08: Get Smart
3.7.08: Kung Fu Panda, Hancock
26.6.08: Wanted
19.6.08: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
12.6.08: The Happening, My Blueberry Nights
5.6.08: Sex and the City, Penelope
29.5.08: 21, Untraceable
22.5.08: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
15.5.08: What Happens in Vegas
8.5.08: In Bruges, Speed Racer
1.5.08: Iron Man, Paris, je t’aime
24.4.08: Into the Wild, Fools Gold, Wedding Daze, Superhero Movie
17.4.08: Breath, Frontier(s)
10.4.08: Horton Hears a Who, Doomsday, Vantage Point, Sleuth
3.4.08: In the Valley of Elah, The Bucket List
27.3.08: There Will Be Blood, 27 Dresses
20.3.08: Resurrecting the Champ, Reservation Road
13.3.08: Control, 10,000 BC
6.3.08: 3:10 to Yuma, Jumper
28.2.08: No Country for Old Men, Step Up 2 the Streets
21.2.08: Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, Rambo, The Eye
14.2.08: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Charlie Wilsons War, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
7.2.08: Sweeney Todd, We Own the Night, The Kite Runner
31.1.08: Atonement
24.1.08: The Darjeeling Limited, Cloverfield
17.1.08: Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Love in the Time of Cholera
10.1.08: Eastern Promises, I Am Legend
3.1.08: American Gangster
20.12.07: P.S. I Love You
13.12.07: The Golden Compass, Hitman
29.11.07: Across the Universe, Beowolf, Balls of Fury, Halloween
22.11.07: Shoot Em Up, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
15.11.07: The Heartbreak Kid, Resident Evil: Extinction
8.11.07: Lions for Lambs, The Last Legion
1.11.07: 30 Days of Night, The Invasion, Sicko, The Good Shepherd
25.10.07: Once, Superbad, Feast of Love, The Seeker
18.10.07: The Brave One, A Mighty Heart
11.10.07: The Kingdom, 1408, Becoming Jane, Snow Cake
4.10.07: Knocked Up
27.9.07: Stardust, Grindhouse, Gympl
20.9.07: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Evening, Disturbia
13.9.07: Ratatouille, The Hoax, No Reservations
6.9.07: Rush Hour 3, Day Watch, Medvidek
30.8.07: The Bourne Ultimatum, Irina Palm
23.8.07: Hairspray, Planet Terror, Evan Almighty, Interview
16.8.07: Transformers
9.8.07: Mr. Brooks, Pans Labyrinth, Surfs Up
2.8.07: Fracture, Venus, Next
26.7.07: The Simpsons Movie, Angel
19.7.07: Harry Potter 5, The Good Night
12.7.07: Inland Empire, Factory Girl, The Messengers, Hostel 2
5.7.07: Death Proof, Oceans 13, Miss Potter, Fantastic Four 2
28.6.07: Live Free or Die Hard
21.6.07: Pathfinder, Curse of the Golden Flower
14.6.07: Shrek the Third
7.6.07: Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Because I Said So
31.5.07: Premonition, Black Book
24.5.07: Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
17.5.07: The Number 23
10.5.07: Renaissance, The Painted Veil, Wild Hogs, Epic Movie
3.5.07: Spider-Man 3, Copying Beethoven, Sherrybaby
26.4.07: Shooter, The Reaping
19.4.07: Sunshine, Alpha Dog, TMNT, Perfect Stranger
12.4.07: The Hill Have Eyes II, Norbit
5.4.07: Stranger Than Fiction, Notes on a Scandal, Meet the Robinsons, Red Road, Blood & Chocolate
29.3.07: Flags of our Fathers
22.3.07: 300, Sketches of Frank Gehry, Black Christmas
15.3.07: Ghost Rider, Music and Lyrics, Feast, Employee of the Month 
8.3.07: The Fountain
1.3.07: Rocky Balboa, School for Scoundrels
22.2.07: Little Children, Babel, Dreamgirls, Hannibal Rising, The Darwin Awards
15.2.07: Smokin Aces, The Queen
8.2.07: The Last King of Scotland, Pursuit of Happyness, and Crank

Czech Films

Green Horse Rustlers (18.09.16)
The Wolf of Royal Vineyard Street (14.09.16)
The Teacher (30.08.16)
We Are Never Alone (20.04.16)
Pat and Mat: The Movie (07.04.16)
Teorie tygra (05.04.16)
I, Olga Hepnarová (31.03.16)
Rudý kapitán (17.03.16)
Rodinný film (25.02.16)
Lída Baarová
(22.01.16)
Amerika (01.11.15)
Domácí péče (Home Care) (02.08.15)
Mallory (27.07.15)
Malý Pán (The Little Man) (08.05.15)
Fotograf
(20.03.15)
Kobry a užovky (The Snake Brothers) (10.03.15)
Pohádkář (Storyteller) (01.12.14)
Magický hlas rebelky (The Magic Voice of a Rebel) (05.08.14)
Parádně pokecal (Totally Talking) (05.08.14)
Díra u Hanušovic (Nowhere in Moravia) (25.07.14)
Všiváci (03.07.14)
Cesta ven (10.06.14)
Olga (22.05.14)
Hany (19.05.14)
Signál (20.11.12)
Spalovač mrtvol (16.10.12)
Lemonade Joe (17.9.12)
Svatá čtveřice (16.9.12) 
Poupata (23.8.12)
Lidice (27.6.12)
Tmář a jeho rod aneb Slzavé údolí pyramid (28.5.12)
Vendeta (26.5.12)
Alois Nebel
(2.5.12)
Rodina je základ státu
(3.4.12)
V peřině
(14.2.12)
Odcházení (Leaving)
(16.1.12)
Tajemství hradu v Karpatech
(26.10.11)
Katka (1.9.2011)
Rozmarné léto (Capricious Summer) (20.8.2011)
Kuky se vrací (25.7.2011)
Přežít svůj život (Surviving Life) (23.6.2011)
Občanský průkaz (23.5.2011)
Pouta (22.3.2011)
Kristián (07.02.11)
Kajínek (20.12.10)
Protektor (15.11.10)
Největší z Čechů (09.09.10)
Kinoautomat (22.06.09)
Na půdě aneb Kdo má dneska narozeniny? (07.04.09)
Bathory (12.07.08)
Domov (05.02.08)
Gympl (02.10.07)
Medvídek (10.09.07)
I Served the King of England (21.01.07)
Pravidla lži (19.12.06)
Grandhotel (05.12.06)
Hezké chvilky bez záruky (29.09.06)
Kráska v nesnázích (08.09.06)
Šílení (21.12.05)