“Cowboys & Aliens” (2011)

Directed by Jon Favreau
Universal
US, 118 minutes
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde

I have no idea how to review a movie like Cowboys & Aliens. It’s junk food. Pure and simple. It has no intellectual point. It’s just fun. Imagine Independence Day in the West, except without Bill Pullman’s pathetic, redneck fueling inspirational speech and Roland Emmerich’s obsession with explosions. Instead, we get to watch more of Olivia Wilde and there is never anything wrong with that. Don’t worry, gals, there’s enough Daniel Craig for you.

Wilde is pretty good in this film, which is to her advantage as the only woman in the film.  Craig, the lead star of the film, also takes a fine turn, taking the reins of the whole picture. Harrison Ford feels as if he’s just going through the motions, though, which is disappointing, since he has such a big role. My favorite character actor spot is taken by Keith Carradine, whose presence feels like a connection to real Western films, via his father.

My main complaint can only be pointed toward Favreau. If this was an attempt to make a real Western where the villains just happened to be aliens, then he clearly failed. It is closer to Independence Day than True Grit, since the characters only go through typical development, doing exactly what you expect them to. There are a couple of nice story twists, but those involve taking the story further from Westerns. The Wikipedia article mentions that Steven Spielberg had the cast and crew watch movies like Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine and Destry Rides Again so they understood what a real Western was like. Uh… That didn’t work out so well, did it?

Obviously, during the summer, most people aren’t looking for thought-provoking Oscar bait and are just looking for a good time (and some nice air conditioning, considering the heat). Cowboys & Aliens is just that – a pointless, and yet strangely enjoyable, film.

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