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Cowboys And Aliens Is Truly Inexplicable In So Many Ways

Cowboys and Aliens
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby from a screen story by Fergus, Ostby, and Steve Oedekerk
Universal/Dreamworks, 2011

Seriously, I was writing down all the creative talent involved with Cowboys and Aliens, and had to stifle smartass remarks during it.  Luckily we’ve now hit the first paragraph, where I can relate to you how mind-boggling the names above are in relation to this movie.  Too many cooks spoil the broth, as they say.  I can’t imagine anyone on this movie ever knew what was really going on.  Here’s the hit list, and you make up your own mind as to how truly unbelievable this mash-up of talent is.

Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg.  Needs no introduction.  Legend.

Director: Jon Favreau.  Writer/star of Swingers who has made two gigantic colossal hits in the Iron Man series and also did Elf.  And Zathura.  And Made.  Eclectic bunch of film genres there.

Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof.  All guys who came from J.J. Abrams.   Stuff like Lost and Alias and the new Star Trek.  And strangely, lots of Michael Bay movies too.  Two Transformers movies and The Island.

Writers: Hawk Ostby and Mark Fergus.  They teamed for Favreau’s Iron Man.  And they also wrote…Children of Men.

And a screen story credit goes to Steve Oedekerk, who is best known for writing/directing the sequel to Ace Ventura.  And he wrote the Nutty Professor remake and Bruce Almighty.  Actually might be best known for his various “thumb” parodies like Frankenthumb and the The Blair Thumb and Thumbtanic and The Godthumb.  I’m not joking.  Look that up.  He also did that What’s Up Tiger, Lily?-style movie Enter the Fist, where he tried to dub his own dialogue into a karate movie…with very little success.

Then look, you’re an actor and you’re playing alongside Han Solo/Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford.  And then there’s the current James Bond in Daniel Craig.  And then there’s the unique otherworldly hotness of one Olivia Wilde, who I think plans to be in every movie coming out from here until next year.  And oh look, there’s Sam Rockwell!

So here’s how the movie plays out.  Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up in a desert with an odd wound on his stomach and some sort of steel bracelet around his wrist that he can’t shake off.  He doesn’t remember anything, but it looks like trouble is always looking for him.  It starts off like many a Western, where the stranger comes into town and starts beating the ass of the unruly town drunk/gunfighter Percy, here played by Paul Dano.  Percy thinks he can do whatever he wants, shoot up the town and whatnot, because his father Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) is one mean-ass outlaw/rich feller.  Almost everyone in the town owes him a debt of gratitude for him being so nice and stuff, you know the drill with Westerns.

Whatever.  Jake kicks Percy’s ass, and then Percy accidentally shoots a deputy, and then the sheriff (Keith Carradine) has to take him in, but at the sheriff’s own risk.  Yep, looks like some serious gunfighting is going to take place, if it weren’t for the aliens.  Yes, aliens.  Aliens that swoop in and take all your loved ones away for God knows what.  Pretty girl Ella Swenson (Wilde) apparently has some connection to Jake and will be able to explain all this.

After the aliens take bar owner Doc’s (Sam Rockwell) wife (Ana de la Reguera), and the sheriff, and Percy, all the former antagonists bond together to form some sort of alien-hunting posse.  We soon find out what Jake’s deal was, and why the aliens are here, and why he gets that big bracelet on his arm, which has powers that blow away foes with mad precision.

Actually, I couldn’t really tell you why Jake has the bracelet. I even saw the scene supposedly explaining it, but I could find no real reason for him to have it on his wrist.  It defies explanation, really.  It’s one of those things that I imagine aliens go off into the woods and have team building exercises over.  Then somewhere in the movie Olivia Wilde explains why the aliens are here, and it’s done with such matter-of-fact nonsense blow-off, who-gives-a-fuck exposition, you can’t help but think, “Ya fucking kidding me?  Is this for real?”

Yeah, Cowboys and Aliens sort of had a lot going against it in the first place.  We start with the movies Skyline and Battle: LA, where malevolent CG aliens trashed all that was sane in movies about extraterrestrials.  And then we have Super 8, one of the mostly shining stars of the summer that also had a healthy dose of Spielberg and Abrams, and a horrible ending.  Combine all these aliens we’ve seen in the past 9 months and we haven’t seen one compelling monster, and absolutely no good reason for them to be here.  Seriously, guys, CG is the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to aliens.  H.R. Giger would be spinning in his grave if he were dead.

I hate to say this after all that trashing, but Cowboys and Aliens still isn’t a terrible movie.  It can be entertaining at times, but it’s not all that good, either.  It’s a curious entry for all involved.  I guess there’s a lot of people to blame, so no one person can take it all.  It’s like The Murder on the Orient Express, only making a bad movie instead of, you know, murder.

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