Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review of "Cowboys and Aliens" (the movie)



I have really got to stop my impulse-buying of new movies on DVD.

I mean, I go into Barnes and Noble, and browsing through the new stuff I notice DVD releases of movies I had maybe a little bit of interest in going to the theater to see some five or six months earlier. The fact that I DIDN'T go to see them at the theater should give me the first warning that maybe it's a good idea to not buy the DVD… but hey, like many of us, I get seduced by packaging.

So it was a few days ago when I picked up the DVD release of "Cowboys and Aliens", which I watched last night. I should not have expected too much, given that two of the people credited with writing the screenplay were Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who were also responsible for writing the execrable "Star Trek" movie (or, as I like to call it, "that sci-fi flick somebody mistakenly titled "Star Trek"") which came out in 2009. But -- it stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, and it's directed by John "Iron Man" Favreau… it couldn't be THAT bad, could it?

Yes, it could. And it is.

While looking on amazon.com to confirm the names of the screenwriters, I noticed that there is actually an extended version of the movie, which adds about eighteen minutes to the regular version's running time. Gack! I can't imagine sitting through even a few more minutes of the interminable "action", the infantile character relationships, the parade of "Western" movie stereotypes and cliches, and the just plain ol' stupidity of this movie.

Wait a minute -- maybe I am looking at this the wrong way. Maybe those extra eighteen minutes turn this movie from one that I fast-forwarded through half of into a really good, well-thought-out, exciting science fiction/adventure film with characters I might care about and a story that made sense.

I guess I'll never know… because watching the regular version last night was almost painful, and too unpleasant to even consider wasting another two hours or so sitting through it again. I won't deny that the effects weren't nicely done -- they were -- but these days, it's hard to see a big-budget flick of this type where the effects AREN'T done well.

There is so much that is dopey about this movie that I don't have the time (or energy) to touch on everything, but I will point out perhaps the most ridiculous bit of all -- the rationale for the aliens' coming to Earth: They want our gold.

They want our gold because… umm… because… let's see… because... they want it!

(Now, to be fair, there may have been an logical explanation for a starfaring species' ravenous desire for Earth's gold, one which I missed because of my fast-forwarding, and if somebody knows what that is and wants to inform me, I'm all ears. Maybe it's included in the "extended cut" of the movie.)

It's not quite as idiotic as the aliens coming to Earth because they want our water (as seen in the original "V" television miniseries), but it's pretty close. -- PL

8 comments:

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

Bummer! Kris got this movie for his birthday and we were going to watch it this week. I wasn;t expecting much, but maybe a fun popcorn B-movie.

Mark H said...

I think that the writers where referring to the ancient alien theory of aliens coming to earth thousands of years ago to mine our gold. The theory goes that an alien named Annunaki landed in Africa to mine gold. His alien species bio-engineered the human race to be slaves who would mine the gold. Gold is supposed to be a rare element in the universe because it can only be created within a supernova. (I don't buy into that because in the vastness of the Universe a supernova might not be that uncommon.) The aliens wanted our gold because of it’s malleability, ductility, longevity and conductivity. It never corrodes under normal circumstances and is exceptionally conductive in an electrical sense. To a primitive society gold has its value as an ornamental metal, however as a civilization becomes more technologically advanced, gold becomes even more valuable. A good example is to look at how much NASA has used gold on their ships, probes, and even astronauts visors.
I’m not sure if that is what the writers where referring to. It is just the assumption that I made after watching to much “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel! I mean why else would Aliens want gold? To create some cool alien bling?
I have to say the part of the movie I enjoyed was Harrison Ford’s performance. I’m probably a bit biased because I grew up worshipping Han Solo and, Indiana Jones. I just thought Harrison did a great job a playing a mean ol’ such and such in the beginning of the movie.
The part that really turned me off from the film was when the pretty girl gets killed. Her body is then burned then, walla! Here she comes walking out of the fire. What the heck was that? She was really an alien the whole time. Really? That’s just stupid!

Gehndo said...

I know what you mean, Pete. One of the most excruciating movies I ever sat through.

I'd be interested to see what you have to say about it, because I found it surprisingly difficult to articulate what I disliked about the film. It was almost like there was some subliminal prompt throughout the screening urging me to hate what I was watching. It wasn't good by any stretch, but I couldn't figure out why I thought it wasn't good. Some kind of instinctive, unreasoned distaste.

Oh, and it was on a first date, too. Not a good choice.

-Troy

PL said...

"Gehndo has left a new comment on your post "Review of "Cowboys and Aliens" (the movie)":

I know what you mean, Pete. One of the most excruciating movies I ever sat through.

I'd be interested to see what you have to say about it, because I found it surprisingly difficult to articulate what I disliked about the film. It was almost like there was some subliminal prompt throughout the screening urging me to hate what I was watching. It wasn't good by any stretch, but I couldn't figure out why I thought it wasn't good. Some kind of instinctive, unreasoned distaste.

Oh, and it was on a first date, too. Not a good choice.

-Troy"

Troy, to really articulate why I disliked the movie so much, I think I would really need to watch it again, spending extra time to pause it and write notes about particular things that drove me nuts. And that's something I just do not want to do, given that it was so -- as you rightly put it -- "excruciating" to sit through.

For the most part, I just got the feeling that this movie was done "by the numbers". Everything about it seemed pretty predictable. There was no sense of really creative minds behind it, minds which were truly asking the question "What WOULD it be like if aliens visited the Old West?" Instead, we get a lot of running, jumping, and blowing stuff up. I detected no sense of wonder in any of the characters or situations. Instead, the aliens are just treated like any other force of "bad guys". They may just have well been angry Indians or renegade Confederates or black-hatted train robbers.

It's almost like the makers of this movie saw the catchy title, went "Wow! That's cool!", and stopped thinking at that point (and also expected that the audience should stop thinking as well). There is such a sense of dreary trudging through a flimsy "plot", from one set piece to the next, that one ends up wanting the movie to be over, and quickly.

And it's doubly unfortunate, because there are some good actors in it, and obviously good technical people doing the special and visual effects. And John Favreau did such an amazing job with the first "Iron Man" movie that it is hard to believe he is responsible for this turgid waste of time. -- PL

PL said...

"Sarah The Anime Librarian said...
Bummer! Kris got this movie for his birthday and we were going to watch it this week. I wasn;t expecting much, but maybe a fun popcorn B-movie."

Sarah, one of the comments I noted when I started looking at some of the reviews of this movie on amazon.com was that it was a "check your brain at the door" kind of movie. And I think that is accurate. If you don't think about what you are looking at on screen, it's possibly quite enjoyable. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), at this point it time I find it almost impossible to do that when I see a movie. -- PL

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

I see what you mean Peter. I'll watch it, simply because we have it (I suppose thats kind of a lame reason but....) but I'm expecting even less. I like a good popcorn flick, I dont mind something thats there to simply be entertainment, but I think fun doesn;t have to be at the expense of decent script, well written characters, etc.

B.Thomas said...

You should watch ''Attack the Block,'' Peter. It's a way better alien invasion film than ''Cowboys & Aliens.''

Anonymous said...

For my part, I thought the movie was alright, but I agree with Peter's criticisms, for the most part. The film is just a bit too much been there, done that to be truly great. Ironically, I loved Rango, which was also a very cliched alternative Western, so why this film came off as so much more stale I'm not sure. I think maybe Rango took better advantage of its unique approach to the genre; it was engaging to see a kinetic action scene using bats instead of a train, seeing an animal town built out of repurposed human garbage is neat, and a lot of the animal characters have interesting, detailed designs.

With Cowboys and Aliens, though its special effects are well-done enough, the aliens are personality-less. You don't get many looks inside their ship, and even when you do it's just the boiler-room-type places. You don't really get a sense for who they are.

Unlike Laird, I liked the movie. The sad thing is that I wanted to love it.