I’m probably exaggerating a bit when I try to compare Cowboys and Aliens with the adventures of the famous adventurer archaeologist…
but I can’t help but feel that it was enough to give Harrison Ford a different hat, a whip in his hand and expand his character a bit so that we could enjoy another installment of the adventures of Indiana Jones in retirement.
Meanwhile, 2/3 of the screen time is taken over by the quite decent actor and still nicely built Daniel Craig, who pushes Ford into the background in the fight for the top spot. Due to the introduction of two expressive protagonists on the screen, the script and the depth of the characters unfortunately suffer, because the screenwriter, having in his hands interestingly invented characters with a not entirely clear past, ends up not paying any of them due attention. To paraphrase a famous Wild West saying: “This scenario is too small for the two of them.” The other actors playing in the movie Cowboys and Aliens act in the background, not sticking their noses out of the crowd even for a moment.
The director of the excellent Iron Man and its quite successful sequel has a small stumble in his filmography.
Cowboys and aliens don’t evoke emotions. Although the characters are ambiguous, nothing comes of it, there is no drama, just Jake Lonergan (Craig) was once bad, and now he is good from the beginning of the film and remains so until the end. Similarly, the evil-good Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) – shaking up the neighborhood and covering for his son’s ass, an eternal troublemaker, also good, as it turns out in the end. When there seems to be some friction between Dolarhyde and Lonergan, it turns out that nothing happens, because both of them get along well from the beginning to the end of the on-screen events. The lack of sparks between the characters immediately destroys the entire film, because what is there to be excited about and what to wait for if the main ingredients of a good script are missing: conflict, the hero’s inner journey, the theme of transformation.
To best describe what emotions I like in the cinema and what I missed in Favreau’s film, I will use the example of Ron Howard’s Fire Breath. Remember the final fire and those seconds which, accompanied by explosions and fire, announced a fire ax duel between Ron Russell and Glen (which ultimately did not take place). As I described them, I felt this cool thrill accompanying the perfectly written relationships between the characters, which exploded in the finale. And this was the bomb I missed in the movie Cowboys and Aliens, although both the idea of a western in a science fiction setting and the initial outline of the characters gave a chance for an outburst of emotions.
So what does Favreau offer?
It offers a fight between the titular cowboys and the titular aliens, but even it, although peppered with top-shelf effects, is unable to compensate for the weak script and draw the viewer into the vortex of events. The aliens attack in droves, but the fight against them involves repeating “target-fire” painfully, without any surprises, interesting solutions or innovative staging ideas. Do you remember the District 9 shootings ? There, almost every shot featured unusual, jaw-dropping motifs – an alien ship hanging monumentally over the city, a camera mounted on a gun, a Mech collecting fired bullets and destroying black arms dealers, a pig as a weapon, a speeding car knocking down a Mech, etc. etc. In the film Cowboys and Aliens has no action worth watching, no surprises. As such, the only thing that stands out is the prologue, the scene of the horse’s escape from flying vehicles, Lonergan’s jump from a running horse onto a flying vehicle and the final (literal) launch of the alien ship into space. However, this is definitely not enough for an almost two-hour film.s
The humorous potential of the whole story was also not used. Instead of funny scenes based on the collision of the Wild West with space technology, Favreau gives a motif with matches (needed to light the fuse) dropped to the ground after a long climb to the alien ship. Ha, ha. Oh no, sorry, I remembered, there is an extremely funny scene of the resurrection, or rather the bonfire-rising, of Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde). The corpse is thrown into the fire, it burns for a while, then Ella gets up, comes out of the fire without even brushing herself off and explains to Daniel Craig that she came from another world blah blah blah… and from that moment on the film goes down a slippery slope until it wails on the entire line, a boring and formulaic finale.
As for aliens and their invasion of our planet, I found it a bit strange that there was no… surprise on the part of the inhabitants of the Wild West, who instead of pissing their pants at the sight of flying vehicles and then exchanging at least two sentences on the topic: “What the fuck is that?” …was?!”, leave this unusual event without any comment. They just get on their horses and go to save their kidnapped loved ones, as if an Indian from around the corner had kidnapped them, and not some completely incomprehensible SOMETHING. Nowadays, yes, the sight of UFOs might not scare us too much, because we are surrounded by modern technologies, but people from 1873, for whom the pinnacle of technology was a revolver and a cartwheel, should at least go crazy and eat their hats at the sight of flying vehicles.
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