Now Playing: Too Many ‘Cowboys’, Not Enough ‘Aliens’

I’ve been looking forward to the release of ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ with a lot of anticipation ever since the teaser trailer began running over a year ago. The unique genre-blending concept grabbed my attention and never let go. Unfortunately, I let my excitement get the best of me. My expectations were sky high, so high that the movie itself turned out to be a bit of a let-down. But what did I expect from an alien invasion flick set during the Wild West?

‘Cowboys & Aliens’ follows the form of a traditional Western. An outlaw (Daniel Craig) gets caught in a small town. A local oppressive bully (Harrison Ford) gets tied in with the anti-hero, and they must work together with a misfit group to bring down a larger evil. In this case, that evil is a group of kidnapping and murdering aliens.

While ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ opens with amnesiac Daniel Craig violently going James Bond all over a posse’s ass, it quickly turns into more of a straightforward Western than the genre-bender advertised. Sure, the aliens pop up here and there, but not nearly enough to earn a nod in the film’s title. Not until the final act do we get the alien goods we came for. The uber-graphic end battle is so bloody and violent that, if it weren’t for the popping heads resting on alien shoulders, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ would be have received a hard R-rating for graphic violence.

I went out of my way to not see any footage beyond the original teaser to keep the movie fresh. After seeing it, I’m shocked at how much the ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ TV spots reveal. If you haven’t seen them, avoid them at all cost unless you want major plot points spoiled.

Despite letting me down, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ is still a fun popcorn movie. I’m fully aware that my mediocre rating possibly stems from being let down, so I plan to see it again this weekend to give it full justice. It’s for this reason that I wish some films were screened for press more than once.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


  1. Jane Morgan

    It’s too bad ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ is in a geek standoff with ‘Attack The Block.’

    With its genericness, C&A has the makin’s to underwhelm everyone.

    This weekend’s box office could be a sloppy three-way.

  2. Dont know, none of the trailers ever wow’d me, when it was announced it sounded great, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde (yum) and Jon Favreau directing, you couldnt go wrong and then the trailers came out and I wasnt too happy, just have had no desire to bother checking this out and the reviews coming in now sound like its turned out pretty mediocre at best, so I’m glad I saved my money and I’ll enjoy it on the small screen later down the road 🙂

    • Wait, wait, Chaz, do my eyes deceive me? You called me a “lemming” for listening to the Luke Hickman (and not seeing Transformers 3) … and now you’re actually listening to the reviews yourself?

      Let me quote Chaz Dumbaugh: “Come on now, make up your own damn mind…. (…) Nothing Luke says is going to stop me from deciding for myself…”

      Did Josh positively influence you when he stated “Chaz, you greatly misunderstand the purpose of artistic criticism of any type.”?

      • EM

        I think your eyes do deceive you, Julian—or perhaps it’s just a desire to avenge yourself. 🙂 I think the wording of Chaz’s post makes it pretty clear that he made his decision based on trailers, not reviews; he invoked reviews only as a confirmation of his feeling, not a basis for it. Even so, he still says he plans to watch the movie on the small screen. I guess you’ll have to get up fairly early in the morning to catch Chaz. 🙂

  3. EM

    This movie is based on a graphic novel that hit comic shops a few years ago. I bought the comic on the strength of its title/premise and its surprisingly low price. Reading it, I found the story terribly banal; I also had the odd feeling that it read more like a Hollywood tie-in than like a comic book per se. I hypothesized that the comic’s sole raison d’être was to serve as a pitch for a movie, and that the price was low in order to get it in as many hands as possible so as to sell the pitch and/or the eventual movie, which was intended as the real revenue maker. For me personally, the advertisement was a failure; I was convinced I would not want to see the movie.

    So, I was not surprised when I eventually read that the movie was greenlit. I lamented that the premise and deceptively simple yet alluring title were being wasted on that particular story. But then, I thought that just as many other properties mutate beyond recognition during the movie development stage, maybe this movie would end up being better than its source material. This hope was utterly dashed when I saw the trailer for the first time—the film actually looked less interesting, less fun than the original graphic novel.

    Luke, despite your misgivings, you obviously enjoyed the movie more than I expect I would. Still, if you plan on giving it “full justice”, I suggest you stick with western convention: take a rope.

    • I went back and saw it last night to make up my mind. Here’s the verdict – it’s decent, not great. I stick with my 3-star review. The writing is sloppy. Lots of holes. Feels like there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” (check out the writing and producing credits and you’ll see what I mean). Very mediocre. Starts off strong, quickly loses it, gives you action in the end to finally give you what you were expecting to see. Pretty, blah.

  4. Art0330

    I saw it today, expected to like it as I also appreciate the Western genre, but didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The characters represent exaggerated comic book stereotypes, and casting Ford as the anti-hero who plays an over the top meanie just made it that much more fun. I found myself sucked into the story, as the movie could have stood alone as a well made ode to the Western. Scenery and photography were first class as well. The Aliens are rolled into the story-line seamlessly and serve as the foil to unite the many characters by providing a common enemy. I got caught up in it all, and surprisingly find that it is (so far) one of my favorite movies of the year.

  5. Brian H

    This movie really plodded along, and I have to say wasted a great cast. In comparison, Attack the Block had a simpler story, great music, a nice amount of humor, and a much better tempo.