GENRE: Sci-fi Western
THE PITCH: Amnesiac Jake Lonegran (Daniel Craig) wakes up outside the sleepy town of Absolution, Ariz with a mysterious gauntlet attached to his left wrist. Quickly Lonegran learns the locals are oppressed under the boot of cattle rancher Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), but he and residents of Absolution soon learn Dolarhyde's usual rancor towards the town folk is nothing compared to the alien invasion they are confronted with. Lonegran discovers his fancy new bracelet is actually a high-tech weapon he can wield to combat the extraterrestrial enemies, but can he stop the onslaught? This film is loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.
MONEY SHOT: The beat down the townsfolk get when the aliens invade Absolution. Shit is being blowing up, and people are being lassoed E.T. style and abducted by the alien spacecraft.
BEST LINES: Lonegran meets Meacham (Clancy Brown) from the barrel of a shotgun. After a number of questions to which Lonegran has no answers due to his amnesia, Meacham asks, "What do you know?" to which Lonegran answers, "English." When teaching the Doc (Sam Rockwell) how to fire a rifle one night, the town's Preacher, instructs, "Don't Yank on it. It's not your pecker."
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED IN 1873: The movie takes place in 1873. Aside from the fictional alien invasion in the Old West, The Panic of 1873 occurred. This event trigged the Great Depression. The Virginius Affair, a dispute between the U.S., The United Kingdom and Spain also happened. On a lighter note, scientist developed technology that eventually led to the development of the television.
SKIN FACTOR: I can't explain how she ended up naked because it's a spoiler, but town's resident madam, Ella Swensen (Olivia Wilde) greets a tribe of Indians in the buff. Maybe it was me, but there were a ton of Daniel Craig butt shots (in chaps) ... I'm just sayin'.
ITS PRONOUNCED "HOR": A member of Lonegran's old gang threatens our heroes by telling the bandit so shoot the "hoo-ruh." He was trying to say, "whore," but everybody knew what he meant.
BOTTOM LINE: Cowboys & Aliens is like a Three Musketeer's candy bar in my opinion. Yeah its got the tasty chocolate coating of Jon Favreau's "Winning" run with the Iron Man franchise and the sexy mix of actors Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde to draw you in. But once you bite into it, its just fluff that depends too much on the chocolate to actually make it taste good. Even with a talented cast of vets breathing life into these traditional western stereotypes, the story is just uninteresting as a sci-fi adventure but manages to stay afloat as a traditional western.
If you strip out all the underwhelming CGI and the few cowboys-meets-aliens action sequences, you're actually left with a somewhat rich, stylized Saturday mattinee western tale featuring your typical bad guy anti-hero who ends up saving the people in a corrupt, desolate town. Craig is no Eastwood, but paired with Ford and the other misfits that make up the posse, you at least have a filling story to hold onto even with the pesky annoyance the aliens become to distract things.
Cowboys & Aliens packages itself as a rich Summer blockbuster chock full of stuff, but underneath it all, its just not satisfying enough.