Cowboys and Aliens
by George Sax
For once, a movie title says about all you need to know. Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens gives you a lot of advance information, or warning, in three words. The movie’s plot centers on a predatory invasion from outer space of 1873 New Mexico Territory cattle country. And the aliens aren’t after cattle.
This expansively, perhaps intentionally silly mongrelized epic is a milestone of sorts: It’s the first movie, I think, in more than 30 years in which Harrison Ford has had to take second billing. There’s an implicit era-ending note in this. Ford is one of the very, very few remaining movie stars left. He’s no Gable, or Grant, to be sure, but he’s about all that’s left of that institution. The real star of this expensive time waster is Brit Daniel Craig, and he’s not going to wind up in anybody’s nostalgic coffee table tome.
This thing reportedly has its roots in a few scripts that didn’t go anywhere over about a decade, and at one time it supposedly had a comedic Men in Black tone, but Ron Howard came on board as producer and the vehicle acquired a graver tone, comparatively speaking. It’s still got a jokey comic book texture and tenor, but it’s usually not clear if it’s being self-consciously clunky as it winds its way through various cliches of two different movie genres. The movie plays as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide how silly they wanted to get even after they’d started filming it.
Watch the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens
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