Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cowboys & Aliens

I remember thinking that this movie was going to be really good back when it came out. I saw the trailer in 2011, and I figured that it was going to be a good movie to watch. Then, a few months later, the reviews started rolling in, and I was surprised by how badly it was received. Looking back at the revenue, it only made just over its $163 million-dollar budget. It brought in about $175 million.
Thinking back, they probably should have chosen a different week to release it. The Comic-Con screening was only four days after the release of Captain America: The First Avenger.
Which is one of my favorite movies of all time.
And you know something else? Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released earlier that same month. I've never seen it, and I don't really know if it was any good, but I know it's not a smart move to release a movie, even a movie with a cast like this one had in the same month as major installments in blockbuster franchises.
So let's just say that despite the star-power of the cast, and the fact that this is probably the only movie where you can see James Bond and Indiana Solo team up with Quorra and Justin Fleegman to fight aliens.
Hey I just realized, this is the closest thing we're ever gonna get to a Galaxy Quest, Tron and Star Wars Crossover!
Too bad they chose to release it in the same month as the finale of one of the highest-profile fantasy epics since The Lord of the Rings, and what might just be both one of the greatest war-movies and superhero movies of all time.
And despite my opinion of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that movie was still going strong well into the next month. And Final Destination 5 was coming out at the start of the next month, which would be joined literally the next day by Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Two massively grossing movies getting released a few weeks after it, combined with one of the hugest films of all-time being released the month before, and another of the hugest films of all-time being released in the same month with one of the greatest films of all-time....
Yeah, even if they'd ironed out a few of the problems I wound up having with the film, this movie was never destined for any kind of success, despite the sheer power of the cast. It was released at a really bad time in 2011, it had some big issues with presentation and storytelling, and it lacked a decent ending. I'll get into this later in the review.
But yeah, this was definitely gonna drop right off the charts pretty quickly. Sad to say something like that about a movie that's actually pretty good, but it's the truth.
So, let's talk about the plot.
Daniel Craig's character wakes up in the desert with a mysterious wound in his torso, and a massive silver bracelet on his left wrist that certainly doesn't belong in 1873. He runs afoul of some dudes, and winds up leaving them all for dead, and taking their weapons and horses.
He rides into a local town, and gets locked up, because he looks like a wanted outlaw by the name of Jake Lonergan. And because he assaulted the local mafia don's son because the kid was being a stupid and spoiled brat.
The aforementioned mafia don is actually a former Civil War Colonel and cattleman by the name of Woodrow Dollarhyde, played by Harrison Ford. They run into each other because Lonergan apparently stole a bunch of gold from Dollarhyde, and the Colonel wants to know where he stashed it. He also wants to punish him for hurting his son, because despite the fact that he despises how his son lives his life, he still wants to try and find some way to whip him into shape, and he can't do that if his son is dead.
During a standoff between Dollarhyde's men and those of the local Sheriff's, the aliens strike and abduct many a citizen of the town, Dollarhyde's son included.
Because Lonergan has a pretty effective weapon against those aliens, in the form of his mysterious bracelet, the townsfolk include him in the posse they round up to go get the abductees.
Fortunately, the following scenes are all decently made, at least until they get to the chase-sequence, where it transitions into a strange hallucination, akin to that one similar scene from The Big Lebowski, only more perplexing, and a lot less funny.
In this chase, Lonergan rescues an alien in the form of a beautiful woman, and around a campfire with some Native Americans, who had some of their people abducted by the aliens.
The woman is apparently some kind of Time Lord, since she manages to come back from the dead through a burst of golden-light.
She explains what the aliens are up to, and that her people were killed by those aliens.
See, I don't usually have an issue with exposition, but it has to be executed well. And this has been executed poorly. It's boring, and I wish it had been either cut entirely, or heavily re-written into something that:
A) Made a bit more sense
B) Didn't bring the pacing to a stone-cold stop.
And, C) Hadn't brought up some troubling issues with the ending.
Honestly, I think that the alien woman should have been written out entirely, because her presence and abilities raise a whole bunch of questions that are never answered.
From this point on, the movie picks up a bit, with the alliance of townsfolk, Apache's, and lone alien woman locating the ship that the aliens used to get to Earth.
They put together a decent plan to rescue the townsfolk and prevent the aliens from taking all the gold on Earth, and laying siege to another planet.
Jake goes back to his old gang and forces them to help the ramshackle defense force out with the siege.
Dollarhyde and the Apache's lead the ground assault, while Jake, and the alien girl, named Ella, sneak into the ship and free the captives.
And it's towards the end of this battle where things started getting real dumb. Ella takes Jake's wrist-gun to blow up the reactor core, instead of just taking one of the ones from the many, many dead aliens with the same kind of guns. And this leaves Jake defenseless aside from his useless human guns.
And then everyone acts like Ella's dead, despite the fact that she completely reconstructed her body earlier in the film.
Because his love interest is dead, Jake decides to leave Dollarhyde's town.
Dollarhyde offers Jake a job, but Jake turns it down and leaves.
And I could not understand why he did this. Why would you leave when you could have a decent job and a decent life in the town? And maybe they could have shown Ella coming back to life (again)and Jake could have settled down, and the ending might have had some kind of impact aside from pretty much everyone having resumed the state they were in at the beginning of the film.
All in all, I think something must have gone wrong in production. The issue being that the whole thing could have been improved with a few small changes to the script, and it would have become a much better movie.
And as it is, it also seems like a movie that's had a few scenes chopped out and re-written to be a lot shorter.
Maybe being about a half-an-hour longer could have improved upon the plot, but that's no guarantee to that effect.
Honestly, I still think it's worth watching. Rent it or borrow it from the library. There are certainly worse ways to spend two hours. There are also better ways, but I think this is still a decent film, despite the issues.
It certainly deserves a sequel that improves upon everything in this film, and more. But I don't think it will get one.
In the end, I'll give it a 7.2* rating.
Funnily enough, I had a book I was planning to review this week, but my packed schedule, combined with some issues with my Nook, prevented me from finishing it in time. As such, I had to hurriedly re-write an article from last year that I forgot to publish, namely this one.
So, hopefully I will see you guys next week with my review of that book!