Jon Favreau coming off of Iron Man, produced by Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, a story by the showrunners for The Expanse, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, Star Trek producers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach and Keith Carradine how could Cowboys & Aliens not be a hit?
Somehow it never sparked with the movie-going audience, and it may have been partly to do with the advertising campaign that definitely played up all of the things listed above, and its science fiction bent, as well as the fact that it was adapted from a comic series. It was forgotten by the box office, but everyone associated with it was able to go on and do other things.
So you know what? I wanted to check it out and see if it deserved the thrashing it received upon its release.
I think the thing that bothered most viewers was that all of the ads and posters played up the alien idea, and big special effects, when the film is, in effect, a western that has aliens in it.
Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up in the wild, he can’t remember where he’s been, and there’s a strange device on his arm. Finding his way into the nearby town of Absolution, where he quickly learns that Dolarhyde (Ford) is in charge, and his son, Percy (Dano), terrorizes the locals including the barkeep, Doc (Rockwell), the preacher, Meacham (Brown) and the sheriff, Taggart (Carradine).
He’s approached by a strange woman, Ella (Wilde) who tells him that she can help him find out what happened to him, and the woman he loves. Unfortunately, things escalate quickly between Jake, Dolarhyde and the denizens of Absolution. As things are about to hit a climax, they find themselves in the middle of a round-up, except it’s the humans who are being gathered up, by strange flying crafts, and monstrous aliens.
Setting aside their differences, it’s posse time, and the town, local thieves, and the nearby tribes have to unite to reclaim their friends, family and loved ones from their captors. And if Jake is lucky, to find out what they have come to Earth for.
It’s a familiar western tale, but with UFOs, aliens, lasers and massive explosions. In fact, knowing how things work in the story, even if I hadn’t seen it in over ten years, I was able to enjoy it a little more.
Favreau is obviously attempting to pay homage to western tropes and stories while giving it a modern twist by introducing close encounters to it. Westerns as a genre seem to come and go, and it takes a unique film to break in and hold the attention of modern audiences. Everyone took a gamble, and it just didn’t pay off this time.
But I’ll be honest, I like it a lot more this time than I did when I saw it in the theatre. Maybe give this one another chance.