Archive for Adam Beach

“Cowboys & Aliens” As Simple As It Sounds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by flicksmix

Cowboys & Aliens. A genre mash-up nod to the good old fashioned Western and the futuristic Science Fiction.  Unfortunately the film is about as exciting as its title.  It’s neither catchy nor clever, but it is straightforward and simple. Cowboys & Aliens is okay.

THE GOOD STUFF

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, and the ever-incredible Clancy Brown all stood out in their respective roles as Doc, Nat Colorado, and Meacham.  The film is full of flat characters, but these three have some life to them.

Doc doesn’t have the stoicism the other male characters do, making him much easier to identify with. He also gets props and sympathy early on for being the only one to defend himself against the town brat, and paying for it in humiliation.  Of all the characters in this film, Doc is the only one I cared enough about to root for.  His few seconds on camera immediately after the final fight were superb.

Nat is just a good guy. He’s been working hard for and honoring Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) his entire life, with no real gratitude or recognition. When that acknowledgment from Dolarhyde finally came, it mattered to me and I was glad for Nat.

Meacham was simply the most interesting character here.  Maybe I haven’t seen enough Westerns, but a man of the cloth preaching reason more often than religion, stitching wounds, and teaching a man how to fire a gun, was unexpected and fun.  Clancy Brown had all the best lines in the film and delivered them excellently.

MUSIC

It’s not my favorite; I’m not going to go out and buy the soundtrack or anything. It just suits the film well.  There’s cowboy music for the cowboys, alien music for the aliens, and a good mix of the two that I enjoyed during the final fight between the two.  The best part was that throughout the film none of it was too obtrusive.  I had to remind myself to listen to it rather than just take it in as part of the experience.  I appreciate that.

LANDSCAPE

I’ve never been one of those people who find the desert beautiful.  It’s dry, it’s mostly flat, it’s hot, and the colors are bland.  Nevertheless, they captured it well with all its subtleties and nuances.  One of the most memorable desert images comes near the beginning of the second act, as the hero Jake (Daniel Craig) rides along in a gorgeous sunrise.

ALIENS

I haven’t read the comic, but I expect credit for the alien design belongs there.  Either way, these creatures are very real and scary looking.  I wouldn’t want to meet one.  The look of alien species has always been a major factor in whether or not I like a Sci-Fi flick, and these don’t disappoint. They’re gross and slimy and huge and creepy and just humanoid enough to be fightable.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF

LEAD CHARACTERS

In a word, flat.  I understand that making a Western requires some tough, stoic, hard-faced characters, but there needs to be something beyond that to get an audience to engage with them.  By the time any of the leads show any emotion or heart, it’s too late – our opportunity to identify is long past.  Not that it matters much, since none of the leads really show any emotion at all.  Subtlety is one thing, but these characters aren’t subtle, they’re distant.

TOO MANY HANDS

Take a moment to look at the number of writers and producers involved in this flick. Too many.  This film feels like the poster child for what happens when you have so many minds working on one project: the life gets written and produced right out of it.

Those are really the only major gripes I have.  I am inclined to say too much simplicity was a problem as well, but I think that’s primarily because of the lack of interesting main characters and the dead feel of the film in general.  Anything else that sagged was a derivative of those core issues.  Outside of that I’d actually say the simplicity of the title, settings, action, characters, etc. suits the Western genre well – simpler feel for what we consider simpler times (sans aliens).

VERDICT: LIVE WITH IT

If this review is feeling a little lifeless to you, you’re not alone.  You may get the same feeling when you watch it.  If you’re looking for great cinema, don’t look here.  If you just want to see what happens when cowboys, outlaws, and Native Americans go up against aliens, this’ll do.

FAVORITE LINE:

“Don’t yank on it, it ain’t your pecker.” Meacham, when teaching Doc how to shoot.

FAVORITE IMAGE:

In the middle of the desert in the pouring rain, outside a small town full of shattered and withered dreams, is an upside down and broken white paddle-wheel boat bearing the name “Amazing Grace.”

Directed by Jon Favreau, written and produced by too many people to name.

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