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295 out of 429 people found the following review useful:

What happens when you overvalue a movie concept and undervalue the story

Author: Movie_Muse_Reviews from IL, USA
30 July 2011

The answer to the obvious question hovering around Jon Favreau's latest action blockbuster is yes, "Cowboys & Aliens" is as ridiculous as the title sounds. Yet blame doesn't quite belong on Favreau's shoulders or that of star Daniel Craig or the rest of the cast; rather, the failure of this alien-infested Western results from the domino effect of the countless studios and producers who put their faith (and money) in a concept rather than a story.

To be fair, I know nothing of the Platinum Studios comic by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, but it couldn't have been all that good if all the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood couldn't whip together a plot worth a damn. The duos behind "Iron Man" and "Star Trek" along with "Lost" writer Damon Lindelof all took cracks at the screenplay and an earlier treatment from another pair of "it" writers who wrote next month's "Conan the Barbarian" was discarded. Frankly, criticism of "Cowboys & Aliens" all stems from a story with lackluster characters equipped with cliché motivations. Despite some cool aliens, the action doesn't offer anything unique enough to counter that we've no reason to care.

Craig stars as Jake Lonergan, a stoic outlaw in Arizona sometime in the late 19th Century who wakes up with no memory and some metal device on his wrist. When he arrives in the town of Absolution, the sheriff discovers he's wanted and attempts to ship him off for a reward. That's when the aliens attack, bombing the town and roping up locals before flying off into the night. Lonergan's bracelet activates as a weapon and suddenly he's the only one capable of defeating these things. He joins a rescue party led by a grumpy Civil War vet named Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and they all set off to find out what happened to their loved ones.

The script introduces characters willy-nilly and provides little satisfactory explanation for anything that happens. The story paints Lonergan as a quiet badass, but one who has flashes of some woman he loved. Because his past slowly unravels with nothing revelatory to show for it as the film wears on, it's tough to care much or even see him as capable of romantic feelings. Regardless, a woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) keeps approaching him with questions he doesn't have the answers to and she evolves into a love interest for nothing but the sake of it. Sam Rockwell has little to no bearing on the film other than serving an example of an otherwise peaceful man who will do whatever it takes to get his wife back. He's a waste in the role. As for Ford, he just gets on screen and acts grumpy and impatient. We've seen everyone on board do so much better. Did these folks not read the script? Probably not considering the number of drafts alone.

Worst of all, the script thinks we will care; after all, this is "Cowboys & Frickin' Aliens!" In the final sequence, suddenly all these supporting characters have little moments together out of seemingly thin air. What are supposed to be moments in the story tying up relationship subplots between characters end up as reminders that these relationships and subplots even existed in the first place. Consequently, the film's pivotal moments result not in hearts beating, but eyes rolling.

In fairness, Favreau shows his adeptness from an action perspective once again in this film. The movie looks good if nothing else with strong visual effects and a strong concept team behind the aliens and related technology. The genre experiment generally works from a tonal perspective, an obstacle that certainly stood in Favreau's path. The film feels like a Western and one in which aliens could feasibly exist, so no problems due to identity crisis.

Yet the film never provides a single reason to justify why it had to be a story about cowboys and aliens. In that sense, the movie results in nothing more than several studios and producers thinking we'd simply be interested in a fusion of a shoot-em-up Western with an alien invasion. All involved failed to ask the one critical question when making a film based on a concept: "is there a good story here?" No, there's not. Despite every ounce of you wanting to find a reason to care about what happens, none arrives. As such, "Cowboys & Aliens" offers watchable but lifeless entertainment.

~Steven C

Visit my site at http://moviemusereviews.com

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113 out of 178 people found the following review useful:

Oater this world or oater space, a choice of very poor puns for a GOOD movie.

8/10
Author: janus-20 from United Kingdom
20 August 2011

Wow i enjoyed this, partially due to the negative reviews here on IMDb (thanks guys) and in part due to Harrison Ford clearly having more fun with a character than he has in a long time.

Its not a perfect film and there are questions that could be asked of some of the plot points, but the questions, such as they are, would require irrelevant exposition, which would only serve to hobble the pace of what is essentially a "Men (and Woman) on a mission" movie.

What really stands out for me were the scenes at the beginning of the film, Jon Favreau introduces the characters, locations and situations in such a manner that when the real threat manifests itself, despite the films title, it catches you as off guard as the characters are.

The cast are all great, some nice character work from Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine. Daniel Craig brings the stoic, no nonsense aspects of his Bond to Jake and as i said earlier Harrison Ford obviously relishes the role of Dolarhyde.

It reminds me of the films i used to enjoy about twenty years ago, that had lively pace, but were'nt frantic. The effects are special, but not overblown or overwhelming to the point where they become the focus thereby obviating any interest in the characters stories.

I don't want to talk about the story too much and spoil it, i'd just urge you to go and watch it, because this movie is an honest attempt to try something a little different. Its not Superheroes, its not a TV show, its not a line of toys and its not cute animated whatevers. Its an unlikely, but successful fusion of two genres to produce a film with humour, drama, action and a refreshing amount of practical effects work. Give it a chance, i really was surprised how much i enjoyed it.

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136 out of 237 people found the following review useful:

Huge Disappointment!

2/10
Author: Mr_Kltpzyxm from India
29 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Did someone put a gun to Jon Favreau's head and ask him to make this boring 'western'??

Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, one of the most fun directors around today, and a title containing both Cowboys and Aliens - this was definitely the most awaited summer movie for me!! And yet, somehow, the 'Curse of The Modern Day Spielberg' managed to defy all expectations and deliver a total damp squib. The story's weak (why capture the humans? why come to earth of all planets to mine for gold? how can one stolen gun destroy an entire operation?), the treatment confused (the whole Olivia Wilde arc), the actors under-utilized (somebody please stop the brutal destruction of everything that Harrison Ford has come to mean to moviegoers), and the action and thrills extremely underwhelming.

Please do not go to see this movie. More than the time that you'll never get back, it'll spoil James Bond, Indy, Cowboys, Westerns and Movie Aliens for you forever.

To think that I missed work to catch the first, early morning opening show. So disappointed.

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61 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

Looks good, superb cast but painfully predictable.

Author: amesmonde from Novelist of The Final Version
13 August 2011

Its 1873; New Mexico Territory; an  Outlaw and a Cattle Rancher must put aside their differences to stop Alien invaders hellbent on experimenting on humans and stripping the land of its gold.

There's something kooky about the title Cowboys and Aliens, B-movie-ish, yet, exciting, enticing and genius. However, even with the star talents including Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, with the striking Olivia Wilde and excellent Sam Rockwell Cowboys and Aliens still falls short of expectations. The script is bland, every effort has gone into developing the two main leads but at a cost of the rest of the characters, the basic story and plot.  

The special and practical effects are well integrated and executed but while fantastic they are nothing that hasn't been seen before, reminiscent of District 9, Independence Day to name a few. Considering director's Jon Favreau fun and exciting Iron-man outings this offering is less satisfying. It's not the mishmash of classic genres that's the problem, it's the lazy, predicable story telling. 

The films opening is strong and intriguing, building up to the tension of Ford's character Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde meeting with Craig's Jake; its Jones meets Bond, perfect. Both are excellent giving weight to the proceedings. Horses are flipped, guns and gauntlets go wild, aliens leap and stomp on cowboys. But after the first few alien attacks the film wavers onto familiar territory. Although it has a fabulous cast beneath its hat and sweeping, breathtaking Western landscapes under it's belt - it buckles under it's own weight. 

Even with its somewhat serious tone it's not brave enough to explore or commit to its own themes leaving it underdeveloped. But it also omits much needed fun leaving the whole film unseasoned and as empty as the plains of Arizona. Debatably, flop Wild Wild West (1999) infused the sci-fi and Western genre more successfully. 

Cowboys and Aliens is entertaining, it looks good, has a superb cast but it's painfully predictable and just not that great.

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39 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Cowboys, Indians and Aliens

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
19 February 2012

In the Old West, an amnesic stranger awakes in the middle of the desert wounded in the belly with a bracelet in one of his wrists. He is attacked by thieves but defeats them. He rides a horse of one outlaw and heads to a former mining town, where the local preacher treats him.

Then he sees the youth Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), who is the son of the powerful farmer Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), bullying with the bar owner Doc (Sam Rockwell) and the other locals. When Percy provokes the stranger, he reacts and beats up on Percy. The local Sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) arrests Percy and he finds that the stranger is the wanted Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig). The sheriff returns to the bar with his deputies to arrest Jake, but he subdues the men. However he is hit on his back by the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) and he faints. Jake is arrested and when Sheriff Taggart is ready to take Jake and Percy in a coach to deliver them to a Federal Marshall, Woodrow arrives with his men ready to protect his son. But they are attacked by spacecrafts that abducts several dwellers, including Percy, Doc's wife and the sheriff. Woodrow organizes a posse to seek out the kidnapped people in a dangerous journey against an advanced race of aliens. Meanwhile Jake Lonergan has glimpses of his past life and they learn that someone among them may help them in the fight against the invaders.

"Cowboys & Aliens" is a very entertaining film with a battle between cowboys and Indians against alien invaders. The result is a funny adventure that blends western with sci-fi. Unfortunately Harrison Ford is histrionic and cliché in the role of the ambiguous Colonel. Daniel Craig is great, as usual and Olivia Wilde is very beautiful and charming. I had low expectations with "Cowboys & Aliens" and in the end I had lots of fun. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Cowboys & Aliens"

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66 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

A tedious experience

5/10
Author: Argemaluco from Argentina
27 August 2011

Some months ago, I read the graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens...and it honestly bored me to tears. Leaving the innovative concept described on the title aside, the story only offers hollow characters, sci-fi clichés badly combined with western clichés, and an excessively light tone which does not make any justice to the potential from that combination of genres. Paradoxically, that disappointment improved my expectations for the film Cowboys & Aliens. After all, Hollywood tends to change the novels it adapts pretty much, and I thought that some "expert" screenwriters would fix the many fails from the story. And even though Cowboys & Aliens improved a few elements from the book, it also preserved the characters without any substance, the arbitrary narrative and the inconsistent behavior from the aliens.

The idea of brave cowboys facing an alien invasion is interesting, but I think it works better as a concept than as an execution. The crash between advanced extraterrestrial technology and primitive weapons from 19th century would lead to an unilateral massacre which would make the film to conclude in its first 10 minutes; so, it is necessary to find the way to give the advantage to the cowboys so that the battle is more credible and there is suspense about who the winner will be. Unfortunately, co-screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby did not find a logical way to solve the problem, and as a consequence, they employ many traps, excessive inconsistencies and absolutely ridiculous notions in order to give the cowboys the opportunity to defend themselves from the invaders. Without deepening too much in order not to get into the spoilers field, I will mention that, despite their technology and destructive potential, the favorite method of combat from the aliens is...body-to-body fights. And besides, their vulnerability changes according to the screenplay's convenience; when the presence of suspense is necessary, the aliens are practically indestructible; but whenever the movie decides to introduce a "cool" scene, it is easy to kill them with just one shot, an Indian spear, or a small knife.

And because of that, the movie constantly "pulled me out" with its coincidences and forced narrative short-cuts. On the positive side, the special effects created by Industrial Light & Magic are competent. As for the human element, Harrison Ford brings an adequate performance, while on the other side of the coin, Daniel Craig feels bland and antipathetic as the anti-hero. By the way, I am going to propose an hypothesis; Sam Rockwell and Clancy Brown interpret two supporting roles in this film, but they are too short and inconsequential; however, I think Cowboys & Aliens would have been a better movie with that duet in the leading roles; Rockwell is one of the best contemporary actors, and he has more cowboy "looks" than Craig; besides, his less athletic physique would make the challenges the character faces more interesting. As for Brown, he would have been absolutely perfect as the cacique from the village. Sure, none of them would have attracted as much spectators as Craig and Ford, but anyway...I am sure this movie would have been better if that fantasy was true.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend Cowboys & Aliens, because I found it insipid, irritating, and the worst thing of all, boring. Instead of wasting your time with this film, I recommend you three very entertaining "western/fantasy" hybrids: The Burrowers (cowboys against subway humanoids -which also includes Brown in the cast!-), Dead Birds (cowboys against ghosts) and Tremors (modern cowboys against crawling "graboids"). Cowboys & Aliens might surpass them in budget, but it is not even remotely to their levels of ingenuity and amusement.

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128 out of 234 people found the following review useful:

Don't Waste your Time and Money on this movie

2/10
Author: jjm83-120-278803 from Tucson, Az.
30 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I went in with little expectations on this one. I expected Cowboys & Aliens and thats all I got. What more could I ask for right? I could ask for story and a point this story, which this so called movie didn't deliver. I wasn't disappointed with the cowboys, but the aliens were just ridiculous with little intelligence. The movie never explained why they were on Earth or what the reason for aliens wanting gold was about.There was no reason for this movie to be made other than to take my money and dupe people like me who want something new and different than the conventional western or sci-fi movie. This movie was just two hours of people riding around on horses. Loved the cast but i hope they got paid well for being in a less than worthy movie.

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51 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

Big dumb mess

1/10
Author: Andariel Halo (phenomynouss@hotmail.com) from Here
2 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With a hokey name like "Cowboys and Aliens", you're really not supposed to expect much more than Cowboys and Aliens, fighting.

And very little of the movie even deals with that.

Being PG-13, it couldn't go all-out in a faithful depiction of the Old West, but it seems they only really pushed it so as to show off Olivia Wilde's buttcrack and a quick shot of a a guy with a big hole shot through the chest with an alien weapon, as everything else is virtually squeaky-clean, not a hint of racism or sexism, grit or grime, and an utterly blasè attitude from everyone but Sam Rockwell as the bartender "Doc".

As the review in my local newspaper said, very little is devoted to "why" with regards to the alien, and far too much "why" with regards to Daniel Craig's Jake Lonergan, played so stony and cold you don't give a damn about any of his problems.

The characters are horribly one-dimensional and predictable, and there were so many instances in the film where not only me, but a large group of people, burst out laughing. And not when the movie was being funny.

Not going to spoil it, but the big "revelation" moment with Olivia Wilde's character caused some very loud and noticeable derisive laughter from many of us in the theater, and the moment with the alien that Jake had first met having a final standoff with him at the end was so hackneyed, it provoked chitters and groans.

For a movie that felt so long and, by concept, seemed to be aiming for something big, it sure felt small, like a Syfy original movie with some big-name actors in it.

But the absolute biggest plothole involves the aliens interacting with the people. Not only is it never explained WHY the aliens are randomly abducting people, but as it turns out, their ultimate reason for coming to Earth, and their goal, not only has little to nothing to do with humans, but considering their technology, they could EASILY achieve without EVER interacting with the humans at all! Considering how a clichè'd Hollywood flick like this ends with the good guys winning, these aliens could've saved themselves a lot of trouble by not looking to pick a fight with the natives for no reason. But then we wouldn't have this big dumb mess we call a movie.

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103 out of 188 people found the following review useful:

Laserblast Revisited

1/10
Author: cultfilmfreak from Wang, Utah
30 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the beginning, there's a cowboy movie. A man from nowhere, Daniel Craig, wakes up with a device on his wrist – then he's surrounded by three rough necks – followed by a quick, neat fight straight out of the opening scene of SILVERADO. He wanders into a small town, where a few more characters are set-up, and it feels like the kind of Western we love to watch, perhaps even something by Sergio Leone – that's the attempt, anyway. We meet the town brat, overplayed by Paul Dano, whose father, Harrison Ford, is a cattle baron with lots of money. All these and more folks are introduced, so many it's hard to keep track.

Then the aliens, in speedy vessels with lasers, and even lassos, attack: computer animation meets the scant Western setting. When a posse is formed, and the cowboys venture to kill the formidable foes, the pace flags. But it's when Craig's gorgeous love interest, supposedly the town whore, becomes "enlightened" by Indians and knows everything about the aliens... spouting exposition like directions on a new stove... that the film sinks beneath the surface of banality, completely losing its rough and tumble origins to a science-fiction melodrama.

Daniel Craig, attempting the iconic Clint Eastwood Man With No Name, is so tiny he's lost in his big hat. He juts his lips and hisses each line, and while this seems to work for James Bond, his performance as a mysterious stranger doesn't hold water. Harrison Ford, with a gruff, world-weary voice and a bitter hatred for mankind, seems to be doing a performance or imitation. The aliens, free from their ships and computer animated to the hilt, are too quick and dangerous to be worthy foes – thus Craig's wristband gun comes to play, making the other riders (and way too many of them) useless.

The only involving performance is by Clancy Brown as a wise, tough preacher, but alas, he makes but a quarter of the trip: one that starts with a quick bang and ends with a very long whimper. So here's one "spoiler" to sum things up – the girl eventually turns into a hummingbird, an image more stupid than the convoluted back story of our hero and the aliens, which is still completely unclear.

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185 out of 354 people found the following review useful:

Bad Ass Action Movie

9/10
Author: Chris Jaramillo from United States
27 July 2011

Now this is a summer movie with a unique premise that's not only out there, but works so well that it makes me say "That was BAD ASS." Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the next heavyweight action film of the summer: Cowboys & Aliens.

Okay let's get the obvious out of the way: YES, cowboys and aliens in the same movie sounds like an absurd premise that would only exist in the mind of adolescent boy. And yet, this child-like premise is immediately forgotten when you watch surprisingly deep characters struggle through a dangerous situation with overwhelming odds against them. And this film can get DARK in both terms of the fights happening on screen as well as the gravity of the situation. Instead of some silly-mindless action, you get a film that will make you grow a beard sitting through its 2-hour run time (which flies by fast). And don't worry ladies, you get plenty of eye candy too.

The film stars Daniel Craig (flawlessly using his American accent) as Jake Lonergan, a cowboy stranded in the middle of the Wild West with only a strangle bracelet on his wrist and no recollection of who he is or how he got there. After a series of dodging mishaps in the nearby town of Absolution, he is corned by Elle (played by Olivia Wilde) and hard-as-nails rancher Han Solo, I mean Colonel Dolarhyde (played by Harrison Ford). An alien invasion then commences and lays waste to Absolution while abducting several of its citizens. Lonergan must then join forces with Dolarhyde and the strange woman to stop the alien threat and discover who he really is.

The first twenty minutes of the film play like any Westerner you've seen: Craig plays the gruff loner invoking the spirit of Eastwood, Harrison Ford plays the gruff boss-man of a bunch of thugs, and the usual Western archetypes are present throughout the cast. It's when the alien invasion begins that these archetypes are immediately thrown out the window and you find surprisingly deep characters. Lonergan is a wanted man with a brutal past but the allure of a lost love drives him to learn more about her fate. Harrison Ford is playing the best we've seen him in years (yes even better than Indiana Jones) as a former colonel who has seen the horrors of war and he uses his gruff demeanor to inspire confidence in lesser men. Both Craig and Ford bring their A game to this film as they pull of convincingly deep cowboys.

The rest of the cast turns in solid performances. The gorgeous Olivia Wilde plays a mysterious woman who knows more than she's telling, but you can't resist caring about her. Sam Worthington plays a meek bar tender out to find his abducted wife and Noah Ringer plays a scared boy searching for his grandfather. And yes, these two minor side characters develop their arcs as boys become men. Everyone else does a great job in this setting as well. Okay, so now I've praised the story and the deep characters, but is the action any good?

Oh. Hell. Yes. The fist fights between humans are brutal and visceral. Horseback chase scenes are made more awesome with alien ships hunting the heroes down. And the aliens? Looking damn fine. The computer generated images aren't glaringly obvious here with the aliens looking bulky, hideous, and monstrous. They are the perfect band of bad guys. And unlike other alien invasion films, you get to see humans get into vicious fights with the extraterrestrials. Limbs are blown off, Guns blow holes into alien bodies. Aliens eat humans right in front of their comrades. All of it is exceptionally well-done and reminds you that this is most definitely NOT a kids movie (PG-13 rating be damned).

The best part? The fights mean something. You care what happens to Lonerman, Dolarhyde, Elle, Doc, and Emmett. When characters die, the persons close to them EMOTE. The characters who die are characters YOU grow attached to. You WANT their deaths avenged. You are made known in none-uncertain-terms that the situation is dire. And that's what elevates Cowboys & Aliens from a merely good film to a GREAT film.

Unique action movies are hard to come by and big budget films with great characters are harder still to find. Cowboys & Aliens finds a way to merge the Western and Alien Invasion genres into something fun, entertaining, and meaningful. Characters don't get any deeper and action doesn't get any harder than you'll find here. A fantastic summer movie that I highly recommend everyone to check out in theaters.

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