So, I’d been looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens since I saw the first trailers months ago. I was excited for a number of reasons, primarily:
3. Harrison Ford
When I went to see the movie last Tuesday, I felt like I was determined to not be disappointed. Every time disappointment threatened it was like a voice in my head would pipe up “but there’s cowboys AND aliens” to repel disappointment. There’s no doubt that this is the ultimate high concept film. And although overall I still didn’t mind the film, looking back now I’m starting to wonder whether cowboys and aliens was all that Cowboys & Aliens had to offer.
The story itself was just that little bit too predictable. The characters were a little shallow and their personal journeys within the film were pretty easy to plot out. Few of the characters showed any development by the end, and those that did seemed to develop as a spontaneous phenomenon rather than in response to the conflict they’d faced. What’s more, despite my excitement for Harrison Ford he failed to wow me. I spent the whole film thinking “Harrison Ford got really old and has made enough money that he no longer has to put effort into his acting”. Massive disappointment for this fan.
I could forgive the predictability of the story if the film had been a little cleverer in terms of structure. The first hour of the film is structurally your standard western. Replace the word “aliens” with “Indians” in the story outline and the film could easily have been The Searchers, the film that convinced this cinephile to love westerns in the first place. But the latter half of the film dragged, with action sequences clearly intended to draw in the lowest common denominator clouding what could have been an interesting modern interpretation of the western.
Though I loved picking up on the references to Alien and Star Wars (amongst many others), I feel the use of such intertextuality was a bit heavy handed, paying homage to such films without really adding much to the subtext of the film.
Maybe this blog is a bit harsher than I intended it, but it seems as though Cowboys & Aliens is one of those movies that disappoints me a lot more when I think about it in retrospect than it did at the time.