As a Firefly freak, I absolutely don’t have a problem with intelligent remixing of the western and science fiction idiom. The first thirty minutes of this one show no sighs of anything idiotic…then the aliens arrive, and the western takes a dive through the event horizon of a space-spitoon that even the deepest bench of veteran actors can’t escape.
“Fighting Terrorists Since 1492”, is a lovely throwaway bumpersticker rimshot I noticed in an early episode of Breaking Bad, a while back. It’s the property of an Indian (Navaho?) deputy sheriff, and it belongs in an honored place as the mission statement of Cowboys & Aliens, which it, of couse, isn’t.
Never mind the tactical imbecilities that dot the storyline. This movie eventually facilitates the unceremonial burial of old tomahawks as Chiricahuas, outlaws, townsfolk and the romantic leads join together into an improbable fighting force to defend Earth against an exploitative scouting party for extraterrestrial conquistadores. Jack Kirby told this story brilliantly, very long ago, without the, you know, western stereotypes. Loogey-honking. P’ding!
It’s entertaining, once, but Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine and Walton Goggins can’t stand up against the tower of pointless hooey, which is, in the final analysis, Cowboys & Aliens: A movie that needn’t have been quite this vapid, raggedly paced, pseudosuspenseful and politically insignificant as this one was. It coulda and shoulda shone a little insightful light on American history. And didn’t bother.
Any extenuating cirumstances that might mitigate the harshness of my evaluation of this attempt-at-a-film were unavailable (as were the commentary and all of the other Special Features) on the “rental disk” I got from NetFlix, because that’s how the studio executives in charge of schlock want to play. As if I’d pay-to-own a copy of a movie I didn’t particularly enjoy watching — because the commentary and behind-the-scenes content are its saving grace.
In all fairness, I was irate at the conclusion The Final Cut until I simmered down enough to catch its director’s commentary in the course of a reluctant second pass through the film, but I wouldn’t have bought the DVD based on the unexplained execution of the intent that only becomes explicit with commentary. The Final Cut has become one of my favorite films, because of the intent that drove its execution. My copy of The Final Cut DVD came very close to being destroyed. I’m saying that filmmaker intent can be the saving grace, unless the special features are made, as a matter of moronic studio policy, strictly unavailable. With regard to Cowboys & Aliens, who the fuck gives a shit?