“Cowboys & Aliens” gallops into theaters this weekend chased by an armada of gold seeking monsters from space. On the surface, all the ingredients are in place for an all-out wall-to-wall actioner for the books: the director of “Iron Man,” the stars of “James Bond” and “Indiana Jones,” and a seemingly impossible mash-up of genres. Nothing could possibly go wrong there, right?
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to juggle in “Cowboys,” and Jon Favreau’s task is not an enviable one — so how did he hold up under the pressure? Your mileage may vary, but for this movies writer, I walked away quite pleased with the wild, wild west’s suddenly slick space-born sheen.
Check out five reasons you should see “Cowboys” past the jump!
The Man With No Memory
No matter what role or movie he’s in, Daniel Craig is one of the most reliably watchable actors in the business. But he takes his badass quota up a few notches in playing Jake Lonergan, a man who wakes up in the desert with a wound on his side, without a memory in his head and a whole lot of questions. Don’t expect him to ask nicely, either: Jake’s just as likely to punch you in the groin as he is to shut you up with one look from that cool, icy gaze. Lonergan is one of the great Daniel Craig roles, and it’s a character I’d love to see explored further somewhere down the line.
Wilde And Crazy
I don’t expect anyone will argue that Olivia Wilde brings some much needed beauty to this otherwise testosterone-heavy affair, but she’s no damsel in distress, and her character comes with a healthy heaping of plot twists. There are at least two moments in the film where you’ll be genuinely surprised by her actions as Ella, though I’ll admit that not everyone will be along for the ride. But even if you don’t like the direction she goes in, well, I repeat: the sexiness. She brings it.
Ford Shoots First
In all honesty, I never fully bought into Harrison Ford’s grizzled war veteran Woodrow Dolarhyde as a bad guy turned good. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to watch Ford get back on the saddle, quite literally, burying bullets and makeshift spears into alien flesh. But what’s even more awesome is to watch the iconic Ford go toe-to-toe against the increasingly impressive Craig. It doesn’t quite measure up to the first Bond versus Indy match-up we’ve already seen on film (because, as we all know, Sean Connery wins everything always), but seeing Craig and Ford together on screen is definitely a treat.
“We have an incredibly well-filled out cast,” Wilde told us when we spoke with her at the “Cowboys” press junket in Montana this month, and she’s not kidding. Put the leading trio aside for a second and look at the supporting players: Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Walton Goggins, Paul Dano — a veritable who’s who of phenomenal character actors, each one of them given moments to shine, even if some of their arcs aren’t as fully fleshed out as I would have liked. Still, “Cowboys” boasts one of the most impressive ensembles of the entire summer blockbuster season, and their involvement is worth the price of admission alone.
Two Genres, One Flick
An alien invasion in the old west? Not exactly the most conventional idea out there. But somehow, it works. Major kudos to Jon Favreau and his crew for blending two seemingly mismatched genres together fairly seamlessly, delivering old west action set pieces the likes of which we’ve never seen before (because of, you know, the aliens!) while also treating both genres with the proper respect and care that each deserve. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was genuinely impressed by how well Favreau kicked off what could have been a fantastically traditional Western and turned it on its head to create something wholly different.
Though, seriously, forget the aliens next time: I want a straight-up Jake Lonergan Western. Favreau, Craig — get on that!
Have you seen “Cowboys & Aliens” yet? Tell us what you thought of the movie in the comments section and on Twitter!