Cowboys & Aliens

Iron Man director tries to resurrect ill fated sci-fi western genre. Talented team and big budget should help.


Director: John Favreau | Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde

Budget: 163 million | Box office: 165 million

IMDB: 6.5 | Metacritic: 50

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in western sci-fi

Mixing sci-fi with western, at least in recent decade or so, was very gloomy business. As in few other niche genre cases, there is a previous movie to blame. Although it’s not considered sci-fi, the infamous Wild Wild West did a great job in ruining the possibilities of experimenting with westerns. And despite the huge admiration of fans, Joss Wheddon TV series Firefly was canned after one season, with big screen finale Serenity not covering the budget.

So Dreamworks and Universal had to be really cautious when developing Cowboys & Aliens. Although idea was floating since back in 1997, only after a success of graphic novel in 2006 the talks about movie adaptation were resumed and John Favreau, through Robert Downey Jr was involved, although the actor had to give up the role for Daniel Craig.

Probably knowing of the risks involved, the companies put the top team for the movie. Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and few other heavyweights for producing, with original idea creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg involved. And famous writers duo Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Transformers) helming the screenplay.

Talking about the team in front of camera, I was really pleasantly surprised by Harrison Ford. The role of angry and powerful cattleman Dolarhyde fits him perfectly. I would definitely watch this movie sequel with him than another Indiana Jones. Daniel Craig does the job rightly too, although this probably depends if you like the actor and his debated James Bond roles. I’m on the favor side and really like the guy, so watching him here fighting men and aliens was quite fun.

The aliens of course was the major attraction of the movie. Coming from Iron Man creator, I didn’t doubt the mechanical machine parts will be impressive, so no surprise here. The episodes with the flying drones are really dynamic and intense, looking very nicely in the vast western background. I was surprised with the organic aliens though. The quality of CG work is perfect, the movement and texture of aliens really believable. And you almost could feel the sticky touch of those inner hands. Another impeccable work of wizards from Industrial Light & Magic.

There were some annoyances for me, most notably Olivia Wilde character. Haven’t red the novel so I’m not sure if everything was supposed to be like that, but her plotline was very cliché. And they could have explained more about aliens background and their purpose on Earth. Well, maybe in the sequel.

Which I’m sure will be made. The second part of graphic novel, Cowboys & Aliens: Worlds at War, was published only online, but if the film is successful enough I think they can fast forward a printed edition and the sequel, which would involve not just American western part, but the whole world. That would be interesting, wouldn‘t it? The problem is that until now the movie didn‘t make enough money. After five weeks in the States it does not have much more hope, but maybe more international releases in bigger countries such as Japan and Russia will considerably help. The idea is too good to be dropped.

As for other western sci-fi movies, at least there is hope of a good reboot of classic Westworld, which is one of my favorite ones from that period.

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