As a fan of nerdy action flicks and crossovers, I was ecstatic when I found out Cowboys & Aliens was being adapted into a film. It’s a fairly straightforward movie; if you’ve seen the trailer, you know the plot. There are cowboys. There are aliens. They fight. That sounds simply fascinating on it’s own, but surprisingly, I found myself quite underwhelmed while watching two hours of the alien-sprinkled western. After mulling it over, I realized the problem was that the filmmakers didn’t take enough creative liberties, which sounds ridiculous given the premise. Unfortunately, the title “Cowboys & Aliens” is leagues cooler than the actually film.
Cowboys & Aliens, which was directed by Job Favreau, stars Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan, a man who initially awakens with a technologically advanced metal bracelet around his wrist and no memory except for English. Craig is incredibly stoic in his role, showing next to no emotion. Ultimately, this makes his character incredibly boring by the end, a warm body to fill the role of the protagonist.
The film also stars Olivia Wilde as Ella Swenson and Harrison Ford as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, and both make a respectable effort, but the rest of the characters are western stereotypes that offer no surprises as the story progresses.
However, what’s most disappointing is not the stereotypical characters, but how the source material was disregarded. Cowboys & Aliens is an adaptation of the 2006 graphic novel, but the only thing the two have in common aside from there being both aliens and cowboys is the name. The graphic novel included awesome alien technology like X-Ray goggles, energy whips and explosives other than dynamite. The graphic novel even had flying horses because a blacksmith used scraps from a flying alien ship to make anti-gravity horseshoes. The filmmakers decided to forgo all of that in favor of knives, spears, and old-fashioned guns – a decision I cannot fathom.
Favreau, the writers, and the producers could have taken creative liberties to the point of indulgence. In fact, the film would have been better if they had. A film with the title Cowboys & Aliens needs to live up to its name, and a semi-cheesy crossover film that had truly embraced the clash of two worlds would have been awesome, but the film has so much by-the-book self-restraint, it confines itself to mediocrity.
Personally, I was underwhelmed and disappointed by the film, but ultimately not bored. If you just want to see cowboys and aliens fighting, then Cowboys & Aliens is worth seeing.