Year: 2011
Director: John Favreau
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof,
Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Steve Oedekerk
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Color, 118 mins

Synopsis: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way. (Source)

Come to think of it, there are two main draws for me to watch westerns, or any movie for that matter. They need to have either strong/interesting characters that are part of a larger, greater purpose-driven story, or at least lots of adventure and imagination (these are the basics, yeah?). I’m sorry to say that despite some brilliant casting and some interesting plot points, this movie doesn’t really have either. The star power is enough for a while, but it eventually starts to wear, and the movie ends up being a disappointing, generic two-genre mix that is neither original or fun enough to stand on its own.

The movie begins with Daniel Craig, a mystery man who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a strange metallic bracelet, who can’t remember who he is or why he’s there. Because he is played by Daniel Craig, he’s inherently stoic and not afraid to get dirty, especially when it comes to dispatching the first threatening strangers that come his way. This would have been fine and dandy, but what it ends up being is a trite setup to a generic plot that never tries to break out of that mold. Not that everything has to be solely original, but the movie really does go on for way too long, with only boring, predictable answers given that don’t add any real depth to anyone’s characters. Being an almost-silent BAMF protagonist only works if you’re put in an interesting situation, and Craig’s character never has anywhere to go. Like most of the characters in the movie, he mostly sits around and waits for things to happen. Did I mention there’s almost no tension here? It’s true, there isn’t.

But wait, there are aliens in this thing, right? It almost seems as if they figured adding aliens would automatically make the movie that much better, but forgot to give them a legit reason to occupy the story in the way that they do. The aliens come into play at about the second act, but never have a really good reason to be there. Their motivation for invasion is so poor that it’s almost laughable, and after thinking about it a lot more, they don’t even have a good reason for wanting to destroy the human race in the first place! They could have easily carried out their objectives and left, since what they want isn’t even a necessity for human survival (am I crazy for thinking this?)! God forbid if all the world’s (spoiler) was taken away, you’d think we’d be able to band together and find an alternative. The creature/tech designs are pretty forgettable too. When the creatures are out in bright daylight, for example, I couldn’t even tell you much about their basic shape or form (probably due to their lackluster design). One last thing, why give the creatures such a stupid flaw, when it only comes into play in about two non-pivotal scenes?

The near saving-grace of the movie is the cast. I’m not going to lie, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are great and just seeing them together holds the movie in place for a while, but about halfway through you realize that you’ve seen all of this done better and that their talents are being completely wasted. They also spend the first thirty minutes talking up Ford’s character as this scary guy, and when he finally shows up it doesn’t take too long for him to become the charming Ford everyone knows and loves. It’s never clearly fleshed out why he’s such a grumpy guy in the first place. Olivia Wilde just adds insult to injury. I have no problem with her as an actress, admittedly she’s really pretty with real charisma to back it up, but her character is almost meaningless. She plays a key part in the plot towards the end, but our one emotional attachment to her is a line of expositional dialogue, so you can tell that her character was just written as the obligatory hot chick that gets naked halfway through the movie (they jump the shark so many times with her, it’s not even funny). The character I really liked was Sam Rockwell’s Doc. He actually seems like he’s having fun with his role and has shades of a genuine story, but sadly his character also gets snuffed out in the third act when the cowboys/aliens battle has to ramp up.

Hey, I’m as sad as anyone that this didn’t work out and I hate writing bad reviews, especially when it’s from a movie made by people who are obviously talented, but it is what it is. In the end, great cinematography, costume design and even inspired casting can’t overcome the thin structure/character development, the sluggish pace and the badly mashed genres. It may have been entertaining from time to time, but when I got out of the theatre, I was pretty underwhelmed.

Crome Rating: 2.5/5