Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

John Favreau is one of those directors in which I really don't care for most of his films, but I actually really like the guy. And by that, I mean that I know he's not a hack or a fraud. Ive seen plenty of interviews, his Dinner For Five show, and he genuinely seems like a lover of film and has that genuine non-forced nerd quality about him. But not in the annoying vein of Quentin Tarantino. Like a more relaxed Martin Scorsese (in terms of personality, NOT film making). Im not the biggest fan of Iron Man (in fact, I think it's actually pretty bland). Iron Man 2? It got scathed, but I dont think it's much worse than Iron Man. It's just kinda' more of the same. That doesn't go to say that I think either are terrible. I am just not a giant fan of his movies. Until Cowboys & Aliens.

To jump right in, I really enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens. What I love most is that it's a western with aliens. Not a sci-fi film with cowboys. It's almost the opposite of Star Wars. Think about the scene in which Obi-Wan, Luke and Han all meet for the first time. It's in a bar (which would translate to a saloon), and they're basically looking for a gun for hire with a horse and carriage. It's a western in a sci-fi setting. That's what I think makes this film work. It's the fact that they try to establish characters that actually interact with each other. Not just fodder for the aliens to fuck with. I actually kind of gave a shit about why this kid shouldnt be sent to jail, and the repercussions that would come. Obviously, it's not going to be character work that you're going to see in Once Upon A Time In The West or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but it's enough to actually CARE.

Ill continue with the top-billing name. Daniel Craig. Ive grown to really like him. He met all the requirements of a James Bond and he seems like a rather cool dude. The role was originally supposed to go to Robert Downey Jr. (no surprise there [everyone wants their Bobby DeNiro]), but for some reason, he didnt do it. And I dont mind because Daniel Craig did a good job portraying the Eastwood-esque badass. I have a feeling that Downey Jr. would have included more of his signature wit, which would not have been a totally bad thing. I just think the character called for a more take-no-shit kind of actor. And Craig definitely carried that out within the first 15 minutes. Punching dicks and bashing heads into steel? That works.

Now to the main reason I pledged myself to this movie... Harrison Ford. I remember when the movie was announced, I was like, "Yeah, I'll check it out.". Then Ford was casted and I went from "Sounds cool" to "IM IN". It was something that I always figured he has done, but never actually did. A western. I mean, look at Indiana Jones. I know that when I think about Indy, I see dirt, deserts, and all the ruggedness that comes with a western. Except now, he's actually IN one. PERFECT casting by Favreau. Harrison Ford fanboy-ism aside, was he phenomenal in Cowboys & Aliens? No. But he was pretty damn fucking cool. The one thing about his character that I was surprised with and enjoyed was he was a semi-heel to start with. He wasn't a terribly good man. And Ford needs that. He's always the hero, rarely ever the baddie. That isn't to say he stays like that, but for the little while he is, it's fun to see what he does with his character Dolarhyde.

The rest of the cast was pretty impressive as well. Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers!), and a brief appearance from STEPHEN. Who's Stephen? A wanted man from his island. Okay, maybe Im cross-referencing here. Stephen from Braveheart, David O'Hara. I love that guy. Braveheart, The Departed, this. Everything he's in, he's golden. But again, the cast was pretty damn good. Olivia Wilde was good too. Though, any problems with her character that I had werent really HER fault. More so the writing. Cant really talk about those problems due to it kinda' being a giant fucking spoiler. Though mentioning it being a spoiler might be a spoiler in of itself...

The aliens. Spoiler or not, I have to touch up on what half the fucking movie is about. This has been a fairly disappointing year in alien design. And for that statement to exist, there has to be a plethora of alien films. And this year there were plenty. Battle: LA, Paul, I Am Number Four, Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Now of all those releases, only 3 are straight-forward alien films. Battle: LA, Super 8 and now Cowboys & Aliens. And as I said, the creature designs have been "meh". Battle: LA's aliens were incomprehensible and Super 8's alien design was pretty fucking lame. And Cowboys & Aliens? Well, it was a slightly satisfying visual. When I first saw the creature, I didnt know what to think. Then I saw more of it, and my opinion started to become more whole. And to be honest, I thought it was okay. And at this point, that's good enough for me. After being so incredibly amped for Super 8, and it delivering such a crappy creature design, I can settle for the aliens in this film. They're almost crustacean-looking aliens. But not like District 9. In this, they're more bulky and menacing. Could they have given me a better-looking alien? Yeah. Did it turn me off to the film? No.

The score. Nothing overly memorable, but I dug it. Im listening to it on YouTube now just to remember the tone of it. I remember liking it. But I was also drunk, so I dont remember too much of the score itself. But hearing it now, there are actually more layers to it than I remember. It has 3 particular thematic ques. The action ques, the western guitar ques, and some softer emotional ques, in which I du. The score wasn't mind-blowing, but it definitely complimented the film. And that is essentially what a score's main purpose is.

Is this one of the better summer films? Id say so. It hasnt been an incredible summer. Let alone, year. Im hoping the fall and winter brings some surprise gems.

But my hat's off to Favreau. Finally a movie I can say I actually really like from him. That's another thing I give him immense credit for. NOT to shoot the film in 3D. And Im not hopping on the "I hate 3D" train. I love 3D when the film calls for it and when it's done properly. This movie? There was really nothing that screamed "3D!!!". But that's not why I respect Favreau for his decision. It's because he wanted to shoot his western on celluloid film. And with 3D, you have to shoot digital unless you want a mediocre post-converted 3D final product. So in the end, Cowboys & Aliens is a job well done. But seriously... Cowboys & Paraplegics? Come on.
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