…during the making of this movie. (They were real btw. It was the horses that were mostly CGI). Not a comedy as the title might suggest. Tho’ it is a tongue in cheek action movie and I actually enjoyed it even more than Monsters vs Aliens. (Tho’ that particular movie’s charms had more to do with the fact I could take my grandchildren along ;o)
The opening scene sets the tone for the whole movie and gives us a hero who, without doubt, is gonna kick any ass his boot doesn’t like the look of. The guy wakes in the desert; disoriented, no boots, funky shackle on his left wrist, seemingly nursing a gunshot wound; with no idea who he is. When 3 scalp hunters ride up, before he even has time to get his bearings; you can’t help feeling that his day is about to get a whole lot worse.
(I can relate to the whole amnesia gig btw. Only the other night, when it was my turn to cook dinner, I found I’d completely forgotten where the kitchen was and how to work that…box thing…the one with all the dials…that heats the food up. But thankfully I had access to a stash of Pot Noodles. Don’tcha love a happy ending? ;o)
I won’t spoil the movie by giving away too much of the plot. But I will say that Cowboys & Aliens is one of the best Westerns I’ve seen since…well, True Grit actually. (The 2010 Jeff Bridges version, not the 1969 John Wayne one). When chicks are looking for a flick and talk about period dramas, they’re obviously talking about a Bronté heroine and a foppish Mr. Darcy. When guys talk about period dramas, we’re actually talking about a Western or War flick (regardless of century); with a hero that kicks ass…and preferably blows sh1t up. (The more sh1t the better).
So this flick’s got everything a good period drama should have: dust, blood, whiskey, stubble, bad teeth and men with testicles that Buster Gonad would be proud of. (Leading to the customary cowboy gait). Men that say things like: “boy”, “preacher”, “ma’am”, “we don’t cotton much to strangers” and “not bad…old man”. Plus, our hero proves to be of the strong silent variety. (More Eastwood than Wayne). Craig’s lines take the minimalist approach and are occasionally delivered with enough bass and gravel that we’re distracted from his rendition of an American accent.
On the sci-fi side of the street, the movie’s equally blessed. The effects are well done and there’s something that makes you more appreciative of technological differences, when the victims have never seen anything other than vultures take flight and the aggressors get to blow up wagons, wooden buildings and horses (‘stead of tanks’n’fighter jets). I presume this makes the movie budget more manageable too. Build a town in the desert to shoot at and pump the rest of the cash into special effects. Tho’ with Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell on the pay-roll; I guess they also had other expenses.
If you read my Captain America review recently, you’ll remember my frustration over superior technology wasted on bad guys too dumb to deserve it. Here I’m want to forgive the same crime; as it was more a case of superior intelligence underestimating the little guy with the big heart (and unfeasibly large testicles); fighting to protect his loved ones and the patch of dirt he calls home. (Cue the American National Anthem).
The script may not have been penned by Bill Shakespeare; but it did provide enuff of a canvas to allow actors & effects to daub on emotions such as: cowardice, greed, fear & courage; plus enough action to make it 118min of pure entertainment. Early attacks were well done; under cover of dark; with enuff speed & disorientation that there’s convincing interaction between actors and effects. Plus we’re left waiting with respect to what the aliens actually look like.
When we do get to see them, they’re obviously huge, fast, vicious and above all ugly. Apart from when they’re relaxed enough to let their guard down or feel they simply have no other choice (e.g. when one chases the Sheriff’s grand son). Cute little vulnerable arms reaching out from beneath a hardened alien exterior? I mean which angry mob’s collective heart wouldn’t melt and wanna give that a group hug? Looked kind of: alien, with human bursting out. In contrast to the John Hurt scene from the Movie Alien (not the Spaceballs the Movie reprise), where a human coughs & splutters and the alien bursts out of his stomach.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the escapism. Not too much thinking involved and a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. I only wish I’d caught it a week or 2 earlier, whilst it was on a bigger screen. Tho’, despite my constant griping that small screens aren’t much better than watching a movie on a home entertainment system; it wasn’t actually that bad. (Guess that’s ‘cos my flat-screen’s getting a bit long in the tooth, I still ain’t got Blue Ray and I never did get round to setting up surround sound speakers).
There were only 2 unnecessary points in the whole movie that spring to mind. The humming bird’s re-appearance, right before the closing credits. And Jake covering Ella with a blanket before she can even turn round to face the camera. I mean…Düde…WTF!? I’ve been a fan of Olivia Wilde’s…acting talents…since House MD. Her nakedness could’ve added something to the dialog she was about to deliver and actually made it the scene that got her an Oscar nomination. You never know…;o)