Directed by Jon Favreau
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
It’s no secret … when Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens hit theatres, it was treated to a lukewarm reception at best, shattering the hopes of everyone involved and turning off potential fans who could have championed the genre-bending movie to rich box office success. Yet, it was not to be. What went wrong? We’ll get to that in a second.
Cowboys & Aliens tells the tale of a drifter (Craig) who awakens to find himself with a bad amnesia induced hangover and a fancy bracelet cuffed to his arm. He wanders aimlessly into the fine Western town (read: dusty) of Absolution, where he’s identified by the local sheriff (Carradine) as a gun-slinging desperado named Jake Lonergan who’s been on the run from the long arm of the law. Just as Lonergan is about to face justice, an alien invasion begins, and it’s not long before our hero realizes that said fancy bracelet shackled to his arm is the only weapon that can save humanity’s hide. From there it’s up to Lonergan and his two unlikely new side-kicks — a disgruntled cattleman (Ford) and a mysterious woman (Wilde) — to fend off the nasty E.T.’s and protect the West from getting probed.
Here’s the thing … the story? Yeah, it’s pretty thin and forgettable, but on the other hand, does a movie named Cowboys & Aliens really need an enriching storyline? No. It needs action. Lots and lots of action. Then, when the action is done, we need more action. Here’s where the movie falters a bit as the battle scenes are just spaced too far apart, creating all sorts of pacing issues which are home to some truly ridiculous eye-rolling plot twists. Still, despite it’s shortcomings if you can overlook the more stupid parts of the flick and just have a good time with it, there’s a lot here to entertain. Watching Ford and Craig mercilessly trying to out-gruff one another is hilarious, the aliens are a lot more vicious and nasty than you may have thought, and when Favreau does kick the action into high gear, there’s some real spectacle to be had. If only there was more of it.
Also worthy of note is that included here are two versions of the movie: the theatrical 119-minute cut and the unrated 135-minute extended version. Don’t expect longer to equal better though. That’s just not the case here.
One area in which this movie will NOT disappoint is its Blu-ray package, which is easily on the stellar side of the fence. Picture quality is absolutely breathtaking with rich and appropriately saturated colors and black levels deep enough to swim in. The 1080p transfer looks ridiculously good. Even better? Universal’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is the perfect complement and will have your home theatre set-up working overtime and a half as it dazzles your aural senses. Sorry, DVD, you have nothing even close to this in terms of presentation, and on top of that you’re missing A LOT of the special features (see below for notations).
The Blu-ray kicks off with a commentary from Favreau that’s so enthusiastic you can’t help but feel that the man was having such a blast making this movie. If only that energy could have made it to the big screen where it belonged. All in all, though, it’s a good listen and may help you appreciate the flick slightly more. From there we have a five-part making-of featurette called Igniting the Sky: The Making-of Cowboys & Aliens. Clocking in at a combined running time of around forty minutes, segments include “Finding the Story,” “Outer-Space Icon,” “A Call to Action” (Blu-ray only), “Absolution” (Blu-ray only), and “The Scope of the Spectacle.” What’s unfortunate about these behind-the-scenes looks is that while entertaining in and of themselves, you won’t be able to stop yourself from wondering how in the world this movie ultimately failed. It’s nearly confusing. Add on eighty minutes of interviews with the cast and crew along with the usual Blu-ray bells and whistles like BD-Live, and we have a pretty impressive package supplement-wise.
Cowboys & Aliens is akin to firing an old six-shooter. The aim is good, the ammo is in abundance, but sometimes that damned thing misfires. Okay, so it misfires a lot. However, it’s still fun to play with. See it and judge for yourself.
– Daniel Craig
– Harrison Ford
– Olivia Wilde
– Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer
– Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
– Damon Lindelof
3 out of 5
4 out of 5