Superhero Movie Month: "Cowboys & Aliens" Review

Movie Description(Click Here To Hide)
Set in 1873 in the New Mexico Territory, Apache Indians and Western settlers must put aside their differences to combat the aliens that crash landed their ship on their turf. Starring Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Ringer, Olivia Wilde & Sam Rockwell.
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Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2011
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller

"Cowboys & Aliens" is an American science-fiction western film based on the popular book of the same name. In the film, an unnamed man wakes up without remembering who he is; after an alien invasions occurs, he has a series of flashbacks and learns his identity. Realizing that he holds the key to ending the invasion, the man sets out to stop the destruction of Earth.

Plot Summary

In the opening scenes of "Cowboys & Aliens," an unnamed man wakes up in the desert with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. After a run-in with several bounty hunters, he wanders into a town called Absolution. After the man visits a saloon, Sheriff Taggart recognizes him and claims his name is Jake Lonergan. Since Lonergan is wanted for stealing gold, Taggart transports him to Santa Fe to be put on trial for the crime.

When Taggart and the man arrive in Santa Fe, a fight ensues over the capture of another criminal. While the men begin to fight, several alien aircraft invade the town and begin abducting townspeople. When the unnamed man breaks free from his shackles, he shoots down one of the aircraft, which effectively ends the attack.

The man and the remaining townspeople gather and organize a search for the rest of the aliens. However, the group soon disbands and several members are attacked by the remaining aliens. Meanwhile, the man has a flashback and learns he was once abducted by the same aliens that are now invading the town. The man begins searching for a woman he met in Absolution, named Ella, in an attempt to save her.

When the man finds her, she has already been attacked and is near death. Suddenly, members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, who blame the townspeople for the alien invasion, arrive and capture the survivors. When Ella's body is discarded in a fire pit by a Chiricahua Apache warrior, she is resurrected and exposes herself to be one of the aliens. Ella then explains that she has traveled to Earth to help humans fight the invasion. She also claims the unnamed man holds the power to take down the invaders.

As time begins to run out and more alien aircraft arrive, the man struggles to remember something from his past that can help him defeat the aliens.

Cast

"Cowboys & Aliens" features a cast of veteran actors that balance the elements of the western genre and the science-fiction genre. Daniel Craig plays the unnamed man and does an excellent job of making his character's amnesia believable. Olivia Wilde, who plays Ella, the alien-in-disguise, makes her character very memorable. Wilde's character is the only female lead involved in the action scenes, and her character comes off as just as capable as the male leads. The main cast is rounded out by Harrison Ford, who plays the wealthy cattle rancher who helps the townspeople stop the alien invasion.

Filming

Director Jon Favreau used a variety of filming techniques to blend the two genres. He filmed the majority of the movie in standard anamorphic format to represent the classic feel of western films. For much of the film, CGI effects were used, but large-scale replicas of alien aircraft were also necessary to create a more realistic appearance.

"Cowboys & Aliens" also makes many references to classic western and science-fiction films. For example, the scene where Craig's character rides along the ravine before jumping onto the alien aircraft represents the often-shown scenes in westerns where cowboys ride alongside trains before jumping on the train to take possession of it.

Additionally, the film also referenced several classic science-fiction movies, including the "Alien" film series and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Overall, this deliberate homage to classic films made "Cowboys & Aliens" more authentic and brought together two very different genres.

Plot Construction

The plotline of "Cowboys & Aliens" is far-fetched like many science-fiction films, yet there is an authentic feel to the way the characters react to the invasion. Since the film is set in the late 19th century, the characters lack traditional weaponry and quick modes of transportation, unlike more modern films. This actually makes the film interesting and exciting to watch, as the characters resort to very unusual tactics to take down the invaders.

"Cowboys & Aliens" does the impossible by blending the western and science-fiction genres. The director and characters help the film achieve a great balance, so the film is convincing and has an authentic feel. With stunning visual effects and a unique plot, "Cowboys & Aliens" is a must-see for fans of any genre.