Over a year ago, crowds at San Diego's Comic Con were whipped up into a frenzy by early footage of James Bond and Indiana Jones teaming up to battle aliens in the Wild West. It's been a long year but it's time to saddle up finally...
Anticipation can be a double-edged sword. Ask audiences of Avatar, Inception etc and you'll receive mixed opinions influenced by whether they feel it lived up to the hype or not. Director Favreau's genre-meshing movie would appear to be a victim of it's own marketing campaign as the so-simple-how come-its-never-been-done-before idea of cowboys vs aliens struggles to live up to its ideas and the baggage that its stars bring with them.
Mainly Craig's vehicle rather than Ford, here he brings the same rugged but emotionally-lacking performance that made his take on Bond more grittier and grounded than previous incarnations. It worked well there but here in the Old West, his memory-challenged anti-hero needs some warmth or humanisation to it in order for us to want to see him come through all of it in the end. Any emotion is therefore left to the likes of Ford - mean, surly but then a true hero who changes his ways during the course of the adventure - and Rockwell - who brings scared and relatable everyday guy to the party.
Its set pieces are as good as you'd expect from the guy that gave you Iron Man, but maybe that's where part of the slight disappointment lies. That was fun. This feels average with some of the twinkle and life sucked out of it. Where there should be a tongue-in-cheek moment or a humorous interaction between the two iconic-playing actors, we get a slow-paced delivery of sub-plots and an over long drawn-out fragment piecing together of Craig's wiped memory. It walks then it should run and hovers when it should soar.
What it could have, or should have been was a nod towards Firefly/Serenity where Whedon successfully mixed the genres of Westerns and sci-fi together. There it was about emphasis on characterisation and beautiful dialogue to sit with the beautiful vistas, which is what Cowboys & Aliens lacks.
For most, it will be a typical summer blockbuster that ticks the unchallenging, standard boxes that are associated with films released during this period, but for those who want more emotion - be it humour, tension, fear - then they will find it lacking somewhat. It's not a bad film, but the potential of the sum parts - capable director, reliable actors, inventive idea - meant that it could have been a great film. And that is the bitter pill that has to be swallowed by some of the audience. When you care more for the strangely loyal dog more than the humans, be they ones fighting the aliens or abducted by them, something surely is off kilter...
A somewhat wasted opportunity to be alot of peoples new fave film, it's still worth seeing despite the flaws.
UK release date: 17.08.11