Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Action Adventure Movie: Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

I saw this movie Saturday at a matinee, after a proper cowboy meal of steak and baked potatoes.  I went in to escape the noonday heat and the burning sun, and found cool shade and cold refreshment.  This is what summer action movies are all about; escaping the heat and putting a smile on your face for a few hours.

If that's the objective of a "summer action movie", then Cowboys & Aliens succeeded on every level.  Walking out of the movie theater I heard one lady complain, "It was so full of stereotypes!"  Well, yeah?  The classic Western is built around iconic images, strong archetypes, and well-worn themes.  It is the most perfect generic setting for a pure "adventure", and because of that, you can mix "Western" with just about anything - horror, comedy, drama, pulp, fantasy, sci-fi - and it will work.

This is certainly not the first "drop an advanced evil alien species into a historical setting and watch shiz blow up" movie.  Outlander did this with Vikings just a couple of years ago, and Karl Edward Wagner wrote a nasty little novel called Killer about an alien loose in ancient Rome.  And of course you have more contemporary settings with the whole Predator franchise.  The key to all of these movies, what makes them work or fail, is how the characters accept what they are dealing with and cowboy up (in this case, literally) to take on the bad guys. I think in C&A, this is handled well enough that any disbelief I had washed away as soon as Harrison Ford started growling about slitting throats and killin' sumbitches.

I think this movie did yeoman's work in giving us a fun, riotous, classic cowboy movie, with a twist.  Maybe genre purists will roll their eyes and walk away, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and you might, too.


BISH said...

I'm with you. I enjoyed the hell out of it!

Anonymous said...

I've been on the fence as to whether or not to see this one. Your review makes me want to give it a go.

Jack Badelaire said...

It is exactly what you would expect it to be - no more and no less. Cowboys and Aliens, gunsmoke and laser blasts.

I also should say that Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine, Walton Coggins, and all the other fun secondary characters really amped up the fun factor in this film.