Monday, August 1, 2011
Summer Action Adventure Movie: Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
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.