Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

cowboys and aliens poster 2011 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking, good cast

Wastes cast with so-so story

Movie Info

Movie Name: Cowboys & Aliens

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s): Comic Book/Western/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 29, 2011

MPAA Rating: PG-13

cowboys and aliens daniel craig harrison ford

Stick with me…I know a thing or two about fighting aliens

When a man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert with no idea who he is and what the strange item latched to his wrist is, he discovers he’s in trouble.  He’s a wanted man named Jake Lonergan and when he picks a fight with Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the son of wealthy cattle rancher Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), he finds himself behind bars.  Something is in the skies above the quiet town of Absolution, and when an alien attack takes a number of the townspeople including Percy, Lonergan finds himself in a wary alliance with Woodrow, a mysterious woman named Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and a group of townspeople desperate to get their loved ones back…they are saddling up and ready to take on the invaders from above!

Directed by Jon Favreau, Cowboys & Aliens is a science-fiction Western comic book adventure movie.  The film adapts the 2006 graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, and was released to a lower than expected box office and average to poor reviews.

cowboys and aliens alien creature hands

I don’t care if the alien-alien touches me, but don’t touch me with those creepy little hands

Cowboys & Aliens was one of those movies that I saw the trailer and was relatively numb to.  I knew it was an adaptation of a comic book, and I am into genre blends, but you could just tell the movie was trying too hard to appeal to a big summer blockbuster crowd in the way that Men In Black did.  It is asking a lot from the viewers from the get-go.  It is a high concept Western (which turns a lot of people off) and a science-fiction film (which turns off a lot of people who might buy into the Western motif).

The story is all over the place and takes forever to get going.  They work too hard to make Ford’s character unlikable in the first part of the movie that even when he becomes “good”, I care little about him and what happens to his son.  The alien invasion plot is muddied by the second alien who seems to mostly be there to explain everything and the movie eventually ends up in the inevitable shootout which is too little too late.

cowboys and aliens olivia wilde daniel craig alien creature

If only the story held up as well as images like this

The biggest tragedy of this film is the squandered cast.  The movie is loaded with actors playing average characters.  You have Daniel Craig playing his normal stocic character while Ford once again plays cantankerous.  Olivia Wilde is really a non-character as much as she seems a plot progression.  Clancy Brown, Sam Rockwell, Walton Goggins, and Keith Carradine are all squandered, and Paul Dano does make a great obnoxious, whiny character along the lines of his There Will Be Blood character.

I will say the movie looks pretty good.  The blending of Western and sci-fi is always visually interesting, but I also like the alien designs.  They feel like a blend of a lot of other aliens, but they also seem rather intimidating and creepy.

Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t deliver what you hoped it would.  Other genre blending Westerns like Bone Tomahawk or The Burrowers take the concept to a higher level and I think Cowboys & Aliens would have benefited from an R-Rating…with all the characters getting down and dirty with no limitations.  While the story is complete, you get the feeling that the makers of the film hoped for a franchise, but like Wild Wild West, Cowboys & Aliens is a one-shot.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response