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Cowboys & Aliens (2011 film)

A Fantasy Western film directed by Jon Favreau.

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An Uneven But Entertaining "Loosely Based" Adaptation of Rosenberg's Original Premise....

  • Jul 29, 2011
An alien invasion happening during the late 1800’s when mankind had barely gotten in touch with their potentials for technology is an interesting premise. I mean it represented a classic “David vs. Goliath” theme as well as having a huge amount of potential to work on. Granted I wasn’t that impressed with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s “Cowboys and Aliens” (see review of the graphic novel here) but I thought it may make a good translation into film; seeing as it had a lot of room to expand on its premise. I am not one to compare the source material directly to the movie adaptation, but to make things short director Jon Favreau’s “loosely based” adaptation is both better and at the same time inferior to the core premise of the source material.

Arizona, 1873. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up with little to no memory of his past and finds a strange object attached to his wrist. After an encounter with a few Apache hunters, he enters a small town called Absolution and discovers that he is in fact a wanted man; this includes the town sheriff (Keith Carradine) and a rich cattleman named Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who holds the town with an iron fist. But the town faces a bigger threat as spaceships appear to take the townsfolk and they seem helpless to fight back, the key to the spaceships defeat would be the shackle attached to Jake‘s wrist. Jake must join forces with Dolarhyde, a mysterious woman called Ella (Olivia Wilde) the townsfolk and an Indian tribe to fight off the alien incursion….

                     Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan in "Cowboys and Aliens"

                     A scene from "Cowboys and Aliens"

The film plays mostly like a western with certain themes of fantasy wrapped around it; you might say that Favreau‘s film is a full-fledged western that has glimpses of E.T. in it. A man with little memory, an unknown weapon, a race in danger of extinction, an invasion to harvest materials and then it is a tale of sacrifice and redemption. Favreau is a competent director as he keeps the film at an even pace while he develops the characters and their significance to the story. He also does a great job in keeping the film from becoming too ‘pulpy’ or ‘campy’, but he maintains a sense of humor about it. The script was filled with themes similar to the source material; of friendship and working together, of brotherhood and the classic struggle between inferior weapons and advance weaponry. However, it does miss the messages of colonization from the source material and the parallelism of the alien invaders to the white man's treatment of the Indians.

                       Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in "Cowboys & Aliens."

Olivia Wilde as Ella in "Cowboys and Aliens"  Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan in "Cowboys and Aliens"

                   A scene from "Cowboys and Aliens"

I guess what I didn’t quite like was the fact that the story felt undercooked and many elements were left to be put together by fans of the graphic novel. The film leaves many questions unanswered and the aliens lacked a certain personality that made the graphic novel fun. Here in the film, the aliens appear to be bumbling nomads, taking what they need and then reporting their find. They do seem organized, but there is just nothing there that could prove them to be such a major threat. The aliens in the film do look menacing and resembles a J.J. Abrams feature but they felt very shallow, unlike the leader of the aliens called the Caste in the source material that talked, planned and has a lot of personality. I also thought that the film stooped too much into gunfights and chase sequences; it forgot the cleverness of the weapons and gadgets in Rosenberg’s original creation. After awhile, I grew tired of the spider-looking ships and the insectoid-looking aliens.

I was happy with the way the film expanded on the characters. Jake (played by Daniel Craig) is arguably a much more complex character than Zeke and I liked the additions of the Dolarhyde character and the way Ella (played by Olivia Wilde) seemed to reflect one of the major characters in the comic such as Ra Chak Kai and how she also represented the spunkiness of Verity. Now, the supporting characters in the graphic novel were better; the nameless Indian kid, Warhawk and even the alien leader had a lot more personality; but I enjoyed the more focused delivery in the leads' development in the film. The Indians also make a significant part of the film’s storyline, and I rather enjoyed how the white man and the Indians come to work together. It was an exercise of respect and the need for unity, driven by fate and the need for survival. The theme of the right to live was touched on, but not as strong as in the source material.

                         Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in "Cowboys & Aliens."

                        Olivia Wilde and Daniel Craig in "Cowboys and Aliens"

                         Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan in "Cowboys and Aliens"

The film is well-acted. Craig makes for a good lead and Harrison Ford once again proves why the Indiana Jones franchise was a huge success. The supporting characters were also pretty well developed, I really liked the character played by Sam Rockwell and the fighting preacher played by Clancy Brown. Olivia Wilde did a great job in representing the strong female lead, and I really enjoyed the way she was introduced, developed and her significance to the story. Favreau is a good director as he knew exactly how to make a western; it was all about redemption and he knew how to express the right tone, style and mood in the film. I also liked the film’s production values and soundtrack, it was all business, action and western attitude with good visual effects to match.

So I am really not sure how I felt about the film. I liked it a lot but it had a lot of missed opportunities that kept it from becoming ‘great’. “Cowboys and Aliens” is a decent adaptation of the graphic novel, but now I feel weird wishing for a ‘loosely based” feature before, since now I kind of miss the source material’s fun creative energy. I also thought that the film‘s final act was a little wanting. However, the film did have better delivery of its lead characters and the direction was at an even pace that reflected the right attitude and mood for a western. I guess the film earned a light recommendation from me; it didn’t become quite the film I hoped it would be, but at least, it did feel very credible and practiced everything with a sense of restraint that I enjoyed. Jon Favreau‘s “Cowboys and Aliens” is a good film; but it is rather better when broken in parts since it makes for an uneven whole.

Timid Recommndation, Rental is Advisable! [3 Out of 5 Stars]

                          Poster art for "Cowboys & Aliens." 

An Uneven An Uneven An Uneven

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August 16, 2011
I thought the movie was great and i hade some of my favorite candy from www.munchiessweetaandtreats.com. Let me tell you there prices and variety are great.
August 01, 2011
Very nice review, William. I'm not sure if this is one I want to see purely because the concept doesn't interest me. I still enjoyed your writing, though!
August 03, 2011
I understand. I can't really say that this is for everyone, but thank you for the read anyway. Glad I managed to bring a little entertainment in your day with one of my amateurish reviews LOL!
August 03, 2011
Not a problem. I've just never been that much of a fan of cowboys or aliens...and to put them together, well, that is a double turn-off for me. :-P And, your reviews are not amateurish and you know it! You be fishing for compliments! Your reviews are the epitome of what film reviews should be!! :D
August 03, 2011
LOL! I am a sucker for westerns and good action; aliens can be a real cliche these days. I wasn't fishing for compliments but if you put this next to your latest review, it looks amateurish. :P *hugs*
August 03, 2011
I like good action films. I don't know why I've never been interested in westerns. I definitely agree about the cliche alien films.

LOL! You are too humble to fish for compliments. I know. :)

And, I learned from the best teacher--meaning you!
August 01, 2011
What is it with Spielberg and aliens? I really do want to know... unless it involves an anal probe and then I really don't want to know.
August 01, 2011
maybe someone likes getting probed....ew. Frank liked this one too...
August 01, 2011
You implying Daniel Craig likes being probed or Steven Spielberg? LOL!
August 01, 2011
who has a fixation on alien movies?
August 01, 2011
July 31, 2011
This makes me want to see it even more.
July 31, 2011
Frank saw it too and liked it as well. Methinks you'll like it.
July 30, 2011
I'm not into wild wild west stuff... :p
July 30, 2011
why not? This was more fantasy than anything anyway....
July 30, 2011
No idea... cowboys don't turn me on, LOL!
July 30, 2011
so...what exactly turns you on? ;P
July 30, 2011
Aliens in the western days just seems kind of stupid to me; but with Harrison Ford who always wins me over with his characters, and Clancy Brown who is an actor I've always enjoyed watching but who has been really under-rated, along with the couple of reviews I have read make me pretty curious about this one! I was surprised of your +4 rating actually----thanks for the great review Woo!!
July 30, 2011
Yeah, I know. The concept is pretty interesting, but I'd rather see an ancient barbarian tribe or someone during the medieval period take on aliens....since there is evidence that they may have visited the planet before. This was well-acted, and competently directed; and despite its weaknesses, I had fun watching it so I rounded up to +4 despite my 3.5/5 rating. Thanks for the read, Brenda!
July 30, 2011
To think there was Aliens back in the cowboys days, that must be one hell of a bong or hash pipe their smoking from..The once James Bond seduce to this...well anything to make a diollar in these hard time ey !!! Right on with your review dude...
July 30, 2011
LOL! Robert, I am so happy that you are back, always a pleasure to read your fun comments! :)
July 29, 2011
Great review as always. Really well written. You're right...If you didn't read the graphic novel you probably would have enjoyed the film more. Don't know what John's excuse is. LOL. Seriously love your reviews.
July 29, 2011
Thanks, Joan, comments like yours are what keeps me going! I really liked the style, the western mood and how the characters were developed along with the story. My dissatisfaction was coming from the fact that I read the source material and the aliens in them had more personality. Wish me luck, I am about to see another movie....
July 30, 2011
what movie? Not the Smurfs? that was a joke right? We liked The Devil;'s Double - saw it a couple of weeks ago, but didn't have time to review it. Thought it was really good. Also 'Point Blank' is definitely worth scening. Great action, great direction...Didn't review that one either...So many films...so little time LOL
July 30, 2011
Yeah that was a joke LOL! I really do want to see The Devil's Double" since I heard so many good things about it. Have seen "Troll Hunter" yet?
July 30, 2011
No. We missed the press screening, but I heard it was fun.. But I'd still go for Point Blank over Troll Hunters...especially if you like great action, thrillers and good characters. And don't mind subtittles which I'm sure you don't. They're already doing an American version of it..
July 30, 2011
I love action so Point Blank is going to be high on my list. You guys are so lucky to get the Press screenings....
July 30, 2011
I know. We're very legit. Even are accredited by the MPAA. Point Blank gets five bagels and Devil's Double does as well from me. John would actually probably give both of them 4 or 4 1/2 bagels with everything on them.
More Cowboys & Aliens (2011 film) reviews
review by . July 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Screenwriters and Editing
Heres the two things I thought of as I watched this movie:      1.  The idea of gold hungry aliens has come a long way since Battlefield Earth and      2.  I can only imagine that when Harrison Ford signed on, the script was re-written to have him rescue his family.         oh, I guess a third would be that this is filling the void for Favereau instead of getting an Iron Man 3 from him.  I guess it could have been …
review by . August 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I walked out of C&A today shrugging my shoulders.  It was a pleasant enough way to spend two hours on a hot summer night.  Daniel Craig (who looks like Harrison Ford used to look 30 years ago) and Harrison Ford (who looks remarkably like Neil Young today) play to type and off of each other well, and the setup is classic cowboy movie--so classic that when Craig, Ford, and the townspeople, native Americans, and Craig's old outlaw gang encounter the aliens (who lasso human subjects …
review by . July 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Cowboys & Aliens' 'Two Jews On Film' Fly In Different Directions With This SciFi Western (Video)
      The year is 1873. The place...New Mexico...A man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of nowhere.  He has no idea who he is or where he is.  All he knows is...there's a thick metal bracelet on his wrist and he can't remove it.       After fighting off some would-be robbers with a few swift kicks and punches, the Man wanders into the town of Absolution where he finds...   …
review by . July 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Incredible concept! Incredible movie?
COWBOYS AND ALIENS   Written by Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby   Directed by Jon Favreau   Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde       Jake Lonergan: I don’t want any trouble.       Aliens have tried to take over our planet dozens of times in the movies already. Every time they do, it seems like they always choose major metropolitan areas and the setting is …
review by . August 03, 2011
Walking into this movie you know what you are going to be getting, and if you don't it may be time to stop reading this blog. Jon Favreau promised his audience both cowboys and aliens and by god that is what you get, just not much else.      Favreau could have taken this movie in a couple different directions, he chose to take the mixing of two genres that have been lampooned in more recent history and decided to make it a serious action movie. Then there was the decision …
review by . August 02, 2011
Picture this… James Bonds wakes up in the Wild West unable to recall how he got there and then ends up in a town were Indiana Jones and his son have been terrorizing its citizens into doing anything they want…  Wait, that’s not right.  Granted Cowboys & Aliens does star Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, as well as share executive producer Steven Spielberg (Indy franchise), there is little else these heavy hitters bring to this futuristic/sci-fi western.  If only …
Quick Tip by . December 22, 2011
A genre blend that starts off strong despite the adherence to a multitude of western cliches, it all falls flat in the second act with the introduction of a lazy plot twist created for no other reason than to save the screenwriters the trouble of advancing the story through dialogue and character development, and give them an easy out for a typically lame Hollywood Happy Ending.
review by . August 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I’m generally a big fan of westerns, and I’ve been known to dabble in the science fiction genre from time to time. So on paper, Jon Favreau’s latest Cowboys and Aliens is a perfect fit. While I can definitely come to appreciate the general ridiculousness of it all and end up having a blast with it as the fun late summer film it is, the abundance of hands tweaking the script turns out being one of the movie’s biggest struggles. It’s not the best execution of a solid …
review by . August 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
No matter how you slice it, 2011 has not been a very fun-filled summer.  Most of the movies have either been very forgettable or they haven't really had much of an impact.  Cowboys and Aliens doesn't do much to change most of this.  It's certainly a lot more fun than most of the movies around this summer, but it doesn't quite leave the lasting impression you'd hope for it to.      We all understand that not every movie has to be this artistic …
review by . July 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         My concern was that the science fiction and western elements of Cowboys & Aliens would not be able to meet halfway. Can you blame me? On paper, I cannot think of a more awkward pairing of genres. I envisioned a disaster along the lines of The Warrior’s Way (which fused the western with martial arts), or going back much further, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (the western and horror, which I happened to catch one Saturday …
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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About this movie


Cowboys & Aliens is an American fantasy- Western film starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. The film, directed by Jon Favreau, is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Cowboys & Aliens was released in the United States and Canada on July 29, 2011 and in other countries on ensuing weekends.

1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger (Craig) with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don’t welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It’s a town that lives in fear.

But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known.

Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he’s been, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveler Ella, he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents—townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and ...
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Director: Jon Favreau
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Western
Release Date: July 29, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Runtime: 118 minutes
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