Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cowboys And Aliens

Cowboys And Aliens
With Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford. Cowboys battle aliens in the Old West. Director: Jon Favreau. (1:55) PG-13: Violence. At area theaters.

There are more cowboys than aliens in "Cowboys & Aliens," which was the best decision made in this hybrid action-adventure since there are certainly more then enough aliens at the multiplex these days.

In fact, the huge cockroachy guys who show up in "C&A" are approximately sixth in line this summer behind Thor, the refugee in "Super 8," most of the casts of "Transformers" and "Green Lantern" and the villains of this week's "Attack the Block."

But these here aliens know its location that counts, and also, apparently, millennium.

So a century before E.T., they show up in the American west, circa 1873, to pluck some frontiersmen and women from the mining town of Absolution, Arizona.

Just before they do, a mysterious stranger (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert with no memory and saunters onto Main Street, right-about the time cranky cattle barron Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is riding herd on anyone who looks sideways at his bully son (Paul Dano).

It's then when them 'thar lights arrive in the sky, and Dolarhyde and the stranger — who soon discovers he's a wanted thief named Lonergan — round up a team to search for their kin snatched up by the weird flying things.

Along for the ride is tavern-owner Doc (Sam Rockwell), Meachum the preacher (Clancy Brown), ncomfortable-looking Native American Nat (Adam Beach) and beautiful Ella (Olivia Wilde), who has a ridiculous secret of her own.

The sole treasure of "Cowboys & Aliens" is that director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") has fashioned an actual rawhide ride from a graphic novel (that took six writers to wrangle to the screen).

His cast is game, with Craig leaving no stone face unturned as essentially a Man with No Name and Rockwell bringing character-actor chops. Ford is kicky and loose as an old saddle bag, though the story gives him little to do.

That decision emerges as the movie's real curse. Its chockfull of elements from classic oaters — a posse, a dusty round-up, saloon stand-offs — as well as monster flick staples like abductions, experiments and explosions, and still nothing very exciting happens (except that the poached folks here and in "Super 8" should compare notes).

Everyone's pretty blasé about the saucers. Heck, someone's even a covert cosmic visitor and does nothing cooler than not burn.

Even the extraterrestrial weapon Lonergan can't get off his wrist isn't used to great effect. It's a futuristic laser. Think what Butch and Sundance could've done with that.

Magic Moment: The aliens' first big appearance, a thrilling close encounter of the 19th-century kind.