Cowboys & Aliens: First Contact, Last Stand (2011)

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Western

Waking up in a daze, Jake Lonergan seemed to be at a loss regarding who he was and the situation he was in. A strange metallic device was strapped to his wrist. After surviving an ambush by some outlaws, he makes his way to the closest town and gets help from the preacher to treat a strange wound on his abdomen. After a commotion from the local thug, the sheriff realizes who Jake is and takes him to jail. That evening as both Jake and the thug are getting loaded into a carriage for transport to Santa Fe, Woodrow Dolarhyde and his posse ride into town to take back his son. Only minutes behind the group are a set of strange lights coming over the horizon. Suddenly, the town finds itself in a fire fight with an unknown force and Jake discovers the wrist device is more than just a piece of metal. With several of the townspeople captured by the flying fiends, a group comes together to track the visitors and try to rescue their people.

Starring: Daniel Craig (Jake Lonergan), Abigail Spencer (Alice), Olivia Wilde (Ella Swenson), Harrison Ford (Woodrow Dolarhyde), Paul Dano (Percy Dolarhyde), Sam Rockwell (The Doc), Clancy Brown (Meacham), Chris Browning (Jed Parker), Noah Ringer (Emmett Taggart), David O’Hara (Pat Dolan) and Raoul Trujillo (Black Knife)

In this strange mixture of a western and a sci-fi flick, the cast does their best to take maintain the mystery of a people barely exposed to anything outside of their simple lives. Daniel Craig has a few moments where his character breaks a little from his gritty western ways, but he somewhat makes it work. He is a man of few words, but his action actually does speak volumes. Olivia Wilde is a bit awkward when she is first introduced to the story, but she has a similar grittiness with a hint of compassion. Harrison Ford has a consistent level of anger and seems to be hardened to an extreme degree. The Doc, played by Sam Rockwell, is a rather hopeless character, generally humiliated and set up to eventually have a redeeming moment. Paul Dano serves as the thug, harassing the people with his wild gunplay.

  

A number of talents came together to create this film. Jon Favreau directed and produced alongside Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg. The final result was an odd pairing of the Old West and an alien force, fighting over access to gold. Jake’s amnesia causes the start of the film to run a little slow, but it actually is in some ways the best part of the film. There is more character development through the subtle elements of their interactions than in the flashback to understand Jake’s trials or the interactions between Jake and Woodrow. There is a feeling that Jake is an outlaw from the start and that his fuzzy memory is not the full story, but his diminished recollection allows for him to act a bit more brash and reactionary. When the aliens finally attack, he seems to understand the device on his wrist a bit quicker than one would think.

  

As the movie progresses into the hunt for the aliens and the ultimate reason for their existence on Earth, the story begins to fall apart. Gold is the central theme, but the explanation for the alien interest is just that gold is rare. There is nothing more explained about the purpose of their mining. The aliens seem virtually indestructible at times and then extremely vulnerable to the same weapons at others. A bullet simply bounces off the exoskeleton but a spear with less force pierces straight through immediately after. Ella also has a mysterious death and rebirth, with no real explanation about what she is and what happened. There is also a hummingbird that appears as a symbol of something meaningful to Jake but again fails to be explained. In the end, the film’s two major themes seem very compartmentalized and fail to ever get the amount of development they both deserve.

While the film is visually stunning and the concept is a little more original than many of the films recently released, there are a number of holes that take away from the film’s success. The movie actually could have been more successful if it had omitted the aliens and refocused the story to focus on the Old West.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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