Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens- A Rather Uninteresting Blend of Two Very Intriguing Genres That Results in Mediocrity and a Predictable Summer Action Experience

This isn’t going to be an overly pleasant review due to a growing resentment towards the inadequate directing talents of Jon Favreau and the continuous theme of style over substance plaguing Hollywood pandering to simpletons. Why has Favreau become a marketable name for blockbuster films? His directing credits aren’t exemplary, which includes an overrated Christmas movie entitled Elf, a tragically bland children’s movie with a surprisingly unimaginative delivery known as Zathura, the half well-made Iron Man, and the abysmal sequel Iron Man 2. His films are centered on exaggerated circumstances, either with action, character, or place, and always seem to focus audience sympathies based on film convention instead of developing those characters and investing you into the experience. Granted, these projects are full blown popcorn extravaganzas filled with mindless action and mild humor to alleviate the expected character tensions. To give credit where it’s due, Favreau’s films open quite strong immediately grabbing your interest and attention and his newest film Cowboys & Aliens is no different. However, the job of the director is to keep your attention and keep the film moving in an interesting and hopefully unexpected direction. Favreau’s films are, and always have been, expected. They are predictable blockbusters made by a fanboy rather than a skilled storyteller and credible technician. Cowboys & Aliens takes the same path as Iron Man, opening with skill and interest while eventually dwindling into cartoonish chaos that is spectacle over substance, simplistic dialogue, and basic character archetypes that hardly keep our sympathies. This could be blamed on the screenwriting process that seems it had over five writers for the final draft, but it’s probably at the fault of Favreau who consistently has the same weaknesses in all of his films.

Some might say from the title that perhaps Favreau might be using this alien invasion and experimentation in the film to criticize our troubled relationship between the Cowboys and Indians in history. If you’re able to walk away from this product line popcorn filler of a movie with that impression than please stop watching movies. That is giving this film way too much delusional credit. All Cowboys & Aliens reminds us of is the fact that we keep giving these con artists in Hollywood our money for mediocre and expected films. Surprisingly this action film feels as though it’s stagnant. It begins with an attention grabbing opening but never really lifts its tensional moments beyond predictable transitions into the action sequences that aren’t extraordinary or particularly memorable. Grabbing your attention and keeping it should extend beyond the actual film experience by having the visuals stay with you or the character’s journey is refreshing every time you revisit the film. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to most of the films in the last 5 or 6 years. And if you’re expecting something slightly different with this film because it blends two genres together just be reminded that it is interesting until the two start blurring into a genre you’re already familiar with: the lowest demographic ordinary drivel genre. Favreau does you a favor by taking two very deep genres that have continuously expressed remarkable insight on the existence, flaws, and meaning of man (or lack thereof) and wiping them clean of any substance so that you don’t have to bother exercising your brain muscles. All this results in a wasted cast especially in regards to the two capable headliners (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford) and includes the very talented supporting cast consisting of Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Keith Carradine, and Paul Dano.

Considering this movie was adapted based on a ridiculous comic series than perhaps the criticism shouldn’t be so scathing. But Favreau consistently delivers the same kind of product that never possesses risk or deep thought. He is giving the audience what they expect and if you’re just looking for a pleasant escape from the plainness of life then perhaps Cowboys & Aliens is a sufficient choice for you despite the unpleasant fact of knowing Captain America is actually better (it truly is sad when the director of Jurassic Park III has done a better summer blockbuster than the director of the first acclaimed Iron Man). At times the action is anti-climatically short while the last sequence feels a bit stretched out and that uneven delivery is quite an anchor on an action film that needs appropriate pacing. Jon Favreau might be a big comic book fan (or to put it better he’s an overly large child at heart) but just because you’re a fan of a particular book, film, comic, or series that you’d like to adapt doesn’t mean that you have the objectivity and grounding to make it well. Favreau was a decently good character actor when he was acting and it just feels his efforts could be better placed now that the very basics of directing seem to be enough. But that just isn’t enough if you want to make a truly invigorating or memorable action experience.

Grade: C-

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