Set in late 19th century, the story finds a mysterious loner (Daniel Craig, a face tailored for westerns) in the middle of the Arizona desert with no memory of his past and an oversized metal bracelet on his arm. He winds up in the town of Absolution, where the sheriff (Keith Carradine) pins the man as Jake Lonergan, a wanted outlaw.
It takes just a few hours for Jake to get on the wrong side of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, introduced in a pompous, “Hey, look who we got for our movie!” shot). The brewing feud, which by all means should end in a high-noon shootout, is interrupted by--you guessed it--an alien invasion, in which many of Absolution’s residents are abducted, including the story’s love interest (Olivia Wilde) who’s harboring a few secrets.
And that bracelet? Yeah, it blows stuff up. Good thing, since it’s part of what keeps the audience sticking around 90 minutes until the final act, a great, big CGI showdown that must account for the bulk of the budget.
It’s all so goofy, this idea of mixing science-fiction and the western. And yet director Jon Favreau, adapting Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel, misguidedly asks us not to grin, blind to the point that Cowboys & Aliens would be so much more enjoyable if we weren’t forced to take it so seriously.
Can the juggling of these two genres ever work? There are those that would point to Back to the Future III as the defense, to which I in turn point to Cowboys & Aliens…and Wild Wild West.
Feature Commentary with Director Jon Favreau: Favreau delivers a very detailed track, covering a lot of the elements that went into the making of Cowboys & Aliens. Though plenty is covered in the “Igniting the Sky” documentary, fans should consider giving this commentary a listen.
Conversations with Jon Favreau: Collected here are a series of interviews conducted by the director that can only be viewed separately. The interviewees are: Daniel Craig; Harrison Ford; Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer; Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; and Damon Lindelof.
Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens (40:12): This lengthy documentary is divided into five sections, which can be viewed separately or as a whole: “Finding the Story,” “A Call to Action,” “Absolution,” “Outer-Space Icon,” and “The Scope of the Spectacle.” For fans, this is a great watch packed with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Other features include U-Control, My Scenes and Second Screen, an option for those with the pocket BLU app and an Internet-connected Blu-ray player.