Saturday, August 13, 2011
Cowboys and Aliens
Best review I've seen of this one so far says, "It's cowboys and aliens–just like it says. No more, no less."
Nice setting, good actors, great idea, but the thing you look for going in is: How many writers are listed?
Thing is thick with producers, but that doesn't matter as much, some of those are just titles to get more of the profits, but the general rule of thumb is: The more writers with screen credit, the worse the script, and therefore, the worse the movie.
One writer can have a vision. Two, maybe even three, can share the vision. Past that, it's like a frat party with too much beer: The boys are all trying to impress the girls and each other.
Here's another movie-rule-of-thumb: If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the screen.
Six writers on this one, between the story and script, and that's not fatal, but it's not a good sign. What this usually means is that shitload of producers I mentioned–sixteen of them in various forms–plus the director, couldn't agree on what the movie should be, and the writers keep getting replaced.
Too many hands, nobody feels the love, and the life tends to get written out of the project. Yeah, it hits its marks and says its lines, but ...
Oh, Ford is great as the crusty old cattle baron, Civil War hero–and he's got the best hardware, a nickel-plated Peacemaker–so it had to be circa 1873 or thereabouts–while the others use old Navy cap 'n' ball Colts or Schofields, and assorted rifles.
Well, except for Daniel Craig, who has the alien bracelet. Craig does his turn as Clint Eastwood (with amnesia) in a cowboy hat and chaps.
Abigail Spencer is gorgeous, and the rest of the cast is full of cowboy-actors and suitably seedy-looking bandits, townsfolk, kids, Indians, and so on. Doc, Preacher, the Shurf, the Weenie son-of-the-cattle baron, pretty much every cliche you want to shake a stick at is in there. Lines and moves from other classic westerns, you can't miss 'em. Not anybody in the movie who isn't an homage, really, though you have to wonder how many of the teenaged boys who people summer theaters will get the references.
Walt Goggins (The Shield, Justified) plays a great weasely bad guy right out of Butch and Sundance.
They wiped some stuff from the Aliens movies, too.
Then there's the dog–but ... I'll get back to the dog. It's a spoiler, so if you don't want to know, skip the last paragraph.
It's not giving anything away to say that aliens have arrived and are blowing up shit, lassoing people and hauling them off, and that before it's all done, there will be bodies piled up hither and yon on both sides. The plot, such that it is, concerns Craig regaining his memory, and if you think me telling you he does is a spoiler? You don't get out much.
I won't tell you why the aliens came. You wouldn't believe me.
I had high hopes for it, but C+ is the best I can do.
If you want to see a send-up of cowboy movies, rent Rango. Better written, much funnier, and there's an opening scene wherein the chameleon–voiced by Johnny Depp–smacks into a car's windshield that's being driven by Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That sold me the movie right here. With Timothy Olyphant as the Spirit of the West and those mariachi owls ... ?
Mm. Back to C&A. The reason it gets the plus is the dog's story arc, which is a perfect metaphor for survival. Some kind of border collie mix, every time you see the dog, he's hooked up with a different person. Scalphunters, Jake, the Kid, the Banditos, the Sheriff. When the dog hears the alien rummaging around in the ruins of an upside-down steamboat, he goes to check. You hear him yelp and you think, Adiós, dog, but no. The dog endures, and that saved the movie ...