Friday, August 24, 2012

Film Friday: Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

When a film appears with a fantastic concept, a solid cast, and a great look. . . and then it bombs. . . you know something went very wrong along the way. That’s the case with Cowboys & Aliens. Only in this instance, everything went wrong. Put simply, no one associated with this project had any idea what to do with this concept.

** spoiler alert **

Directed by Jon Favreau, Cowboys & Aliens is the story of some people in the old West who battle aliens who are faster, stronger and can’t be killed by human weapons. . . except when they can. That’s all you need to know because everything else about this film fails. Let’s go through the list of failures:
The Actors: The actors seemed lost in this. It’s like they didn’t realize they were in a Western. Daniel Craig plays the lead. He did an excellent job eliminating his English accent, he just didn’t know what to replace it with. So he ends up kind of mumbling English words that don’t really fit in any dialect and certainly don’t fit in the American West. Olivia Wilde, who plays the required female character, may not even have read the script for all she brought to her role. Harrison Ford wasn’t great either. He plays a bad guy with a heart of gold, only he was never able to find that line where we actually like him. The supporting actors never clicked either. It’s like no one explained to anyone who these people were before they began shooting.

The Director: It’s often difficult to separate the writers and the director, but here it was easy. Few scenes made sense from a visual perspective, and it was almost impossible to care about what was happening on the screen.

The perfect example of this is the scene where the aliens first attack the town. The aliens have come to grab townsfolk, but there’s no reason to do this. Indeed, while we’re later told some vague garbage about the aliens studying the humans, there’s no evidence the aliens are doing that and there’s no reason they would need to. It would be like studying ants to learn their military weakness. Not to mention, the townsfolk are eventually found stored in some cave rather than being examined, which calls into question why they were taken at all. Moreover, when the aliens attack, they blow things up all over town for no reason whatsoever. They are more than capable of just flying overhead and grabbing people -- no one can stop them -- but they instead choose to blow up buildings for no apparent reason. In effect, the raid is pointless nonsense.

Further, while the aliens are blowing things up and taking people you don’t know, the camera follows the action almost randomly. Basically, you see people running back and forth until they get taken while the heroes shoot at the alien ships, and all of this is done in the dark by similarly-dressed characters that we don’t know. So throughout this scene, the audience has no idea what happened or who did what, nor does any of it matter. In effect, it’s ten minutes of pointless explosions with no substance. That’s on the director.
Even worse, this becomes the pattern for the film as things happen for no logical reason, as you are incapable of following which characters are doing what or why, and as nothing really interesting happens in any scene. “Stuff blows up” pretty much describes the whole film.

The Writers: The writing is horrid. To explain this, let’s continue with the first raid by the aliens. I mentioned above that the raid was pointless, but that’s not entirely true. The raid was conducted for two obvious purposes: (1) so the hero, who was about to be killed by the townsfolk, could be saved and his importance to the rest of the story affirmed by those same townsfolk, and (2) so that the loved one of each main character could be taken by the aliens so they would all have a reason to begin the movie. That’s horrible writing when the only purpose to a major scene is to establish plot points. Not to mention that wipes out all the conflicts except one -- retrieve the loved ones. But that’s just the beginning of the problems with the writing.

The story begins with a mystery: who is Daniel Craig. Craig wakes up with an alien device on his arm and no memory. He makes his way to town, where everyone else seems to thinks he’s a criminal. The writer carries this mystery on for about an hour, way too long given that the mystery is neither the point to the film nor all that interesting. Indeed, once you learn that everyone wants him dead, solving the rest of the mystery becomes pretty pointless, but the story continues to act like it matters. Conversely, while the mystery is quickly solved, it simultaneously leaves too many details unsolved for too long. Consequently, the audience is repeatedly left in the dark for the first thirty minutes or so as characters talk knowingly about things we know nothing about and plot points happen which make little sense to us because we don’t understand the background.

The next problem is that after the aliens raid the town, about twenty minutes into the film, the rest of the film becomes a series of random and deeply clich├ęd scenes. It feels like the writer came up with a list of things which could happen in a western and just inserts those one after another. There’s also never a sense that the scenes really relate in any meaningful way.

The motives for the aliens are rather stupid too and show that the writer has no scientific background. The aliens apparently want gold because it’s valuable, even though the creation of gold would take less energy than bringing their spaceships to Earth in the first place. The aliens round up people to experiment on them to “test their weaknesses” even though we’re also told the aliens are so far advanced that they see humans as “insects.” And then we’re told the aliens plan to destroy the planet for no reason whatsoever except to jack up the significance of the attack on the aliens.
Finally, there is one huge problem which falls on the writers and the director equally: there isn’t a moment of this film which varies from expectations. That’s a cardinal sin in any film and especially in something as supposedly unique as this. To give you a sense of this problem, consider that there isn’t a single scene which doesn’t end the way you expect from the moment the scene first begins. You know who will save whom and how they will react. Moreover, you will have seen this moment coming from the moment the characters met because EVERYTHING in this film is telegraphed in the most ham-fisted way. When two characters dislike each other, you know right away they will save each other and become friends. A character who can’t shoot will of course make an impossible shot to save the day. When a character mentions a knife, not only can you be sure that it will save that character, but you will know at roughly what time in the film that will happen. And when that scene comes, you’ll know it because the director will point the camera at the knife to open the scene, then will show you where the events will take place, then the characters rush to that location so the alien chasing them can do something incredibly stupid and SURPRISE the knife saves the day!! Yeah, this film is like that. . . repeatedly.

Cowboys & Aliens began with a great concept, but no one involved with the film knew how to handle it. Indeed, there isn’t really a competent element of this film. The actors didn’t know how to treat their characters, the director couldn’t compose a single interesting scene, and the writers were just guessing about what a science-fiction Western would include. And that caused this excellent concept to be wasted.

93 comments:

K said...

Nice review. I agree about the writing issues with the film. OTOH, I wasn't so hot on the concept, either.

From the Cowboys and Aliens Wiki:

In the Americas, Native American nations were severely damaged by European settlers, specifically because of the Europeans' advanced military technology. Favreau compared the film to the historical confrontation "in the frustration of not having the technology to allow you to prevail. It's always the low-tech culture that feels powerless when faced with an enemy that has technology on their side.

Guess that explains why the aliens were looking for gold, to keep the analogy intact.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great review, Andrew!

I don't think I'm overstating this, but C and A can't even rise to the top of some of the syfy films, plot-wise or character-wise.

For example, Copperhead, which was set in the wild west was better.

It was better CGI-wise, however, the CG weren't all that great either.

I really hate it when film makers take an excellent concept and manage to blow it in every category.
Because this casts a pall on the next western set scifi film, if and when that happens.

Heck, I would settle for a Michael Bay film over this stinker, including the Transformer series, which are among the worst Bay films.
And that should be a bar most film makers should be able to surpass.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi K.

Well that explains a lot. But they even botched the political message they were trying to send, IMO.

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

They should have called Joss Whedon in. He can and has successfully integrated Western and Science Fiction motifs.

Oh, well.

tryanmax said...

I don't know. Given the paucity of what I assume to be the SOURCE MATERIAL, I think the people involved accomplished a lot. LOL!

Anthony said...

I skipped this movie because in my experiece, 'VS' don't always suck, but they often do and they always fail to capture what originally made their subjects interesting (because the dynamic has to be different). Look at AVP or any of the Godzilla vs movies.

I might watch it on a lazy Saturday if I come across it while flipping channels. I watched Jonah Hex on such a day and there's no way Cowboys can be worse than Jonah Hex.

tryanmax said...

Anthony, care to make a wager?

ScottDS said...

I haven't seen this movie (yet) but a friend of mine saw it and said it was just bland. And Favreau has proven himself to be a good director, but I guess this proves the old adage: "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

When it comes to separating writers and directors, I find it varies with each movie. My Trekkie friend and I admit that, for example, Jonathan Frakes did all he could with the script for Insurrection. I don't necessarily blame him for that movie's failings, but I blame Stuart Baird for Nemesis' failings since he did NOT do all he could have with that script, which needed a serious polish to begin with.

As for this movie, between the story and the screenplay, there are SIX different writers credited including the team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci who have done better work elsewhere, and Damon Lindelof of Lost fame and later of Prometheus infamy. (By the way, these guys are writing the next Trek movie!)

For whatever reason, genre hybrids are difficult to pull off and maybe mixing westerns with sci-fi just doesn't have wide appeal. (I love Firefly as much as you guys but it didn't exactly set the world on fire when it was first aired on TV.) I mean, look at Jonah Hex or Wild Wild West... a couple interesting ideas, with piss-poor execution.

I feel bad for these guys... I like Favreau, I like Craig, I like Ford, and I think Olivia is hot... and I like cowboys and aliens... yet it all seemed to go wrong!

Anthony said...

tryanmax,

I won't take that bet. I hadn't thought a sci-fi western could be worse than Will Smith's Wild Wild West, but Jonah Hex proved me wrong.

Perhaps Cowboys and Aliens manages to be even crappier, but the review makes it sounds like its problems are crappy acting, poor writing, and poor direction. Jonah Hex had all those problems plus incoherent editing.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax and Anthony -

I haven't seen Jonah Hex but considering it runs for only 82 minutes, it's safe to say the studio probably gutted it to within an inch of its life.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Thanks! I like the concept from the simple perspective of aliens in the old West. This is something that has rarely been done and never with a big budget. So the concept had major potential. The problem was they had no idea what to do with it.

In terms of what the Wikipedia says, that is more proof that the whole thing was ham-fisted. To the extent this was intended as some sort of "see how bad we were to the Indians" statement, it totally bombed. For one thing, the relationship between the humans and the aliens isn't the slightest bit like the relationship between the Indians and the whites, so there's no real analogy there. For another, the humans win this one -- and they don't do it in any meaningful way, they just blow the aliens up, so there's no philosophical point being made.

Indeed, if that was the point, to make a statement, then they so completely missed the mark that you won't even notice what they are trying to achieve. I suspect this is one of those so generic analogies that you could read it into any film you wanted and Favreau mentions it only to give a meaningless film some meaning.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben! Ironically, this is one time I would think Michael Bay would have been a better director -- at least his stories hold a certain coherence within the scenes themselves. This time, the direction felt like "ok, everybody run around and shoot at things and we'll film it."

I agree with you that ultimately, this film isn't much better than a lot of the SciFi channel schlock. That's not to say those films are great, but at least they are often interesting and fun. This one was tedious.

I liked Copperhead as well! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I think they totally botched the political message, assuming there is one. At best, this film comes across as mindless "humans defeat aliens" film. And if there is a message, it's that whites and Indians should put aside their differences to defeat an unbeatable foe. Beyond that, there isn't a single message to be taken. In fact, the biggest thing missing for this to be a film with a message about Indians v. whites is that the aliens aren't even interested in the land. They just want the gold and then to blow the planet up because that's what the plot calls for.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I couldn't help but compare this to Firefly throughout. Firefly was so much smarter in terms of tone, characters, and coherence. Yes, that was set in space, but it was in essence a western with technology. This one should have been a straight up western with unexpected bad guys. But it wasn't. In fact, it was neither a western nor a science fiction film ultimately.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, LOL! Yes, that's the source material! Still, I'm not sure they really moved beyond what you see there!

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, That's true, "versus" films typical do stink because they usually forgo plot in the name of seeing two well-known creatures beat on each other. This ultimately falls into that same category. The plot of what is going on is established in about 20 minutes. The next 100 minutes (long movie) is just one long fight scene as the humans plan an attack and the aliens fight back.

And ultimately, that plan of attack comes down to little more than "we all run around like idiots shooting at the aliens who will come after us while the hero solves the movie." Talk about a horrible and pointless plan.

Jonah Hex was horrid. I would say it was worse than this one. This one wasn't offensive, it was just a total waste of time.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, You think Jonah Hex was better?

tryanmax said...

Andrew, it's a neck-and-neck finish, but at least I didn't nod off during Hex.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, True. This one would have been easy to sleep through. In fact, I found it hard not to start working on something while this one dragged on.

I thought Jonah Hex was worse though because it just annoyed me throughout. I almost turned it off several times because it was just a terrible, unpleasant film.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I suspect that mixed-genres do suffer from limited appeal. But that wasn't the problem here. The problem here was that this was a bad product. It was neither a western nor a science fiction film at its core and that comes across. Instead, you get this very modern hodgepodge of things that don't fit together and are incapable of building a story.

Moreover, there was no story here. And more importantly, this film breaks the scriptshadow rule of lacking conflict. They start out by establishing conflict between Craig and everyone else in the first ten minutes. Then the raid happens and that goes away. Then they establish conflict between people like the bar keeper/doctor and some of the thugs (minor characters). And that vanishes. There's conflict between Craig and his old gang, which resolves itself in one shooting almost before the conflict is identified. There's conflict with the Indians, which lasts one speech after it is identified.

The only conflict left is can the humans beat the aliens. And even that comes down to can Craig sneak inside the ship and do something unexplained to win the film. Well, you know he will, so there's no conflict there either. In the end, there's nothing to give this film the slightest bit of tension or intrigue.

Add in a director who honestly could not build a single scene worth watching (all mindless confusion and people acting stupidly to make the scene work) and you're left with little to like.

Individualist said...

Andrew

While I have to agree with your assessment of this movie I think there was one point to which the makers of this movie can be praised.

The stark resemblancee of the grotesque Aliens to Barny Frank and Al Franken is uncanny.....

just saying .....

DUQ said...

Excellent breakdown. This film sucked!

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I think this and Jonah Hex are different kinds of crappy. This film was utterly pointless, bland, dull and painfully paint-by-numbers. Jonah Hex was angry gibberish by comparison.

I agree about Wild Wild West too. That film was a total waste of potential and a real disappointment.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, There is nothing good to say about Jonah Hex... nothing.

Interestingly, this one had a slightly over 2 hour run time and it needed to be slashed to about 82 minutes. They could have cut the fight scenes in half without anyone noticing, they could have removed several characters without anyone noticing, and they could have left out whole chunks of the "plot" without skipping a beat.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, All kidding aside, I thought the aliens were pathetic. They were blob-creatures again with no defined features, except for one -- the inner arms, which exist solely for the knife scene.

If you're going to make a film about Cowboys & ALIENS, then the aliens should at least look unique and interesting and be something the audience will gaze in wonder at, not wonder why they're bothering.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks DUQ. I think this explains why this one bombed. It barely broke even worldwide and probably lost money once you factor in the advertising costs.

rlaWTX said...

y'all have got to start practicing turning off your brains during such movies. lol
although, I have to admit that, even with my brain off, it didn't live up to its trailers...
But, I got to watch Daniel Craig dressed (and undressed) as a cowboy... :)

Doc Whoa said...

I wanted to like this film and I heard form some people that it really was "fun." But it wasn't. It didn't turn me off or anything, it just made me wonder why I was wasting my time. I felt like I could have watched this on fast forward.

Doc Whoa said...

rlaWTX, This film did turn off my brain! :D

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I think Craig looked the part, though he didn't sound the part. I think he would have been better served just keeping his British accent because no one would have noticed. Instead, he sounded like a computer or something.

As for turning off our brains, I tried that. I know going in that this was not going to be a deep or interesting film. So I was ready to enjoy it as just pure mindless entertainment, but it never even hit that level. To me, it was just dull from beginning to end.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I went in hoping to enjoy this film. I liked the ads a lot and I like the cast and I love the concept. So I thought it had a chance to be much better than people said. But it really wasn't.

That's a good way to put it, by the way, it feels like I could have watched this on fast forward without missing a beat.

T-Rav said...

To be honest, I wasn't interested even by the concept for this movie. Combining cowboys and aliens might work, I guess, but it would be pretty difficult for a lot of reasons, and it seemed pretty obvious to me from the ads that they hadn't accomplished it here.

Plus, while Olivia Wilde is pretty easy on the eyes, she's also one of the more obnoxiously liberal actresses in Hollywood, and seeing her in a semi-prominent role made me roll my eyes a bit. Maybe that's a sign I think about politics too much. :-/

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, I think you could watch this on fast forward without missing any plot points and that's a really sad statement.

You know what other scene bothered me? The scene where he jumps from the horse onto the alien ship that's take Olivia Wild. The fact there is a canyon there suddenly and that the alien flew so low in the canyon was so blatantly done just so Craig could jump onto it to save wild. That was the problem with this film, it kept doing things like that.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I never worried about her politics, she failed on acting skill alone. Her character is never believable at any point in this film and she's certainly not capable of giving the character anything more than reading the lines written for it. She could have been replaced by any other actress without changing this film in the least.

In terms of the concept, I liked the concept, they just didn't know what to do with it. They failed the first rule of storytelling, which is to tell an interesting story. Instead, they seemed to think that just putting cowboys and aliens on the screen together would be enough.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, That scene bothered me too. That is the perfect example of what I'm talking about when I say that things happen to make the story work throughout this film rather than being a story unto itself.

First, it's not even clear why the aliens would conduct this raid. They don't need more people and we're told they don't come out during the day, yet here they come to give us a scene. Then Craig shoots this ship and the pilot is flying off but then decides to grab Wilde and then fly in the perfect place where Craig could jump onto the ship. It was telegraphed that would happen from almost the moment the scene began and it happened exactly as you would expect. That's bad direction.

Ed said...

I can't say I liked this film, but I don't regret seeing it. It was what I've come to expect from summer films -- mindless, poorly made, full of explosions to keep teenagers happy.

Ed said...

Let me add, I wouldn't be proud if my name was attached to this film, but then I feel the same about most film today.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I was hoping for something a little more than just a mindless summer film and this wasn't that. In fact, I wouldn't even call this a good mindless summer film. This one really just fell apart at all ends.

ellenB said...

I like Daniel Craig so I wanted to see this. I was a little disappointed, but I didn't hate the film. I don't want to see it again and I don't really remember anything that happened in it, but I didn't hate it.

tryanmax said...

For the record, no joke, I really did nod off during this one. I think it was only for a moment, b/c my buddy hollered at me. But I didn't feel like I missed a thing.

RE: Olivia Wilde - she may be easy on the eyes, but there's enough of a generic-ness to her that I can't get too excited.

Anonymous said...

I didn't hate this movie by a long shot, but it didn't impress me either.

It could have and should have been better, but it could have been a lot worse and thankfully it wasn't.

The movie was too predictable, but it didn't suck as much as it could have.

Scott.

LawHawkRFD said...

Years ago, I read a sci-fi short story where the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent was telling a local Native American to quit bitching because "we won." He added, "the superior technological society always wins." And just at that point, earth is invaded by a highly-evolved alien force. I always thought that could make an interesting movie. I had hoped that Cowboys and Aliens was going to address that concept. It didn't. The special effects ranged from so-so to very good, but that's about it. I didn't hate the movie, but I wouldn't go out of my way to re-watch it either.

Individualist said...

"the aliens were pathetic. They were blob-creatures again with no defined features"

"And then we’re told the aliens plan to destroy the planet for no reason whatsoever"

No seriously Andrew the more I think about this movie it was not really awful from that vantange point at all. This really seems to be a brilliant metaphor for the way Barney Frank's mind actually works...

Given that should we not attack the inspiration for the movie for all of its many faults.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, I'm on the fence about Craig, though I do like him as the new James Bond. I didn't care for him in this because he gave me nothing to like. His accent was bizarre and there was nothing interesting about his character.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I didn't fall asleep, but my mind wandered, especially during the action scenes where it was clear that nothing on screen mattered.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This film could indeed have sucked a lot worse than it did. But I can't say it didn't suck as is. It's not that I hated any particular part, I just never could get myself to care about any of it and even the individual scenes all felt forced and fake and pointless. I don't recall a single moment where I felt there was any tension.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, A better movie which deals with that is Battle Los Angeles. This one set out to be a Battle Los Angeles in the old west, but ended up not really being anything. As you say, I didn't hate it, but I'm not going to watch it again.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Barney Frank is the past. Don't waste your energy attacking him. Spend your time worrying about the next crop of idiots.

tryanmax said...

Andrew,

Battle L.A. / Cowboys v Aliens

excellent contrast!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Now that I think about it, that really is the comparison! I originally saw this film as a western involving aliens, but it seems clear now that they intended this to be Battle Los Angeles set against the old West. Even the aliens are somewhat similar. That explains why they never bothered to make a real western out of this, because they weren't trying.

ellenB said...

Andrew and tryanmax, That is an excellent comparison. The more I think about it, the more similar they are, or at least I see the intent to be similar. They really aren't similar in execution.

NightcrawlerER said...

What I don't get is how come the aliens couldn't be killed by bullets, but then could be killed by bullets or spears when it counted? Either they can be killed that way or not.

rlaWTX said...

I really liked Battle LA! Waaaay better than C&A (which I didn't hate).

"but it didn't suck as much as it could have"
Scott, that's true about so many - and when that's the best you can say...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Battle LA is a great contrast, Andrew!

Man, they really cranked the tension in that film up to eleventy in many parts! Plus, I cared about the characters, it had a solid plot, no wasted scenes, no illogical scenes...all around a great film.

Directors, writers and actors ahould take note: that's how you make an entertaining film that doesn't insult the intelligence of the audience or the aliens themselves (they are smart in that film, and that was only one battle. The aliens weren't beaten. Perhaps that'll be in the sequel).

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: You're right about the comparison between Aliens and Cowboys and Battle L.A.. In addition, Battle L.A. also points out that the superior technology doesn't always win against sophisticated, tough locals defending their homeland and on their own turf.

Commander Max said...

To me a movie these days is more successful, if it conveys what is going on. Yep I've set my bar that low. At least I knew what was going on in this film. Unlike the Abram's attempt to redo ST, to this day nobody has taken me up on the challenge to explain what that movie was about.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good point, LawHawk.
Humans have the ability to adapt and overcome by thinking outside the box.
Well, some do.

When the Sarge was trying to figure out how to kill the aliens in Battle LA, someone like Hillary or Obama would've been aghast at the torture he put that alien through rather than the valuable intelligence the Sarge uncovered for our very survival.

That's what seperates the men from the boys.

tryanmax said...

Max, I totally know what Abram's ST was about. It was about Chris Pine doing cosplay as Captain Kirk and the guy who played Eomer did a real good "Bones" impression and there was some red matter and that old dude from Fringe--not the guy who did LORT, the other one--was, like, the same guy as the guy from Heroes but, like, you know, older. Oh, and there was space and space ships and, like, some stuff blew up, and it was totally cool except for my car got totally dinged in the parking lot while I was in the theater.

See? And you said it couldn't be done.

Commander Max said...

Nope, still hasn't been done.

What the hell is Fringe and Heroes?
Nor do I know who Pine or Eomer are.

What I saw was an exhibition of some retard, seeing what a computer could do(and George Lucas wasn't even there).

AndrewPrice said...

Ok, gotta jump in at the end here. The new Trek movie is one my peeves about Hollywood. They sucked out everything that gave Trek it's heart and then vomited up CGI images and called it a film. It had no plot, no characters and no point. If you didn't know who the characters were supposed to be, this film would have been called an awful mess!

And Max, there is no way to tell you what happens because none of it makes any sense! Basically, there are people... they argue... things blow up... there are more effects... the people argue... Spock arrives to collect a paycheck... more things blow up. The credits role.

AndrewPrice said...

On Battle Los Angeles v. this thing, I concur with everyone says. BLA was a truly tense, interesting film with a good heart, an interesting story, and much to love. C&A is a couple scenes looking for a movie.

I think the comparison is really an excellent one actually and I wish I had taken this review from that perspective. BLA does everything right. This film does everything wrong.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree and I think that's the key difference between BLA and C&A. BLA was humans who were desperately outgunned doing their best and winning through courage and smarts. They learned how to beat the aliens and they took the risk to do it. C&A was a bunch of people who couldn't beat the aliens they faced but then did because that's what the script called for. Nothing was learned, nothing real was risked, and there wasn't that moment where you feel the heroes finally have earned the right to pull the whole thing off.

rlaWTX said...

well, I think I can delete the new ST from my DVR now that I know all about it - thanks, tryanmax and Andrew!!!

HAPPY WEEKEND!!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, LOL! Trust me, you know nothing about the wonders that film holds. ;)

Have a happy weekend!

shawn said...

Cowboys and Aliens was a very bland film, and I certainly expected more from the people who brought us this.

As to Abrams Trek flick, I liked it. I will admit the script is a mess, but the effects rocked and the pacing and tension were great, if you don't think about it too much. A sad commentary, but there you have it.

There were 2 scenes in the film that almost destroy the character of Kirk for me. 1) The pointless destruction of the corvette as a child (oooo, what a rebel) and 2) the Kobiyashi Maru scene. Sitting in the command chair eating an apple and telegraphing that he knows that the Klingons can be beaten, why not just put on a sign saying, "Yes, I'm cheating!"?

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I had all kinds of problems with that film. For one thing, it totally lost the essence of Trek. For another, none of those characters are capable of growing up into the people they would eventually become. But even worse was the nonsense factor. For example, imagine if the captain of an aircraft carrier gets killed. What are the chances that a failed naval cadet known for being reckless who happened to stow away on the carrier would be put in command of the ship? I would say well below 0% chance. In fact, the very suggestion would bring a mental health examination. And yet, that is what happens here.

LL said...

I went to see this film because I was told (erroneously) that Olivia Wilde did a full frontal nude.

I felt cheated.

Olivia can come over to my house wearing nothing but a trench coat if she wants to make it up to me.

The rest of the movie simply didn't hold together - but I sat through it hoping for that scene.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I can see where you would have felt robbed!

Commander Max said...

Andrew you forgot Spock nails Uhura.

Hey LL, they tell you if there is any nudity before the film. They even tell you if there is any smoking, foul language, and what type of humor is in the film.
Andrew remember the days when you would go see a flick on the rumor of nudity.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, That's right, there was that. That was vital to the experience!

Me, see a film because it contains nudity? Perish the thought! LOL!

tryanmax said...

Just thinking some more about CVA. I'm not sure that the aliens really needed a motive to make this movie work. There should be enough conflict in wondering how the technically inferior cowboys hope to defeat the superior aliens. But presently, Hollywood feels it must establish villains through puppy kicking.

So, that got me thinking about how this movie would have been different if it were made at a different time. Here is what I came up with:

1950s The movie wouldn't bother with a motive for the aliens. Actually, there would = just be one alien, an ugly monster that needs to be killed summarily. Any necessary background information would be related by a stereotypical wise old Indian.

1960s The movie would be an episode of The Twilight Zone. It would be a brooding character study where the twist is that the alien is actually a human time traveler from the present.

1970s A Disney adventure starring ragamuffin kids who accidentally bring the aliens to the old west when they disturb some artifact. A staple character-actor provides comic relief when he unwittingly engages one of the aliens in a drinking contest. Any necessary background information would be related by a stereotypical wise-old Indian.

Alternately, the alien would be David Bowie, and that would be justification enough to gun him down. ;-)

1980s The film bears the same title, but is set in modern Texas. The action is precipitated by graphic cattle mutilations. The aliens are gruesome and relentless and the cowboys are inexplicably better armed than a National Guard unit. Gratuitous nudity and f-bombs are strewn throughout. Any necessary background information would be related by a stereotypical wise-old Indian.

1990s The movie would have been a confused stoner comedy starring Pauly Shore. The few who would have seen it would now be having trouble either trying to remember it or trying to forget. The wise-old Indian would slap Pauly around a bunch.

LL said...

Hey LL, they tell you if there is any nudity before the film.

That's right and she was nude - remember when she was "killed", and the Indians burned her body to send her off to the Happy Hunting Grounds? She walked out of the fire naked, but it didn't show anything much.

(sorry for the spoiler)

A friend who had been involved in the production told me that she did the full nude scene. I think she did on the set and that they got it on the Daily's but it ended up on the cutting room floor (sadly).

However, the film did announce that there was nudity, thus my interest. And my subsequent chagrin.

Yes Andrew, I'm now a victim (like so many other pathetic victims in the ObamaNation). The government could square this with me - by sending Olivia over - and make me whole. I think of it as ObamaCare in action (if he really is the Messiah and really loves me, unicorns and little children)...

T-Rav said...

Er....I kinda liked the new Star Trek.

(jumps into bomb shelter)

AndrewPrice said...

Oh, T-Rav, where did we go wrong with you? :(

AndrewPrice said...

LL, All I really remember from that scene was that she was very blurry.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, LOL! Nicely done. I can't disagree with your assessment of the film. And I am seeing a pattern... something about stereotypical wise Indians.

I agree that the aliens didn't need a motive here, though they did need some purpose. Since they have no real purpose, all they end up doing is randomly grabbing people and blowing things up just because the scene calls for it. It would have been better if they had a real purpose which guided their actions.

Commander Max said...

My favorite depiction of a wise Indian was Chief Wild Eagle of the Hekawi from F-Troop.

Growing up in Arizona will really taint the Indian image. Out here they look like a bunch of drunken greedy jerks, who can't clean up after themselves. But they sure can build casinos.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, The wise old Indian stereotype is a form of racism. It comes from something called "the noble savage" which Spike Lee redefined as "the magic Negro." The idea is to turn an entire group of people into a childlike, simple (read: harmless) people. Then to cover up the fact this is the real intent (typically a subconscious intent), the promoter of the theory imbues the infantilized people with magic powers which are designed to give insight to the "modern" people. Therefore, they can actually tell themselves that they are looking up to these people who they have just infantilized and condescended to.

This has a long history, especially in liberal Hollywood, and you will see it done all the time.

In reality, people are people. There are good and bad, smart and dumb, wise and foolish. No group has any more wisdom than any other group.

Commander Max said...

Andrew I'm well aware of the stereotype, they try to play that up in Arizona all of the time.

My wife served in the National Healthcare Service back in the nineties. She was up on the Navajo Indian reservation(near Winslow). You should hear her stories, those guys up there would make a soap opera look boring.

I would say the same thing, people are people(so why should it be,lol). A few years ago we were watching a science documentary on Netflix. The last act of the show they were presenting a genetic scientist and what he was working on. Out of the blue they stated he has a secret, he is gay!. My only thought, what does that have to do with anything? Consistency people, they sure didn't point out anything remotely similar in any of the other people they presented.
That was no different than shouting, "Look at the faggot! He is a weirdo, he likes men!". I liken that to the noble savage idea, they are displaying the very behavior that they state they are against. They are the only ones obsessed with the idea of appearances, and playing the barker at the freak show.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, Nice Depeche Mode reference! LOL!

Not to get too far afield, but what amazes me is how much money goes to Indian tribes and yet most of the individuals are dirt poor. They could literally do better cutting checks to each person directly.

On the gay thing, I agree with you. If they want being gay to be seen as nothing special, then they need to treat it that way. If they keep talking about it like it's something that needs to stand out, then it will continue to stand out. But that is what liberalism is about -- finding people's differences and trying to play those up so everyone feels like they are part of some tribe rather than one big happy family. Only then can you get people to vote with their tribes.

Commander Max said...

I loved that music back in the day. It's amazing just how good it was back then. I think we grew up in the greatest period of music, the evidence for that statement. They haven't stopped playing the same stuff since we got out of high school(for me 1985).

I could go on about Indians for ages. I'll just say I think they shouldn't get anymore government payments once the casino goes into operation. A really good idea would be to disband the reservations, give each member/family of the tribe their piece of land. Let them make their own decisions about how best to use it.

Liberalism is part of a larger model, primary intent on keeping us in our respective groups. We are easier to control that way.

I was thinking about all of this detailed talk, about plots and characters of these films(STsuck, CvsA). All of it is pointless, for these films are not about character or story. I'm sure they break just about every rule from filmschool 101. With the exception that they still use a camera and lighting. These films are only about one thing, regardless of subject. Separating you from your money, in the end it's always been about this. But these days they are applying pure marketing to every aspect. Which explains the lack of a story, or a character with any real substance. That's what happens when you try to appeal to every member of your audience. So if you like the movie, congratulations your a sucker(in the PT Barnum sense). If you subscribe to the liberal/union idea that anything corporate is evil. Then what are you doing watching movies.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I agree about the music. That whole period was amazing and there's been nothing like it since or before.

I agree about the marketing. Hollywood seems to be making films specifically around being able to market them these days. That's why all films include certain elements to hit various demographic segments and why they hit certain plot points, because they know those work with the people who will spend money, and why they dumb them down -- so they don't turn off the teen and foreign markets. These movies are nothing more than expanded trailers at this point.

Commander Max said...

What reminded me of the Hollywood marketing machine, was the Plinket reviews.
Namely the Star Wars prequels, those were so obviously only about marketing. Those were so sad it was pathetic.
What was even sadder, Lucas could have made them any way he wanted. It didn't matter, they were going to bring in the gold. Instead he took the easy road, which looks to me like he was only interested in the money. Not the product. I think that can be applied here as well. Look at Harrison's performance, we all know he can be really good. But as of late I've been seeing more big name actors, pulling off performances with the attitude, "It's a buck".

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I agree. Lucas in particular should be ashamed because he could have made the films any way he wanted and he chose to make marketing produced crap. That's really pathetic.

I agree about C&A, especially Harrison Ford. I had the feeling the whole time like he knew the film stank and he was just doing it for the money. There isn't a moment where I felt like he wasn't just reading the lines to be done with them.

Floyd R. turbo said...

I missed it in the theater and now you saved me a few bucks on Redbox too.

Maybe Paul Verhoeven could've turned it into a grander disaster.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Honestly, I don't think you'll miss anything by skipping this one.

Commander Max said...

I haven't asked any of my friends in the industry what they think. I get the impression that they are frustrated with what is going on. They want to make something new as much as we want to see it.
As one of my friends stated, people are hungry for a new offering.

I think things are going to change, that change isn't going to come from Hollywood.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, That would be interesting to know. I would suspect that they would be unhappy by the blandness of what Hollywood is doing at the moment, but that's just a guess.

I think Hollywood will change from outside as well, if people are willing to seize the opportunity. I think Hollywood is unable to change from within at this point.

Commander Max said...

I'll ask.

Honestly I don't think Hollywood will ever get back to it's former glory. With technology getting cheaper and cheaper, anything could spring up from anywhere.

I think that's what going to happen. I know I've said it before, something is going to come out of nowhere. And make the time after Star Wars look like nothing happened.

Commander Max said...

One of my friends worked in Hollywood over 30 years. You have seen his work, especially if your a sci-fi and horror fan(so is he, he worked on STTMP, Ghostbusters, etc).

His opinion, all of the stuff of late is pure garbage.

He isn't a political guy, so I wouldn't invite him over.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I'm not at all surprised. When I think about all the effects I've seen in the past decade or so, honestly nothing comes to mind as memorable. There is no starship Enterprise or Millennium Falcon, there is no alien or predator... there are only shapeless blobs.

ScottDS said...

Another late review... :-)

The raw materials were there but, as you said, no one knew what to do with them. After an hour, I realized, "I don't give a shit about any of this!" At least John Carter elicited an emotional reaction from me!

Having said that, it wasn't completely terrible. Just disappointingly so.

Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Jon Favreau, some good actors, some very good character actors (I wish they hadn't killed off Clancy Brown), ILM and some of the best technicians in Hollywood... and they couldn't pull it off. Definitely a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

I think the movie would've worked better had they played it "straight" - in other words, no mysterious backstory. Just fade in on a town, a typical day in the life, and go from there. No nebulous flashbacks to things we know nothing about.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That was my thought exactly -- I don't give a shit about any of this. The film was so pro forma that I really never cared if anyone lived or died or if they pulled it off or not.

In terms of being too many cooks, I think the bigger problem was that everyone did their thing without anyone tying it all together. There's nothing to unify this film... it's just stuff on screen.

I agree about the meaningless flashbacks and backstory.

Post a Comment