Before anything else, I need to get something off my chest. A couple hours after getting DHtM: Cowboys & Aliens up on blip.tv, it was brought to my attention that there is in fact a Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel that this movie is loosely based on. Since one of the first things I said about the movie in the video is how much I loved the originality, this is… a bit of a blow. It doesn’t affect my overall score for the movie, but it does disappoint me. I’m still looking for that well-written, non-adapted film of the summer, and I’m not sure if I’ll find it.
As much as I thought Olivia Wilde was OK as a heroine, there are many times when she’s used mostly for exposition and doesn’t have much to do. Wilde is known for playing stoic characters, and looking back at the movie, this would have been the time for her to branch out and show more range. She’s becoming one-note, and that’s especially clear in this movie.
Something I didn’t get to were the effects. At times it was very CGI-heavy, but that can be the price you pay when you have aliens attacks in your movie. There is a big difference between how the special effects look in the night scenes and the day scenes. They’re more effective at night. I wish we saw the aliens themselves a little less towards the end, but their actual design is pretty creepy. It just works better during the night scenes, and unfortunately we end up seeing them a lot during the day.
The weakest part of the film is the resolution. It’s not bad, but it was weak. So much of what bothered me is tied into spoilers, so I can’t fully describe what bugged me about the last five minutes or so. There’s one character whose resolution seemed tagged on, like they weren’t sure how to close that person’s story, so let’s just throw something together and be done with it.
What I liked best about the film is how they worked hard to build character development throughout the cast. Sam Rockwell’s character has an arc throughout the film about becoming a stronger person as he looks for his wife. The little boy looking for his grandfather bonds with Harrison Ford’s character, who himself grows as a character. Out of everyone, Ford is the best at carefully crafting his character, making his growth seem natural considering the level of stress. His relationship with the Indian foreman he practically raised is complex and surprisingly emotional as the film progresses. Speaking of characters, I later learned that the three muggers at the beginning are played by Buck, Matthew and Cooper Taylor. Buck Taylor has been in Gunsmoke, Tombstone, Gettysburg, etc. Matthew and Cooper are his sons and stunt-doubles, so it’s cool to know the filmmakers were giving a nod to older western films and TV.
Even as a comic adaptation, this was a fun movie. I don’t automatically go for westerns or alien invasion movies, but this was such an entertaining match-up. It felt equally like a western and a sci-fi movie, keeping the authenticity of both. I’ve got to give this a solid 3 1/2 stars.