Cowboys Aliens __EXCLUSIVE__
Parents need to know that this Western/sci-fi hybrid will definitely appeal to boys and fans of the two stars -- the new Bond (Daniel Craig) and the former Indy (Harrison Ford) -- but there are some violent scenes that may be too intense for tweens. Although it's light on romance -- just a couple of kisses and a few references to a prostitute -- the movie is heavy with explosive action (shootings, stabbings, and gruesome aliens) and has a high body count. Language includes words like "s--t" and "damn," and alcohol consumption is fairly high, considering that the cowboys spend most of their downtime drinking in a saloon. Despite a generally positive message about people banding together to fight a common enemy, the movie's violence can be overwhelming.
Based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's graphic novel, COWBOYS & ALIENS opens with an unnamed man (Daniel Craig) sitting in the desert with a mysterious bracelet cuffed to his wrist. After felling three men who think he's good for bounty, the lone cowboy appears in a sleepy 19th-century Arizona town, where he encounters a kind preacher (Clancy Brown) and enrages Percy (Paul Dano), a drunken bully who's the son of local cattleman Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). When the local sheriff (Keith Carradine) discovers that Craig is actually Jake Lonergan, a wanted criminal, he arrests him. Then aliens attack the town and kidnap many residents -- including Percy, the sheriff, and the saloon owner's wife. To stop the invasion, Jake teams up with Dolarhyde; his Native American deputy, Nat (Adam Beach); the sheriff's grandson, Emmett (Noah Ringer); Doc (Sam Rockwell), the barman; and Ella (Olivia Wilde), a beautiful, gun-toting woman who knows more about the aliens than anyone else.
During his film career, Harrison Ford has fought computer hackers, Nazi soldiers, hijackers, Soviet agents, the evil Darth Vader and pharmaceutical red tape. Now, late into his sixties, he is ready to take on aliens.
The Bracelet is a small powerful direct-energy weapon. At first, it only seems to activate when the aliens were present (possibly due to some kind of a wire-free energy source), but the wearer Jake Lonergan learned to activate it whenever he was in danger. He acquired it when the alien leader, known in the novelization as "Red Scar", took it off before experimenting on him and Alice and put it down next to him. When he broke free, he inadvertently put his arm in it and it attached to his arm. The wearer of The Bracelet is able to use it with thought, it's possible that The Bracelet can pick up electrical signals from nerve endings. It also has advanced holographic targeting, in the beginning, Jake was able to shoot down an alien craft with precision and accuracy thanks to the HUD. The Bracelet seems to have a very powerful energy cell, with that it seems to have unlimited ammunition (though it may need to recharge if fired too much). It also seems to have a self-destruct as Ella destroyed the alien mothership by causing it to explode. It is controlled by thought and can only be taken off by clearing your mind. During the final battle, several aliens possessed these and used them to attack.
Jake, it turns out, is a man with a checkered past who had decided to leave behind his rustler ways and pursue a new life of love and family. That goal was upended, of course, by the aliens. But as Jake comes to grips with really and truly leaving his past in the past, he finds the strength to forge ahead into the future.
It's no secret that alien invasion films are our attempt to deal with the sins of our past. Just like we colonized, pillaged, and exterminated indigenous peoples around the world with our advanced technologies of deadlier weapons, we now explore how that might have felt by imagining aliens doing the same to us. But of course, in our never-ending hubris those films always end with the hero kicking the aliens' butt. Identification with the other can only go so far.
It is into this postcolonial genre that Cowboys & Aliens attempts to fit, except with the twist that it's actually set during the period of Western "Manifest Destiny" expansionism. In trying to make such an odd marriage work, the film self-awarely makes use of all the stereotypes of those genres. You have the old West mining town populated with stock characters like the bespectacled Doc, the crusty old preacher, the lawful sheriff, the prostitute with the heart of gold, the grumpy old Civil War vet turned cowboy (Harrison Ford), and the rugged outlaw (Daniel Craig). The aliens too are the expected insect-like slimy vicious being with no hint of compassion. Added to that is the Hollywood version of a band of Apaches, including the favorite colonial narrative story of the young Native American boy who had been adopted by the racist cowboy (Ford) after his parents died in raids who now serves him as a field hand, looks to him as a father, and willingly sacrifices his life for him later on. Of course, in this alternate world the cowboys and Indians quickly see that they must overcome their differences and work together to fight the aliens (or at least the white men condescend to fight alongside the Natives after the Natives accept that the white men's attack plan is superior.) Perhaps more ironic self-awareness would have made the stereotypes actually work instead of just descend into the uncomfortable, but as it was they made it difficult for the rest of the film's theme to play out fully.
While the Preacher is an entertaining character, it quickly becomes apparent that religion will be of no help on this particular journey. In their pursuit of aliens who have abducted their family members, the group of main characters come across a wrecked upside down-steamboat in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Five hundred miles from the nearest river large enough for it, the boat (named the "Amazing Grace") doesn't belong. It is also where the Preacher gets attacked and killed. Finding absolution becomes not a religious quest, but a way for boys to become real men as they learn to fight to preserve their way of life.
They soon discover that the attacking aliens (which they call demons) came to earth on a scouting mission to plunder us of gold. Yes, gold. Not some odd resource needed for advanced technology, but the exact same resource that sent pox-infected Conquistadors and Cowboys alike on quests to plunder the lands of indigenous American peoples. The aliens also round-up humans and keep them sedated in holding pens until they can experiment on them to discover weaknesses. So a combined cowboy, Indian, and outlaw force launches an assault on the alien ship making use of six-shooters, dynamite, arrows, and spears. They, of course, rescue their enslaved family members and (with the help of an angelic-like being) use the alien's technology against them to destroy the scout ship. The oppressive colonizers are vanquished, and the American narrative remains intact.
And yet, I wanted more. There was too much historical commentary for Cowboys & Aliens to simply be entertaining escapism, but not enough for it to have anything meaningful to say. Good commentary on our colonial past forces us to examine current assumptions by allowing us to see things from the perspective of the other. But in this film the cowboy still won. The cowboy is both the criminal and the victim, demonstrating superiority in both roles. Just as the Native Americans in the film had to concede to the superiority of Harrison Ford's ideas, the message is that even when faced with stronger beings and more advanced technology, the cowboys (with God's angels on their side) will, by their very nature, always come out on top. The other is still other. True absolution, true reconciliation, remains elusive as the hierarchical status quo remains.
Favreau works magic interweaving the two genres, showing equal respect for both. Western conventions entwine with science fiction ones. One moment, we're looking at an image pilfered from Alien; the next, we're watching a shadow of The Searchers. The way in which extraterrestrial involvement is explained in the 19th century uses religion rather than science as its lynchpin, which is understandable. What we would call "aliens" in 2011 are regarded as "demons." Still, the reaction to Lonergan's plasma weapon (or whatever kind of "ray gun" it is) is surprisingly understated, bordering on nonchalant.
Cowboys & Aliens has a great hook. Lonergan awakens in the middle of nowhere with a bloody wound in his side, a strange bracelet on his left arm, and no memory of anything except that he can speak English. An encounter with a group of would-be bounty hunters lets us know he's a man to be reckoned with. When he arrives at the nearest town, he refuses to back down when Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the arrogant son of Colonel Dolarhyde, insults him. This sets off a chain of circumstances pitting Lonergan against Dolarhyde until the aliens arrive in explosive fashion and forge them into reluctant allies. Meanwhile, a townswoman named Ellie (Olivia Wilde) is inordinately interested in Lonergan regaining his memory, and it's apparent she knows more than she's saying about the "demons" and the "bracelet" Lonergan uses to destroy them. 041b061a72