Cowboys & Aliens
2011, Universal Pictures. Directed by John Favreau. Running time: 118 minutes. PG13. Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown
Mathew: This is another one of those movies with a great concept and a really awesome first half hour or so, which then falls victim to sloppy writing. It's still fun and all, but not as good as I wanted it to be.
Helm: Yes. I thought the direction was deft, the acting finely tuned and the special effects quite spectacular, but I agree that the film did not live up to its full promise.
Mathew: I like Favreau, the director. He's a funny guy and he knows what he's doing. I just wish he'd thrown out the script the way he's alleged to have done on Iron Man. It's always a bad sign when they credit ten people with writing a movie.
Helm: The movie is so good right up until the end of the first real battle sequence. It is atmospheric, tight and engaging. Then it starts to leak.
Mathew: Yeah. You know it means trouble when your main character wanders away from the main plot line of the movie after about a half hour. I know he's lost his memory and all, but still.
Helm: Yes. And it is very lucky that he happens to stumble across what he stumbles across, seeing as there is no other explanation for how he managed to find it given that he has no memory and the entire Western United States in which to wander around.
Mathew: Exactly! It's just sloppy. Or how about when they meet up with those guys, and those guys should have seen that other thing going by, but apparently they didn't? And then, Daniel Craig is about to get his ass kicked when suddenly, that thing happens?
Helm: That is a major weakness of the film which I blame entirely on the writing. There are too many instances in which someone is about to be killed when he is unexpectedly saved by a crazy stroke of luck. In all of the battles in which I have engaged, I have never once been saved by anything except skill and intelligence.
Mathew: Right! I totally agree.
Helm: You, on the other hand, have been saved by the whim of fate so often that I thought you might actually find those parts of the film believable.
Mathew: You don't have to undermine me to make your point.
Helm: It would be foolish beyond belief to undermine one as heavy as yourself. That would be asking to be crushed.
Mathew: Done? Can we get back to the review?
Helm: Also, I do not like it when a film takes a break from the action in order to become sentimental. I prefer the emotional moments to be more integrated into the fabric of the film rather than feeling like resting points.
Mathew: You knew there were going to be moments like that though as soon as that kid started to factor into things. Once they introduce a kid into an action movie, it's a recipe for sentimental moments.
Helm: Aliens was not like that.
Helm: Nor was The Professional.
Mathew: Double touché.
Helm: So, it can be done. I had hoped the film would escape that cliché when the preacher character actually commented on the fact that a child was involved. If only the writers could have been as consistently clever.
Mathew: Yeah. But still, it was fun. And it moved fast. And, despite not quite living up to the promise, it did deliver both cowboys and aliens. And there were some pretty funny lines.
Helm: True. I was largely amused by the film, although that one big battle scene-
Mathew: The one that just keeps going and going?
Helm: Do not interrupt me! But yes. That one big battle scene strained my credulity quite a bit. How many cannon fodder characters did they burn through? It seemed to far exceed the number of available cannon fodder characters. Also, I do not like when super-advanced alien races behave as if they are merely bloodthirsty idiots with superior technology.
Mathew: Yeah. Unless the smart ones build the spaceships but only the stupid ones get to fly them. That seems to be standard policy with most hostile aliens in the movies.
Three and a Half Flaming Swords!!
Three and a Half Flaming Swords!!
Mathew: I can't believe you agree with me on the rating.
Helm: I don't. You agree with me.
Mathew: Potato, Patato.
Helm: I will shove that potato so far up your-
Mathew: WHOA! Hold on there, pal! It's just a hypothetical potato!