Genre mash-up founders

Cow­boys and Aliens

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & EN­TER­TAIN­MENT -

Star­ring Daniel Craig, Har­ri­son Ford, Sam Rock­well, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Keith Car­ra­dine. Di­rected by Jon Favreau. 118 min, rated M (vi­o­lence). Show­ing at Read­ing Cin­e­mas North City. Re­viewed by KYLIE KLEIN NIXON

One of the most underrated cross­over films of all time is a lit­tle known 1980s com­edy/ Western/sci-fi called Tremors, in which two un­likely he­roes do bat­tle with gi­ant sand worms that ter­rorise a dust bowl truck stop.

The mon­strous vil­lains are never re­ally ex­plained, ex­cept in comedic ex­changes that say more about the char­ac­ters than the in­sane events – the lo­cal gun nut blames the gov­ern­ment, the sci­en­tists blame big busi­ness poi­son­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, the hero blames the uni­verse be­ing out to get him.

It’s ridicu­lous fun be­cause the beauty of Tremors lies in its comedic take on the weird genre jux­ta­po­si­tions: What if two good old boys had to wran­gle more than a six pack and a head of steer? What if it was mon­sters? Wouldn’t that be hi­lar­i­ous? Yes, it would and sub­se­quently, Tremors digs up the com­edy gold with­out ever hav­ing to de­scend into farce.

It’s a fine line to walk, 2005’s Sean of the Dead –a Zom(bie)/rom-com – does it beau­ti­fully, as did this year’s Paul – a com­edy/sci-fi/road movie, by the same writ­ing team.

Sadly, this was not the case with Hol­ly­wood’s lat­est at­tempt to blend gen­res, Cow­boys and Aliens, mostly be­cause it’s se­verely lack­ing in the es­sen­tial ‘‘ com’’ el­e­ment.

As hard as it may be to be­lieve, Cow­boys and Aliens takes it­self very se­ri­ously in­deed. Far more se­ri­ously than any film called Cow­boys and Aliens ever should.

A shoe­less, grime cov­ered Daniel Craig wakes up in the mid­dle of the desert with no mem­ory and a strange iron bracelet on his wrist. Af­ter fend­ing off some lo­cal yokels, Craig steals their per­fectly fit­ting clothes and heads into town.

A fall out with lo­cal top dog (Har­ri­son Ford) Do­larhyde’s son ends with Craig in the clink, but be­fore the mob can lynch him the town is at­tacked by ‘‘fly­ing machines’’ and ‘‘de­mons’’ which snatch up loved ones and carry them off to their moun­tain lair.

Craig, who it turns out is more than he ap­pears, must team up with his neme­sis Do­larhyde, the mob, and a mys­te­ri­ous gun sling­ing girl to find out who he is and what’s go­ing on.

It turns out there’s aliens in them thar hills and they want our gold.

This is se­ri­ous busi­ness, Craig’s grim vis­age tells us. There’ll be no laughs in this posse. So each set piece is de­liv­ered with the same stony cer­tainty, every at­tempt to shoe horn some emo­tion in seems tacked on and ir­rel­e­vant.

Cow­boys

and

Aliens, di­rected by Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau, has all the el­e­ments to make a great scifi film. An in­cred­i­ble cast – Ford and Craig are backed up by Sam Rock­well, Paul Dano, Keith Car­ra­dine and a lu­mi­nous Olivia Wilde; fan­tas­tic spe­cial ef­fects and an awe­some lo­ca­tion – it’s called Death Val­ley, what more do you need to know?

But sadly, per­haps too close a tie to the source ma­te­rial – the film is based on a comic book of the same name – and too lit­tle in the way of bat­ter­ing fun means Cow­boys and Aliens never quite gets to the big screen gold.

Space cow­boy: Gun­slingers take on an in­ter­ga­lac­tic foe in the western/sci-fi hy­brid Cow­boys and Aliens, but the po-faced ex­per­i­ment never musters the el­e­ment of fun you’d ex­pect from such a premise.

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