Genre mash-up founders
Cowboys and Aliens
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.
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.