Cowboys & Aliens
Studios: Fairview Entertainment, K/O Paper Products, Platinum Studios, Imagine Entertainment
Distributors: Universal Pictures (US)/ Dreamworks (Int.)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Director: Jon Favreau
Release: Out Now
Now, when you hear a movie entitled “Cowboys & Aliens,” you may hear alarm bells ringing in your head. How can a movie featuring cowboys, featured in the western genre, and aliens, which are used in the science fiction genre, actually work? Curiosity got the better of me and I sat down and watched it. Basically, a mix up of the western and sci-fi genres did not work for this movie. The story was very average and quite clichéd, the acting seemed mediocre, but they had to contend with poorly written, one-dimensional characters. The Blu-ray itself looks stunning, save for a few visual hiccups as well as excellent sound. Expect a generous offering of extras as well.
The movie starts off with the lone gunman Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) lying in the middle of the desert with no memory, injured and a strange metal shackle attached to his wrist. Drifters turn up and he decides to kill them, as they were going ton steal his things. He takes their things and rides to the nearest town, which happens to be Absolution. After encountering a few of the townsfolk, he is identified as an outlaw, so he tries to escape. Unfortunately for him, a woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) knocks him out. Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) asks for Lonergan so that he may be trialled for stealing his gold. It is during this standoff that the aliens enter the story. It seems that the metal shackle on Lonergan’s wrist is a key as it shoot down one of the ships.
Watching through the movie, I could not help noticing how bad the story is. The beginning is the start of all the problems. The no memory device is a cliché as old as time itself and, as you will see, Lonergan is the key to all the events, seeing he has the main character gene. This is a western first – don’t expect any aliens in any prominent roles. In fact they make a minimal appearance, which is very disappointing. Even the acting could have been a little better. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde are much better than they are in this film. They could have added another two dimensions to the one dimensional characters that were written. Overall, a dull story, combined with mediocre acting, makes this story one to forget… really quickly.
In terms of the Blu-ray conversion, I am very impressed. Universal has encoded the movie in 1080p/AVC (2.40:1) and the results are great, especially on a bigger screen. There is some grain that you may notice, but that just adds to the atmosphere and making the visuals stand out. One thing that did get a bit annoying is how black is handled in the indoor scenes. It feels too artificial for my liking in terms of brightness. Compared to the outdoor scenes, I believe that it could have been touched up some more. The sets are not bad, while the action sequences, not the best, aren’t the worst out there. The aliens could have been designed better, but I didn’t mind the design of the CGI ships.
The sound design of the film has to be the strongest point of the film. The sound is delivered with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which sounds absolutely beautiful. The soundtrack, conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams (who has worked with Hans Zimmer), creates what the film fails to do, a successful blend of two genres. The western inspired soundtrack mixes well with the electronic music that is meant to represent the sci-fi within the film. The sound is crystal clear, especially with a surround sound system. The people behind the sound design deserve recognition for their work on this film as it achieves excellence in a mediocre film.
While the movie lacked substance, this Blu-ray doesn’t lack in the extras department. In addition to the theatrical release, an extended uncut version is also included, adding sixteen minutes to the movie. There is also “Igniting the Sky: The Making of Cowboys & Aliens” and “Conversations with Jon Favreau.” “Igniting the Sky: the Making of Cowboys & Aliens” is what the title suggest, the making of the film. I love watching how a film is made and this feature is no exception. “Conversations with Jon Favreau,” however, is hosted by director Jon Favreau . You get to hear the cast and crew on their thoughts with the movie. This is a great watch. Universal also adds U-Control, which acts as a picture-to-picture with either your Blu-ray disk or tablet PC. It is quite a cool feature. Sadly, I don’t own a tablet PC, so I don’t know how it is like there. Add in the fact it also includes a DVD, Digital and an Ultraviolet cloud streaming copy (so, that’s four copies of the movie) and you have a great selection of quality extra features. Too bad it couldn’t translate to the movie itself.
This perplexes me. I see a great Blu-ray offering, with stunning visuals aided by an excellent transfer, sound design of the highest quality, extras that are worth watching and also trying to innovate. I also see a mediocre movie with clichés upon clichés, one dimensional characters and a story that did not hook me in from the get-go, despite the curiosity of these two genres mixing it up. If you loved the movie in the cinemas, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise, seeing as the core is the movie itself, I would not recommend this title for anyone.