The movie's tagline "First contact. Last stand" makes Cowboys & Aliens an unusual movie. This science fiction Western film directed by Jon Favreau; written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Osby; based on a screen story by the latter two along with Steve Oedekerk; based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The main plot revolves around an amnesiac outlaw, a wealthy cattleman, and a mysterious traveler who must ally to save a group of townspeople abducted by aliens.
The project began development in April 1997, when Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures bought film rights to a concept pitched by Rosenberg, former president at Malibu Comics, which he described as a graphic novel in development. After the graphic novel was published in 2006, development on the film was begun again, and Favreau signed on as director in September 2009. By April 2010, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig were cast. Favreau had cast Craig and Ford in the film because they were actors who suited the action-adventure roles so the characters would be less seen as comedic. On a budget of $163 million, filming for Cowboys & Aliens began in June 2010, in New Mexico and California. Despite studio pressure to release the film in 3-D, Favreau chose to film traditionally and in anamorphic format (widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film) to further a "classic movie feel". Measures were taken to maintain a serious Western element despite the film's "inherently comic" title and premise. The film's aliens were designed to be "cool and captivating", with some details, such as a fungus that grows on their wounds, created to depict the creatures as frontiersmen facing adversity in an unfamiliar place.
The film stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine. The cast gave lacklustre performances that were borderline comical and silly. Craig and Ford unintentionally drew silly caricatures of themselves when they intended to deliver two new additions to the list of great action heroes. Wilde just seemed to be nothing but eye candy for the men in the audience, especially with that one scene. Her character lacked real personality and purpose even though she was the key to the whole film.
Cowboys & Aliens is a middling sci-fi / western crossover fodder, at best. As a kid, I would enjoy this movie much more than I would as an adult. Aliens and cowboys in a single movie. It seems contrived and dull. Pretty much the end of Favreau's career for serious filmmaking. It starts off really well, stalls a little toward the middle, goes bonkers for one really odd scene, and then derails completely at the end. In the end, it doesn't deliver all that much of what the title promises.
Simon says Cowboys & Aliens receives: