Andy Bockelman: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ no rootin’-tootin’ good time |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ no rootin’-tootin’ good time

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

In the Wild West, if you had an enemy, you had to watch that they didn't blast you with a laser cannon when your back was turned. Likewise, on many distant planets, six-shooters and shotguns settle all disputes when mere words won't do the job.

That assessment may sound backward, but in "Cowboys & Aliens" it's all the same whether you're on Dodge City's Main Street or the surface of Mars.

When an amnesia victim (Daniel Craig) awakens in the middle of the desert in 1875 New Mexico territory, the only thing he really wants to know is how to get rid of the unusual hunk of metal on his wrist.

As he staggers into the town of Absolution, he gets little help in removing his single shackle, though he does learn who he is and finds plenty of disdain to go along with his newly recovered identity as bank robber Jake Lonegran.

With a face gracing so many "Wanted" posters, Lonegran quickly attracts attention from the local folks, especially that of cattle baron Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), whose vicious nature and controlling wealth make him a dangerous man to cross. But, the notorious stranger is the least of the town's worries when odd machines begin swooping down from the sky spouting fire and snatching people up at random.

As the remaining people of Absolution hit the trail to try and overtake the sky demons, Lonegran and Dolarhyde must form a truce. However, the piece of hardware on Lonegran's wrist may hold more answers than he expected about these vicious invaders.

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Craig may make a fine James Bond, but he seems very displaced out in the dusty, desolate Old West. Though he's well suited to playing a quiet but volatile sort like Lonegran, he never injects the character with much personality.

Plus, his hat looks a little too much like it belongs to somebody else in the cast, namely someone who's visited the Temple of Doom.

Ford, in his first Western role since "The Frisco Kid," is gruff to the extreme as Dolarhyde, a Civil War veteran who isn't about to let Lonegran get away with past transgressions like plundering the gold of financial institutions in the area. Still, he may have more pressing concerns with invaders from above blowing up his cattle and stealing his good-for-nothing son, Percy (Paul Dano).

Wearing a high-necked dress with a floor-length skirt, Olivia Wilde is more concealed than we've ever seen her — though not for long — as Ella, a young woman drawn to Lonegran, knowing the fancy new bracelet he's sporting is certainly not a fashion statement.

The strange creatures and their metal ships are a little more confusing to others in Absolution, such as the faint-hearted barkeep (Sam Rockwell), Dolarhyde's Indian ranch hand (Adam Beach) and the local sheriff (Keith Carradine), whose grandson (Noah Ringer) has to step up in his stead.

Young'uns take their first step into manhood, feuds are dissolved, folks who have never ascribed to a higher power suddenly believe in something. All the conventions of action movies regardless of genre are to be found in this fusion of the Western and science fiction worlds based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's graphic novel.

The purpose in a movie like this isn't to think, but you'd think there would be more fun involved in popcorn entertainment of this sort.

The thrills we should be getting out of seeing two such incredibly different kinds of characters collide is quickly diminished when we realize we're in for the same old story. Director Jon Favreau blended humor and action with style in both "Iron Man" films, but that kind of irreverence and freshness is non-existent here with the only saving grace being a sleek design of alien technology and the aliens themselves, who are respectably ugly, bug-eyed beasts.

For a movie that tries to push the envelope in terms of creative concepts, "Cowboys & Aliens" is disappointingly ordinary. It isn't enough to just combine two kinds of entertainment and expect the clash of settings to be the entire story.

If Favreau really wanted to shake things up, maybe he could have added some music by the Steve Miller Band. At least the people who go in for such an esoteric reference would get a laugh.

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Cowboys and Aliens

2 out of 4 stars

118 minutes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell.