The name pretty much sums it up: There are cowboys. There are aliens. And Iron Man Director Jon Favreau has blown a pretty penny trying to make the whole thing work, getting the sexiest woman alive from Maxim a few years back, as well as a James Bond and a Han Solo to convince you to come to the theater and watch 6-shooters take on the little green men. Spoilers may exist below, but I promise to keep the review mostly lacking substance: just like the movie.
So let me be clear up front: I didn't hate it. The only movie this summer that I walked out of the theater thinking FAIL in capital letters was Green Lantern. So far everything else has had some sort of redeeming value. And this does too: solid production values, occasionally funny dialog, cool looking aliens, and a really awesome bad guy base/rocket ship is good fun.
The plot: Daniel Craig is a cowboy who wakes up with amnesia and a strange metal wrist band. He runs afoul of a punk kid with a rich daddy (Ford) in a town where blinking lights in the sky show up and lasso people away at night. So Craig and Ford and a ragtag assortment of town folk go looking for their kin, learning about the aliens, and growing beyond their cheesy racism with the local indians, and shooting pistols at alien space ships.
The sci-fi western is tough sod to trod. The winners (Firefly, Cowboy Bebop) have typically placed Cowboys into Outter Space, and not Aliens into the Old West. For me, this is because the whole old west/cowboy thing is kinda campy. Hollywood dried up that well over the years, leaving behind a legacy of great and terrible movies. But the Western has a visual vocabulary we all know. The Bar Hall Brawl. The standoff in main street between two gun-slingers. The Boozing and the Prostitutes. And of course the dialog conventions... that 1800s slang which is very fun to play with for a moment, and pretty annoying after awhile. Unless you are Malcolm Reynolds.
I think they did an ok job with their world. They never really break out of The Old West. With the exception of the super weapon that Craig has attached to his wrist, the good guys weapons are pistols, rifles, dynamite sticks which makes it all the more awesome fighting highly maneuverable alien fighter jets, as well as the more melee battles on the ground.
The aliens and their technology are a mixed bag. Their design is sort of like a turtle with a quatto to inside. We see 2 ships: one which is kinda a fighter that looks like a firefly, and one giant rocket base that is mostly underground and used to mine gold (which is explained, but really is done just for cool golden visuals scattered all around the film, and to justify alien presence and overall badness).
Should you see it? I enjoyed Captain America, Harry Potter, and Thor more. But this was better than Transformers 3 and Green Lantern. It's visually stylized. Sometimes charming. My wife thought Daniel Craig was just ok, where I found him to be pretty cool. I thought Harrison Ford to once again proves that he is just to old for this sort of work: Same problem with Indiana Jones the action just isn't believable any more- he looks and moves like an old man, and they edit it this stuff to make him look like he is doing more than he is instead of embracing the fact that he's an old guy shuffling around. He just doesn't pull it off. But he looks good in a hat.
But when I look at the producer credits, I can't help but feel like this just should have been better. There are 8 writers, including several of the Bad Robot regulars. The producers include the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer team, Steven Spielburg and those Lost guys again. I can't help but feel like when the dust settled, this was a film by committee. From the design to the script to the casting and somewhere through 8 writers and all these producers a bit of sparkle got sanded off.
But hey, next summer Pirates & Aliens? Ninjas & Aliens? I spent all night trying to decide what genre should encounter aliens next, and i have the answer: Alien & Aliens. Now THAT would be a movie.