Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Movie Think: Cowboys and Aliens

The same rules apply to my movie "reviews" as do my book "reviews". These are merely an articulation of the thoughts and feelings elicited by the movie and still require an economy sized salt shaker handy when reading.

Hollywood, an ever-expanding vortex of suck, has not backed down in their assault on originality and continues to remake, reboot, and rehash the same six movies in an endless loop of insults to our intelligence. It has gotten to the point where I predict—with the confidence of one blessed with the gift of cynical clairvoyance—that I will be sitting in a darkened theater in the very near future, watching a trailer for the gritty reboot of the movie I just paid to see.

This frightening vision woke me from my vodka induced coma—which we will heretofore refer to as “sleep”—curled in my sweat-soaked sheets, with only the words of my mother to give me comfort. “The future is not written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” And as I lay there, terror-sweat drying on my brow, I thought to myself, “Sarah Connor is my mom?!”

Which should explain why, ever since I heard about the movie Cowboys and Aliens I’ve wanted to see it. I was excited because we were going to get something new, something that had potential and wasn’t a re-remake or a sequel-equel. It had Daniel Craig, who kicked ass as James Bond, it had Harrison Ford, who kicked ass as Han Solo and the motherfucking president, it was backed by Stephen Spielberg, who is directly responsible for some of the best movies of all time, and it had cowboys fighting fucking aliens.

My excitement was tempered however, because Mr. Ford and Mr. Spielberg are also partially responsible for the recent late term abortion known as “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. They get a pass though, because I lay most of the blame for that steaming shitpile on George Lucas since, at that time, he was the only one who had shown a propensity for ruining every awesome story he came in contact with. He's like King Midas if everything King Midas touched turned into an inept screenplay carved into a dog turd.

So, blinders firmly in place, I marched off to see Cowboys and Aliens at my local Muvico—which is a pretty badass theater, and if there isn't one in your town you have my pity—with a grim determination to like this movie resting on my shoulders like a sacred mantle of nerd denial. It wasn't enough.

Overall the movie suffers because the writer or director wanted us to care about the characters. I know that might sound odd, but without proper development you can want me to care about the characters until they make an Arrested Development movie and I still won't give a fuck about them. You need to give me a reason to give a shit beyond “she made googly eyes at the protagonist” if you want me to care when something bad happens.

This is the main problem I have with movies like this. There is no buildup of tension. I have noticed that, for some reason (most likely the steady declination of the average moviegoer's IQ), a lot of modern movies have achieved such a level of ADD that they can't foreshadow anything beyond a microsecond. So you end up with scenes like this 90 minutes into the movie:

Heroine: “Where did you get that scar?”

Protagonist: “I got it defeating a band of rabid flamingos. It wasn't pretty, and I don't like to talk abou—“

*Someone bursts into the room*

Someone: “A band of rabid flamingos is attacking the town!”

Also, it's time to do away with the obvious jump-scare. This shit is rampant. It's equivalent to those emails you couldn't escape a few years ago that had you concentrate on some bullshit maze only to have a picture of Regan in full-on pea soup mode pop up when you “least expect it”. By the fiftieth time I was pretty hip to what was coming, and it's the same with these jump-scares.

The protagonist hides from the monster while it searches around, the violins building to a crescendo. But the monster, unable to find the protagonist, leaves the room. There is a moment of stillness. The violins stop. The protagonist lets out the breath they've been holding, and THE MONSTER JAMS ITS SCREAMING FACE INTO THE CAMERA! Preferably with spittle flying from its teeth (betcha didn't see that one coming did ya?).

In Cowboys and Aliens it happens twice to the same character!

In an attempt to inject something positive into this “review”, I will say that I was pleased with Harrison Ford's performance. His character had a miniscule but discernible arc, and I think he did the absolute best he could with the material he was given. He is still a great actor and I hope to see him working with a better script in the near future.

I give Cowboys and Aliens, starring Han Solo, James Bond, Captain Hadley, Guy Fleegman, and Eli Sunday, two Deus Ex Machinas and half an inexplicable romance.

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