[NOTE: I promised to write about the movies I saw this past weekend, but not to necessarily review them. Here is what I thought about when I finished watching Cowboys and Aliens. This post does contain spoilers.]
What was supposedly going to be a Blockbuster summer hit, Cowboys and Aliens has managed to create a very mixed feeling amongst summer movie audiences. Some like it. Some do not. I am one of the people that thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun and combined two genres on opposite ends of the spectrum: western and sci fi. It was a little heavy handed on the tropes and formalities of each genre – which is why I actually dislike writing formulaic genre fiction – but it was still quite successful to me.
Whenever humanity is faced with a threat they do not understand, they oftentimes band together. Cowboys and Aliens certainly delve into that idea at every chance they get.
In 1873 New Mexico, aliens have invaded Earth to mine gold. Yes, it is as silly as it sounds. These nameless (but frightening) aliens – or demons as the Cowboys call them, are just as enthralled with monetary precious metals as human kind is. They’re capturing the humans to study them, performing painful and fatal experiments.
Because of this threat to the humans of this particular Wild West area, audiences will see them band together in order to defeat this kidnapping threat.
Did they really overcome their diverse backgrounds?
Since everyone (except Daniel Craig’s character, Jake) had something to gain from stopping the aliens, did they really overcome their diversity? We are given brief glimpses of this towards the end of the film and I think the barriers that had been broken will remain that way. Everyone was out to save their kin that had been captured, but I also believe they all gained respect for each other. Even though it took nearly the entire movie for it to happen.
Harrison Ford plays a rough and tough ex-Colonel Woodrow who underwent the greatest character development in the film. His parental love for his troublemaker son is what starts the initial rescue mission, but his clandestine love for his “adoptive son”, Native American Nat, is what helps catapult him to redemption. He garners the respect from the Native American tribe in the film and audience members, like me, who tear up at anything. Seriously, when he looks down into Nat’s brown eyes as he lays dying in his arms and whispers “I always wanted a son like you”, I nearly lost it.
No longer did the character seem selfish. No longer did he seem bigoted. This was a very successful transformation.
Albeit quite smaller and quicker, the tribe was able to overcome their feelings with the help of Nat…and a resurrected alien being. The chief was unwilling to have his men go and die using the Colonel’s methods of fighting. Through Nat’s explanation of the person he had grown to call his father, the chief opened his mind and listened. With Nat’s death and the reaction of the Colonel, the chief nodded his respect.
Cowboys and Aliens may not have been a complex hit that will win multiple Oscars, but that minor layer of overcoming their differences made it a multi-faceted* movie. I enjoyed it.
*Other aspects of the movie I enjoyed were the character/aliens designs, the fight scenes, and the musical score. I just wish the story did not attempt to contain so many Western tropes and thought the dialogue was a bit stale.