A lot of the movies that I put under the umbrella of Steampunk get that title because of more or less aesthetic reasons. The City of Ember, for instance, is technically a post-Apocalyptic future, but the people rely on a level of technology akin to the 1900’s. Cowboys and Aliens falls on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of looking Steampunk, the very essence of the story is an alternate history with a futuristic twist, which makes it qualify in my book. It’s also an awesome mash-up that expertly uses some of Western’s best tropes and integrates horror movie principles flawlessly.
What is Cowboys and Aliens About?
The film opens with sweeping shots of the seemingly empty landscape. Cut to Daniel Craig, dirty, bleeding, and with no memory of how he ended up in the middle of the desert with a funky metal contraption on his arm. Within a few minutes, he establishes his unadulterated badassery and his status as the consummate cowboy – a gruff loner with a quick draw and sledgehammer fists. But all he has are disturbing flashes of the dead eyes of a beautiful woman staring at him to tell him who he is or where he came from.
Enter Harrison Ford, an ex-military man turned cattle rancher who now spends his time bullying the townsfolk. His son takes his shenanigans one step too far and winds up in jail. (You see what I mean about classic Western tropes?) The big showdown between Ford and the sheriff seems imminent and then BOOM! Aliens attack! They blow stuff up and use these wicked grapplers to take hostages and whisk them away. Suddenly, the people who were at each other’s throats are pulled together in their quest to get their people back and retake their little patch of earth from the invaders.
What I Thought of Cowboys and Aliens
The film is based on a graphic novel by the same title, and the director, Jon Favreau, was committed to both the spectacle of a comic and making a damn good Western. The special effects are great and the gritty realism of the cinematography and acting grounds what may seem like a goofy concept and makes it feel like it really could have happened. This is a great adventure film and I strongly recommend it for fans of science fiction and old movies alike.