Jon Favreau introduced the Cowboys and Aliens premiere at Comic-Con last night by telling us that it would be like the surprise Christmas present under the tree that you kept shaking, trying to figure out what was inside. And then it turned out to be unexpectedly awesome.
He was right — his new flick really was like a nice present after a summer film season of sequels and adaptations that didn't give us anything we didn't already expect. Spoiler-free first impressions ahead!
In case you were holding your breath and crossing your fingers for an eye-peeling, heart-pounding flick to make the summer end in a bang - yes, this movie is definitely awesome. It's packed with gorgeous imagery, down-and-dirty action, and an amazing, nuanced performance from Harrison Ford. Though the whole cast was terrific, I really felt like this was Ford's film. As a grizzled old war vet whose toughness has alienated his only son, Ford managed to strike the perfect chord of badassery mixed with kindhearted regret. Who thought that a movie about cowboys, Indians, and villains fighting creepy-ass aliens would also pack an emotional punch? I didn't. And so when the tearful moments came — right in the middle of battle — it was a pleasure to feel more than just bloodlust.
Not that there wasn't plenty of bloodlust, and cheering for the good guys to band together against a common enemy. Though the aliens themselves weren't terribly different from a lot of other creatures we've seen zooming down from space in other movies, their mission on Earth was wholly original and offered a clever twist on Western themes.
The spaceships looked great, right down to their lasso-like alien tech; and the alien ship was gorgeously designed to look look like something right out of the craggy landscape of the American west. Truly, this was the Weird Western done right. Favreau and his team blended their alien invasion and Western imagery seamlessly, in a way that you may have imagined but probably haven't seen done well before.
The plot was, as producer Roberto Orci told us last year at Comic-Con, a play on classic John Ford Western The Searchers — except this time, the aliens have abducted the people our heroes love, and the Indians are allies.
The ensemble cast worked terrifically well, with Adam Beach stealing the show as Ford's surrogate son who has always been more likely to follow in the old man's footsteps than his loutish blood kin. Sam Rockwell and Daniel Craig are also fantastic, and there's a slightly cheesy but nevertheless cool twist with one character that really put the flick into X-Files-y goodness territory.
I'm not going to tell you any more than that. Just see it, fer crissake. And if you're the kind of person who cries in movies, like me, bring a hankie too.