Itís absolutely amazing how similar the western and sci-fi genres are; here they have married beautifully here to create a highly original new kind of movie experience.
The scene is set in Absolution, Arizona, and a Wild West desert outpost populated with preachers, doctors, saloon owners, criminals and Civil War veterans.
Without skipping too far head at once, as to marrying two genres, imagine the awe of hearing those familiar electronic blips and blue lights set off in this far-off world of the past. Itís positively energizing.
A memory challenged loner hero wanders into town wearing a steampunk, clearly electronic gizmo on his wrist. Heís desperately handsome (oh that Daniel Craig!) and individualistic and clearly able to defend himself like a Wild West superhero fist fighter.
When grilled by the locals, he canít defend himself because he has no memory of being the wanted criminal he is accused of being. They say heís Jake Lonergan, a gang leader who has stolen gold from a powerful, local thug (Harrison Ford) and his gang.
Tensions mount and out of the dusty landscape comes an impossibly beautiful and (as its 130 years ago in the desert) groomed Olivia Wilde. Her teeth are whiter than white, her hair and floral print dress just so. Strange that sheís singled out by the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments when all the bad guys are completely filthy and obviously stinky. Oh well. Thus ever it was.
So Lonergan, the villagers and the ruling thugs are standing off on Main St., Absolution and weíre sure of multiple deaths by gun, when something glowing floats down the street and explodes the place to smithereens. By sheer accident, Lonergan discovers his weird bracelet has the power to kill the monster inside the space craft.
I would like to have seen a lot more of the olde timers wide-eyed, gob smacked responses to the future indicators, but itís all over too fast and they donít seem really to care about such things as flying, flashing lights and holograms.
It would have been very cool to explore the steampunk connection more thoroughly, but itís straight to meat and potatoes, war with the extra-terrestrials. Thatís where it loses its originality and becomes just another sci-fi fight film.
The image of villagers being caught up into the space ship by long chains is fun and original. They are snatched away Ė and usually over-the-hill men, sexy women and children Ė leaving their mates confused and angry. But how can mere cowboy earthlings battle space monsters? With ingenuity and Lonerganís bracelet!!
Favreau seems intent on getting to the end of the film with as much din and white light as possible. He decided not to explore the subtleties and culture clash of the old versus new, focusing instead on slimy monsters with extra hands that shoot out of their gross chests.
A nice supporting cast features Adam Beach, Raoul Trujillo, Noah Ringer, the kid from The Last Airbender, Keith Carradine and an adorable dog. Ford plays a blustery, ageing and oh so cantankerous bandit, a portrayal which borders on satire and Craig is well, James Bond circa 1873.
Ultimately the idea of combining the western and sci-fi flick is totally appealing and for the most part it works. The film could be shorter and less jagged, but overall, itís a cool popcorn movie that inspires fantasies about cowboys & aliens.
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35mm sci fi adventure
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman et al
Directed by Jon Favreau
Opens July 28
Runtime: 118 minutes
MPAA: PG 13