The title promises a romp, but the tone is more ALIENS than THE WILD, WILD WEST in this painfully misconceived High Concept pic. The basic idea puts desperado Daniel Craig (the ‘good’ Badman) and cattle king Harrison Ford (the ‘bad’ Good-man) together with the usual small town posse to fight off an interplanetary ‘forward column’ invasion. They manage to pull in a Native American tribe by the third act, but apparently COWBOYS & INDIANS vs ALIENS wouldn’t fit on the marquee. (Don’t worry, the story still lets a loyal ‘Injun’ give his life to save the our tough, but misunderstood boss man, and Adam Beach pulls off the cliché with dignity intact, as do Sam Rockwell as the town’s bar-keep & Keith Carradine as a smooth sheriff.) Megger Jon Favreau, fresh off IRON MAN I & II, presumably wanted the dark, realistic Old West grime & moral compromise (as seen on HBO) to play off the CGI alien attacks, but he seems largely unaware of what a pointless downer this all is. Why the sorrowful tone for such a dopey idea, for a goof? Heck, there’s not an inspired rodeo trick against the space monsters in the whole damn film. And, when he puts away his Post-Production technical crutches and tries for an old-fashioned bit of Western fisticuffs & gunplay, he doesn’t know how to stage it or the shot-sequence that would sell it. Paging Raoul Walsh!
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Is this really such a new idea? A lot of Sci-Fi pics are Westerns in disguise. You may have heard of one that starred . . . er . . . Harrison Ford. It was released a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. (And yes, the first climax in STAR WARS/’77 is straight out of John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS/’56. How much more Western can you get?)