It has a really eye-catching title, the guy that did Iron Man is behind the camera, Steven Spielberg is hovering in the background, James Bond and Indiana Jones are the leads and the gal pal is the gorgeous Olivia Wilde. Got to be a winner, right?
To be fair, it is a winner for the opening 10 minutes. We are introduced to Daniel Craig's mysterious gunslinger out on the western plain. He's wounded, disoriented and all alone but can't remember how he got to be there. When a bunch of ne'er-do-wells ride along, however, he does remember how to make short work of them before heading into town and scaring all the local folk with his brooding meanness. Just as the showdown is about to kick off, strange lights herald the arrival of the eponymous aliens. All very exciting, and there are a few strong supporting actors, in the shape of Keith Carradine and Paul Dano, thrown in for good measure.
It's at this point that it all goes pear-shaped as a town posse, led by Craig and Harrison Ford, ride off in pursuit of the aliens (who haven't helped the film's cause by kidnapping the aforementioned strong supporting cast). Favreau's movie also breaks the cardinal rule of all summer blockbusters; the one that reads: Thou Shalt Not Be Dull. Cowboys & Aliens is badly paced and never seems quite sure of foot when it comes to tone. It's not exciting enough to be a summer romp, it's not funny enough to be a pastiche and it's not credible enough to be a compelling drama.
The alien side of the story is a let-down, whether that's the actual look of the monsters or their very dull reason for arriving on our planet. The western side of the story works better as Favreau has managed to capture the Old West and Craig has a rare old time channelling the spirits of Wayne, Cooper or even Jack Palance in Shane. Cowboys minus Aliens: now that's the film they should have made.