Cowboys & Aliens was dead before release. Many people, having forgotten the Cowboys and Indians of their youth – or having a youth spawned after we realised that genocidal war games aren’t the best things to aspire to – didn’t recall what was being referred to.
On top of that, they thought the idea was stupid, forgetting that the latter day prophet Gary Larson had foreseen it years prior:
(And believe me, it’s not that hard for multiple people to come to this same conclusion – but it’s strange that the most common source of this image has a tape mark on it.)
So a double genre piece is a hard sell to a lot of people.
“That looks like the biggest waste of a cast in Hollywood history,” one of my friends told me. While that’s far from accurate, Cowboys & Aliens is a strangely sterile affair – it’s as if it wants to be good and exciting but can’t quite jump the required hurdles, ploughing ahead in a straight and flat line.
I’ve seen outright hatred for this movie, but anyone who would put it on a “worst of 2011” list plainly hasn’t seen a bad movie this year. This movie isn’t deserving of excess praise, but it’s done nothing to earn derision.
Cowboys & Aliens is basically stunningly competent; never impressing, occasionally confusing, and sometimes raising racial quandaries, it gets the job done, and done okay.