BASED on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Cowboys & Aliens is a rootin’ tootin’ action adventure that melds the western and science fiction genres with a blitzkrieg of digital effects.
It’s a curious juxtaposition – pistols and laser guns – and certain elements of Jon Favreau’s entertaining film don’t gel.
While Harrison Ford possesses the weariness of a man who could conceivably have kicked up his spurs in 1870s New Mexico, co-star Daniel Craig swaggers around in figure-hugging leather chaps and a shirt unbuttoned to the navel like James Bond at a fancy dress party.
We’re not remotely surprised that he opens the film by disabling three bandits on horseback.
Nor do we bat an eyelid when his character out-canters an alien spaceship along a canyon ridge and leaps from the turbo-charged nag onto the otherworldly craft. The invaders do not stand a chance.
Preposterousness aside, Cowboys & Aliens gallops along at a fair lick and director Favreau (Iron Man) orchestrates the set pieces with aplomb, keeping our adrenaline pumping as the 19th century heroes use their primitive weapons against hordes of slavering predators.
Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes in the desert with a gunshot wound, a large metal bracelet on his wrist and no memory of who he is or how he came to be in the dirt.
He struts into town and is unmasked as a killer with a sizeable bounty on his head.
Arrested by the sheriff and bound for prison alongside Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), Jake makes his escape from the prison coach during a devastating attack by extraterrestrial craft.
Percy is abducted and the boy’s powerful father, Woodrow (Harrison Ford), vows to rescue his son and he press gangs Jake into accompanying his posse on the perilous mission.
Beautiful cowgirl Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), publican Doc (Sam Rockwell) and a fatherless boy called Emmett (Noah Taylor) join the hunt for the aliens.
Cowboys & Aliens dodges the bullet of the 3D format and concentrates on old-fashioned action with 21st century visual trickery.
Craig exudes the same amount of charisma as the wooden scenery but he is a brooding physical presence and the camera sensibly focuses on his chest and posterior.
Ford provides fleeting comic relief and also pockets the film’s best emotional scene, sharing a tender moment with a Native American in his posse, who he has always treated as a surrogate son.
Wilde’s feisty femme almost feels surplus to requirements, unable to generate any sexual chemistry with Craig because of his character’s tragic back story.
So she is gifted a pivotal role in the final showdown that isn’t entirely deserved but does allow Favreau to leave the saloon door ajar for a potential sequel.