'Cowboys & Aliens' Reviews: What Critics Say

While one calls it "box office gold," another says it has a "clumsy touch and zero feel for the intangibles of classic movie westerns."
Universal Pictures

Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star in Cowboys & Aliens, in theaters Friday. What are the critics saying about the western-sci fi mash up?

"This comic book movie from Jon Favreau spends a gratifying amount of time on its characters and actors rather the visual FX," writes Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter.

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"A big hit at its Comic-Con world premiere, the Universal release looks primed to round up box-office gold with its target audience," he adds. "As the first of undoubtedly a bunch of copycat genre mashups, some of which are bound to be horrendous, Cowboys & Aliens is a solid success. For a tentpole Comic-Con movie, this one devotes a gratifying amount of time to character and achieves most of its success because Favreau has intelligently cast his film and let his actors do their thing."

San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle was also a fan of the film (and especially Favreau), calling the cowboy-alien plot "a gimmick that could easily have exhausted itself after 20 minutes, but director Favreau, a team of screenwriters and some well-cast actors keep it alive, and the result is a crowd-pleasing summer movie with more wit than most," he writes.

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"The more you know Westerns, the more you'll enjoy Cowboys & Aliens. Every Western cliche is pumped up and blown out, not only the cliches of story but of character, costume and set design," adds LaSalle. "But the movie's most inexhaustible source of delight is Harrison Ford as a cranky old entrepreneur in an Indiana Jones hat."

He also says of Favreau: "Cowboys & Aliens gets better as it goes along and benefits from a director with a solid command of tone. The actors may know they're in a comedy, but the characters certainly don't."

Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times had a harsher review.

"It's hard to say what is most depressing about Cowboys & Aliens -- the film itself, or the fact that this was the best movie a posse of major Hollywood players could come up with," he writes.

"A leaden mash-up of western and science-fiction elements that ends up noisy, grotesque and unappealing, this Jon Favreau-directed film features five producers (including Brian Grazer and Ron Howard), six executive producers (Steven Spielberg and Ryan Kavanaugh among them) and six credited writers, led by Star Trek rebooters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and Lost's Damon Lindelof. No wonder the film plays like a business deal more than a motion picture," he adds.

"Unlike last year's splendid True Grit or even Ron Howard's underappreciated The Missing, Cowboys & Aliens has a clumsy touch and zero feel for the intangibles of classic movie westerns," Turan goes on.

The one bright spot for the reviewer: Craig.

"Craig's stern presence attempts to keep Cowboys & Aliens on track, but it is not enough. When director Favreau enthuses, 'I believe that people are thirsting for something like this,' it's hard to know what universe he's talking about," says Turan.


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Lindsay.Powers@thr.com; @LKPE