Movie Mini-Reviews: Captain America: The First Avenger / Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens is a giant popcorn movie.  Pretty much all you need to know about this movie's plot is in the title.  There are cowboys and there are aliens.  They don't get along.  Cowboys ride their horses and shoot their little guns, aliens ride their spaceships and rope the cowboys like cattle.  It's not exactly a complicated story, so what needs to hook you are the characters.

Harrison Ford plays a wealthy jackass named Dolarhyde, who has a drunken jackass son who gets arrested for "accidentally" shooting a deputy.  The son then disappears for just about the entire movie.  A number of other vaguely introduced characters also disappear for most of the movie.  These characters will not hook you.

Daniel Craig is an amnesiac cowboy named Jake Lonergan.  It's implied from the beginning that he's not exactly the most honest of men, and past deeds mean that he and Dolarhyde butt heads.  Until they don't.  For no apparent reason other than Lonergan has a gizmo on his wrist that can shoot down the alien ships.  He probably won't hook you either unless you're hooked by the fact he's ruggedly attractive.

Then there's Sam Rockwell, who is generally brilliant in all things, playing a bartender every one calls Doc.  He doesn't know how to handle a gun and the aliens took his wife.  These are the only things we ever learn about him.  This makes me sad.

The first half is a great cowboy movie.  I say it's great because I don't generally like cowboy movies and I liked this one, so really it might mean it's an awful cowboy movie.  It's a group of men riding dusty roads attempting a rescue mission, coming across violent bandits and fighting among themselves.  Then, half way into the movie, both Dolarhyde and Lonergan's characters flipflop into different people.  Now Dolarhyde is a gruff but nice old man, who looks after kids and is respected by those around him.  Longergan is an honorable man who is just misunderstood.  And all the while these aliens are flying around, snatching people and being a general annoyance.

My biggest problem with the film is simple: the cowboys could never beat the aliens.  The aliens are high tech with their laser gizmos and flying ships, not to mention their armored skin and the fact that bullets don't seem to have much of an impact.  The cowboys have horses and little hand guns.  One of the guys is a little more prepared and has a nice shotgun (my weapon of choice for any future zombie or alien attack).  During the pinnacle scene where the cowboys and aliens finally face each other in battle, an endless number of cowboys appear out of nowhere and they seem to have suddenly obtained invincibility and/or immortality.

The side plot with the girl was silly and unneeded, so I'm not even going to talk about it other than to ask: Does Olivia Wilde ever play a character that isn't dead eyed and bland?

This could have been so awesome and it just wasn't.  It's not a horrible movie.  It's not a good movie.  It's... just sorta there.

 

C-

Disappointing execution to a potentially awesome concept; inconsistent characterization; complete waste of Sam Rockwell; Daniel Craig is still hot, though his American accent threw me off a little

 

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

I went into Captain America exhausted from Comic Con and with a creeping migraine threatening to make my trip home hellish.  This movie had a million things going against it in my head: my disinterest in Chris Evans, the creep factor of seeing Chris Evan's face on a teeny tiny body, my general boredom with war movies, and the fact that most of the comic book movies this summer have been disappointing.

And yet, I really liked it in a "shut your brain off and enjoy the explosions" sort of way.

A quick tutorial on Captain America: he's a scrawny kid from Brooklyn that wants to fight in World War II, but gets rejected for a number of reasons.  A nice scientist decides to try an experiment on him and turns the kid into a giant, muscular super soldier.  He runs fast, he jumps high, and he has a really awesome shield.  Oh yes, and he's also the ultimate patriot good guy or something.

Skinny Steve Rogers still creeped me out and I was happy when he became the super soldier, though I also wanted someone to poke his pecs with a sharp pin to see if air would leak out.  His hat is also stupid.  Why with the hat?  Why not the get up without the hat?  No one else was wearing a hat, and if they were, it was a somewhat protective metal helmet, not a rubber toboggan.  

Hugo Weaving, playing a psychotic Nazi supernatural specialist war hero named Johann Schmidt, excelled at creepy before he ever showed himself as Red Skull.  AND he played the bad guy without me expecting him to say "Mr. Anderson"* all slow and evil-like, which doesn't happen very often.  He's probably scarier with his actual face on, too, which I don't mean as an insult.  Once he's Red Skull, it's all a bit over-the-top and silly as comic book villains tend to be.

Chris Evans is... whatever.  Passable, I suppose.  He makes Steve likable and believably courageous without seeming too cocky or too much of a Marty Stu (though Captain America just might be the biggest Marty Stu ever in history).  

One of the best parts was a simple scene in the middle of a exciting chase.  Having just turned into a super soldier, Steve is chasing on foot an evil Nazi infiltrator who just murdered his scientist creator.  The evil Nazi grabs a young boy as a hostage and drags him down a pier to his super-secret Nazi submarine, where he throws the boy off the pier so Steve will have to dive in and save the boy, not chase after him.  Except the boy yells at Steve to forget him and go after the bad guy because he knows how to swim!

I know there are probably lots of 10-year-old children that don't know how to swim, but it was nice to see a kid that could save himself in the end so that the hero could do the overall "save the day" thing.  It's the small things that make me happy.  Such as how well they integrated this movie into the timeline previously built in the Iron Man films, what with a trip to a Stark Expo and Howard Stark being all technical inventor guy.

We also get a montage of Steve Rogers acting as the "face of the war effort" in a nice song-and-dance troupe where he gets to wear the silly classic Captain America costume.  We also get to see a lot of things blow up and soldiers shooting the Nazis' laser guns at the bad guys.  There's zip-lining and eventually a plane full of bombs that leads to the inevitable - Captain America magically being in the current day so he can be in the Avengers and get into arguments with Robert Downey Junior Iron Man Tony Stark.

 

B-

Big dumb stupid fun; things go ka-blaamo and there are laser guns; Bucky was sorely underutilized and Jensen Ackles should have been Captain America**

 

* A reference to The Matrix for you young whippersnappers out there

** Me, holding a grudge?  Never...***

 

 

*** And Matt Bomer should have been Superman!