Cowboys & Aliens Blu-Ray Review

The Movie: 7/10
I had a great time with this movie. I was taken away to the 1800’s, reintroduced to the wild west, explored the view of extra terrestrials from an old timey perspective, and it was really fun. There are things about the movie I do think let it down a bit, but overall it’s a new experience that makes for great movie watching.

The obvious thing to say has been said about this movie already, so I won’t say it.

What I really enjoyed about Cowboys and Aliens was that it took me to that time and place almost completely. I love period piece flicks going to other times in history and how every writer has a slightly different way to tell the tales of the times. This is a gritty, dirty time period, lots of dust and grime, and yet in this movie things are a tiny bit on the Hollywood warehouse of Western props side of the dirt road. I can accept that since there are lots of dirty faces, muddy dresses, and a fair share of grunting that makes me think living then was really hard work.

We’ve got a story that’s pretty solid. A man wakes up in a desert not sure who he is with a strange bracelet on his arm. We learn quickly that he’s not to be messed with after he kicks some desert ass right away and heads to the nearest dusty town. One woman knows about his past, maybe, maybe not. I’m not sure about that particular part of the story. I mean, she’s cool and mysterious and intriguing, but the way it plays out in the beginning doesn’t pan out as we get to know her. She’s a good character and I wish they had made her more interesting and less of a question mark early on in the movie.

We find out that a bully dude runs this town. A cattleman by the name of Indiana Solo Jones. He’s got a snotty spoiled grown son who terrorizes the town. There is a sherrif who tries to keep the peace with his big moustache, and the obligatory “Doc” who happens to be the saloon owner and is also Sam Rockwell. With this cast of characters it’s easy to see why I do lean more toward liking this movie.

The music is a bit heavy handed at times, but overall does a find job of keeping me in the old western vibe. The introduction of the aliens with their other worldly sounds and subtle music works alright, but I’ll get to the weakest part of the whole thing in a minute, and yes it has to do with the alien part of the story. OK, I’ll tell you now what problems I had with the movie. Hmmm how do I break this to you without sounding picky or unappreciative of the clash of genres? The clash of genres is awesome, in theory, but I felt that there was a big disconnect between the amazing world of the old west and their encounters with other worldly beings. I have no idea what it would be like, true, however, the visual telling of the whole story has such a jarring contrast between the cowboys and the aliens that it took me out of the movie every once in a while. I would liked for them to resist the temptation of going full Alien during the scenes in their lair. That being said, I like each element seperately. The blending of the two felt like there could have been more connective tissue, but hey, it’s a new world to explore.

It’s a good time. That’s how I see this whole adventure. The guts of making a modern big effects flick with the old school boots and hats and more dust then you can choke on is a great idea. Opps, that’s the boring thing that has been said about this movie…well, I said it. Enjoy Cowboys and Aliens for what it is and you will have a great movie watcher experience like me.

Features: 7/10

  • Conversations With John Favreau – A series of interesting interviews with members of the cast, the highlight here though is a 15 minute conversation with non other than Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazier.
  • The Making Of Cowboys & Aliens 5 Part Documentary – This is billed as a 5 part documentary but comes off as a 5 part EPK featurette, its certainly not up to the standard of the superb Iron-Man features you see on those discs.
  • Feature Commentary With John Favreau – A full length commentary with Mr Favreau, I love any commentary with a enthusiastic director and this guy certainly is that.
  • Second Screen – Universals Second Screen feature that lets you use an Ipad to experience concept art and the like during the movie.
  • U Control – A PIP feature that spans 12 of the movies chapters, lots of interviews and behind the scenes footage here if you are a big Cowboys & Aliens fan.

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
For some strange reason I kind of like this cover art. It reminds me of old Western novels, as I’m sure they intended. I like the whole idea of aliens and cowboys, so it would make a fun poster to hang in our movie room. (Hint hint hint Ascully…) The menu has live clips from the movie, and a lovely typo you can find for yourself. Hilarious.

Audio & Video: 8/10
While the movie was not an outstanding success in the theaters, the quality of the Blu-Ray transfer is leaps and bounds ahead of the 1800’s setting.  This transfer conveys the grit and grime of the setting perfectly with a crisp picture that looks way nicer than the period it’s set in. Cinematographer Matthew Libertique provides a lush sun drenched pallette and some extreme close ups of most of the actors. The only problem I have is some of the darker scenes (the riverboat notably) are slightly tweaked in post to make it darker and scarier, the transfer also crushes the black slightly making it hard to see the detail in the set.

The first thing I noticed about the DTS-HD Master audio track is how clear the dialog is. We have had some Blu-Rays recently with mussy dialog that bleeds into the rest of the ambient sound. Cowboys & Aliens does not suffer from this with a clear classy audio track that really delivers, when the action kicks up the music and alien sound effects sound great with some nice separation and surround sound effects. This is a very cool showcase soundtrack that can be used to show off your system, shame the film isn’t quite up to those lofty standards.

Value: 5/10
Big action, good extras, a fun night at home at the movies, what is it worth? I say it makes a good deal around $15. If you see it for that you are getting a fair price for what you have on offer. I would watch this movie a few more times, show it to my mom, and my nephew, so it’s going to be worth the cash. It’s not tempting at the $20 mark, so watch for the best deal you can find.

Overall Score 7/10