I was never actually really looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens. Sure the premise sounded interesting and it had a great cast, but the appeal never really got to me. Which is quite weird, since I'm both a fan of Daniel Craig and Jon Favreau (and most of the cast for the exception of Paul Dano and Noah Ringer... just don't even). After a while, the only reason I really went to see it was because I've been having a stressful week. So, at the least you could say my expectations were low, and no, it's not awful but it's not so fantastic either.
It starts off with Jake Longerton (Daniel Craig) waking up in the desert warped of his memory. After a couple minutes, three townspeople come in thinking he's escaped from prison with a bounty on his head. He then beats and kills the three men up, steals their clothes and money, and a horse. It's a great scene from the movie since it's subtle, but it doesn't make sense that if his memory is gone and he can't remember his own freaking name, why would he remember how to load a gun? Blah, not a big plot hole but its those type of things that bother me.
We then go to the town of Absolution (or thats what I think it was called, I'm too lazy to check), where Harrison Fords dipshit son is shooting his gun at random places in the small Western Town. This scene is useless and completely ridiculous, because when the first big action scene is reached, we want the son to get abducted because he's so fucking annoying.
When the first big action scene (abducting people in the town, for some odd reason) starts, 85% of the town is abducted. Don't get me wrong, I liked this scene, but why are the people of the town getting abducted? We're told the aliens are here for our gold, so why are you abducting people? It seemed like the only reason they included abducting people was too add exposition for more action scene.
Also, why the gold? (SPOILER) Apparently, gold is a currency on the aliens whole planet but if so why would that be a reason to abduct people and take the gold onto your old ship? A more cohesive storyline would be that the aliens had crash landed on Earth and needed the gold to fuel their ship.. see, look, in fifteen seconds I created a simpler and better plotted story then it took six screenwriters to write.
The acting is fairly average. I really liked Daniel Craig, and I thought he gave in a good performance for what he was given, which was 'shoot, punch, have shitty American 1800's accent'. The rest of the supporting cast goes underdeveloped and their story lines and uninteresting. I liked the actors playing them, so it wasn't a complete waste, I just found some of them were underutilized.
The movie isn't as bad as I'm saying it though, I'm just pointing out the flaws. Despite the crappy writing that leaves 95% of the characters underdeveloped, their acting is still great, and do what they can with the roles, especially Harrison Ford. The CGI on the aliens is great, which helps. Although I found the aliens resembling a little too much the alien in Super 8 ( remember they're both produced by Steven Spielberg? ;] ) I still thought that they were pretty cool. The ship and CGI inside their ship is also awesome, and awe inspiring too. The special effects artists are the movie, and they really do the best they could. The cinematography by Matthew Libutique really goes well with the Western landscape, but I didn't think it really blended well with the sic fi aspect. The story is averagely executed but they at least got some of it right.
Overall, no, this movie is not great. It's not the summers worst offender (Green Lantern, Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) but it's also not one of the best (Transformers: Dark Of the Moon, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II). It's the definition of a popcorn movie; fun but dumb, style over substance, etc. I was happy with how my popcorn tasted and how the action scenes kept me entertained, but it's a movie I'll likely forget when I see Rise Of The Planet of the Apes next weekend.