Space Cowboys Reviews
I liked this movie, both in concept and execution, but thought the whole gun thing was stupid.
Mainly what I have to say is that there is a reason that audiences don't like this movie the way critics think they should. Even so, it is strange, because this is a high-budget movie with mass appeal and famous actors, and the average consumer thinks that any movie along those lines is just great. Well, this one is weird, drags on endlessly, and rings hollow. It is all too cliche - you know pretty much what is going to happen and the "big reveals" disappoint. While many scenes are memorable, likely due to some decent acting, it doesn't make for a movie that captivates, pleases, or has other redeeming qualities. I remember being confused watching it in the theater as it seemed to begin as this rollicking comedy with enjoyable old-dude characters and then devolved into this weird conspiracy drama with demises that were supposed to evoke emotion but just seemed odd and stupid. It seemed as if it would never end - it felt like they crammed three movies into one and each story was worse than the previous one.
I think critics become blinded by "great" actors sometimes. If you're a movie buff, you may want to watch every single movie that your favorite actor is in regardless of its merit. However, that is not enough for the viewing public. Read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia. You'll catch a glimpse of how this film began with a bold, quirky sense of adventure and ended in a nauseating sob story of heroes fading away. Good riddance, I say.
Bringing back the legacy of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), Space Cowboys works to be another film about the difficulties of age in a contemporary world. Though it maintains many western elements and what is essentially a gang of sheriffs, the genre is a new one for the legendary director as it takes him into space this time. There is definitely a feeling of nostalgia that comes from seeing a gang of legendary actors collaborate, and much of the time that's enough to transcend the predictabilities of the film.
Space Cowboys follows a very familiar narrative. Adhering heavily to its genre conventions, Space Cowboys offers a collection of character archetypes to keep it on the ground with predictable disaster-themed plot points when it reaches space. And the structure of Space Cowboys is as conventional as the story. In tune with the standard storytelling procedure for disaster movies, Space Cowboys focuses mainly on creating a situation and building up its characters before launching them into it. It's the same narrative style used in films such as Armageddon (1998) and The Core (2003), though far less shallow. Clint Eastwood makes a genuine attempt to put strong characters into Space Cowboys, and he is mostly effective at doing so which lives up to the talents of the cast members in the role. But at the same time, it also means that viewers have to incur a lot of waiting before take-off. The launch for the mission doesn't actually occur until 75 minutes into the story, and though Clint Eastwood works hard to keep viewers engaged during this time it is clear that less-patient viewers will find the slow pace to be a frustration. Since Space Cowboys makes an active effort to be less of a blockbuster and more of a character piece, the slow pace of the film is maintained when its gets close to its disaster-fuelled climax where there is a greater focus on the political turmoil of the situation and the characters involved than on creating some kind of explosive finale. There are still thrills to be had; Space Cowboys just doesn't forsake the narrative to capture it all.
It's very admirable that his film diverts disaster film conventions into being a more character oriented piece. Clint Eastwood's passion for the material is great because he keeps things stylish and atmospheric while ensuring that the full extent of the Kaufman-Klauser screenplay is captured. The dialogue is rich and gives viewers an understanding of the science behind the mission which isn't too simplistic or complicated, while there is also a lot of interesting character conflict to keep things intriguing. This predominantly comes from the relationship shared by Colonel Francis D. "Frank" Corvin and Colonel William "Hawk" Hawkins which gives an edge to the film during its waiting time. Since these characters are played by two legendary actors who have proven talented in the field of Western filmmaking, the hook is even greater.
And once the film finally reaches space, the full extent of its technical values are embraced. The visual effects are incredibly impressive, capturing the glory of being in space by giving viewers the perspective of someone drifting slowly through the skies and admiring the natural beauty of the earth from a perspective beyond what most humans are capable of. The glory in all this is not exploited for meagre action value, rather it is embraced to give viewers an insight into the mindset of the characters' experiences. Space Cowboys makes a strong use of both production design and dedicated visuals which makes for a brilliant visionary experience. Everything is captured with strong cinematography, and the sound editing and musical score breathes greater atmosphere into everything.
Disaster films often have ensemble casts as a means of mildly captivating the audiences, but Space Cowboys ensures that its actors actually dedicate themselves to giving strong performances.
Clint Eastwood delivers a strong leading effort. Capturing exactly what you could have expected or hoped for, Clint Eastwood brings back his naturally gruff persona for Space Cowboys without having to pick up a gun this time. Though he maintains small elements of a man with age such as a sense of intelligence that only comes with time, he remains a strong and even intimidating screen presence as times due to his ability to create raw tension in any situation he deems appropriate. Clint Eastwood has lost none of his charismatic acting skills, and Space Cowboys reminds us of that with simple brilliance.
Tommy Lee Jones makes an equal stand. Devoted fans of his should rejoice at seeing him go up against the likes of Clint Eastwood because his charisma propels him to delivering an effort of equal strength. The two battle each other to be the most engaging screen presence through the use of their pre-established character types. Tommy Lee Jones' is a strong and likable man with a flair for sporadic sarcasm, and he uses this to challenge Clint Eastwood in many scenes that prove to be some of the most entertaining of the film. The two really go at it, and Tommy Lee Jones does his part to ensure that an equal balance of depth is established on both sides of the relationship between Frank and Hawk. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the best elements of Space Cowboys.
Though James Garner and Donald Sutherland are both extremely talented actors, there is a distinctive feeling that their roles are reduced to make way for Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones which leaves them in rather diminutive parts. There is no denying that their charms are an asset, particularly Donald Sutherland's undying friendly charisma, but with a legacy like theirs it should be capitalized on more.
Marcia Gay Harden also delivers a notable supporting effort. Though lacking the same legacy as her surrounding actors, Marcia Gay Harden is an extremely talented actor who went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Pollock (2000), the same year Space Cowboys was released. Her role requires her to capture the scientific language of the film and some moments of real emotional stress, and she does both with flawless confidence. Never pushing it into melodramatic territory, Marcia Gay Harden remains focused on her goals in the role of Sara Holland and manages to deliver an incredibly dedicated supporting effort which stands out even amid a crowd of legends.
Space Cowboys follows a conventional structure without offering any innovation in how it is structured, but Clint Eastwood's firm direction brings out the best of the screenplay and the cast while making it a valuable visual experience.
Despite it's spectacular visuals, it's story is simply a copy of Armageddon without any of the latter's emotional resonance and a total waste of it's fantastic cast even though the actors try their best. As a film from Eastwood, this fails to even see the mark let alone striking it.